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zplay - liberating Sim and embarrassing Exploration!

Started by Silmenume, February 17, 2004, 06:42:39 AM

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Quote from: Ron EdwardsWhat I guess I don't understand is why you consider zilchplay to have been lumped with Simulationist play. Given your definition (and especially your clarification to Emily above), it seems very straightforward to me that:

a) zilchplay is not play, but at most a sort of Social-Contract-only presence among the other people; and

b) thus not involved with Creative Agenda at all; and

c) hence not Simulationist specifically.

Is there some particular post or thread that you're working from, in terms of the conceptual problem that you're correcting? I mean, I agree with the correction-concept, but I guess I don't see it as correcting anything - just stating something .... well, if not obvious, at least not controversial.


The threads ... simulationism is less common than I thought., The roots of Sim II, Beeg Horseshoe on the first page of the GNS forum alone all contain issues, explicit and implicit, with the heretofore unlabeled and unrecognized zilchplay and its confusion and conflation with Simulationism.

In the Beeg Horseshoe theory Sim is more or less described in the negative – if it ain't Gamism and if it ain't Narrativism it gots to be Simulationism.  Basically Sim is any moment of play that isn't G/N.

Also brought up in the Beeg Horseshoe theory, and more concretely in The roots of Sim II is the idea that Gamism and Narrativism instances pop up out of foundational Sim play creating Gamist and Narrativist games from the Simulationist primordial soup by which it is thus equated to Exploration.

In the latest definition of Exploration in the Narrativism: Story Now essay, Exploration is described as a process because we are sharing/communicating imaginings between individuals.  Axiomatically people are involved, but foundational is the idea that the people are imagining things and that they are communicating said imaginings.  However, what we are imagining is also included in this definition and these items are referred to as the five elements of Exploration.  I'll come back to this later.

While the distinction between zilchplay and Simulationism may be implicit in the model (the stated caveat that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to determine the CA of a single instance of play – such an instance would be now be diagnosed a zilchplay moment/quantum/atom/instance), it certainly is not explicit and I would squarely place the problem at the definition and usage of the term "Exploration."

As the definition currently stands in the model, I would equate Exploration to the process of introducing facts into the Shared Imagined Space via the Lumpley Principle.  Not just any facts may be added; these facts must all relate directly to one or more of the elements of Exploration.  This action is the heartbeat of the game.  From the point of view of the SIS these new facts are creations; out of which was not in the SIS prior, there is now.  If nothing is being added to the SIS, there is no game in progress.

What is not explicitly stated anywhere in the model is the idea that these facts, in and of themselves, must/should/ought to be, under the circumstances, new additions to the Exploration Elements.  This lack of explicitness has allowed for the decoupling of the additive action of introducing facts into the SIS from the additive action of introducing new "information/facts" to the Elements of Exploration.

Thus, by extension, nowhere is it said that Exploration is an additive process.  Exploration was deemed a communication process.  As long as one was communicating about the elements of Exploration thus adding to the SIS, but not necessarily adding to the elements of Exploration in a meaningful fashion, that was sufficient to be called roleplay.

Definition 1 – Exploration is the process of adding to the SIS (communicating) whether or not they add anything to the elements of Exploration themselves.  This definition includes what has recently been called zilchplay but was never stated or implied in any of the essays or models.

Quote from: Ron EdwardsSecond, remember: Exploration is, in and of itself, not role-playing. You can replace the term with "delighted imagination" in your head, if you like. No one is having a character do anything yet. No one is telling anyone else what their character is doing or seeing yet. Think of Exploration, in isolation, as trembling on the threshold of play.
Now play. Exploration now becomes communicative. It does so only in the context of some creative agenda.
Clarifying Simulationism

Definition 2 – Exploration is not roleplaying rather it is the moment of imagining things before we actually communicate our imaginings – but those communications are also called Exploration – see Def. 1.

Quote from: Mike HolmesSim supports Gamism and Narrativism. We "fall back" to it precisely because without it we'd be telling stories or playing games. In fact from another perspective, most play is Sim play because it's only at the moment of the "reveal" that we note Gamism or Narrativisim at all! While we're always exploring. I mean, if all we ever did was make purely Gamist decisions, we'd just be playing a game. If all we ever did was make Narrativist decisions, all we'd be doing is making a story.
The roots of Sim II

Definition 3 – Exploration and Simulationism are synonyms for the exact same thing.  This definition implies that zilchplay is lumped in with Simulationism as any moment that isn't identified as G/N is automatically S, which by default automatically includes zilchplay moments.

Quote from: cruciel...I don't see any functional difference between 'adding to Exploration' and 'adding to Exploration Elements'.
Zilchplay split from "Understanding: the "it"

Definition 4 –Exploration means adding to the SIS strictly in a manner that also adds to the Exploration Elements at the same time.  There is an implied understanding that sometimes it is possible to add to the SIS without adding to the Exploratory elements i.e., zilchplay.


Definition 5 - Exploration means adding to the Exploration Elements only and thus the process of adding to the SIS is something different.  This stands in contrast to Definition 1.  If Exploration is only adding to the elements of Exploration then what is the process of adding to the SIS, the process of communicating the imaginings, to be referred to as?

Note – the posters cited above may no longer hold these positions, but I felt it important to cite the sources so that people can go back to the threads and read more as well as document the actual variety of thoughts.

I don't know if this process has been exhaustive, but it should be clear that the definition and usage of Exploration has been confusing and has led, in one fashion or another, to the lumping of zilchplay in with Simulationism.

The first important outcome of identifying and labeling zilchplay has been the freeing of Simulationism of its effects.  As zilchplay can only be identified in the absence of CA, prior to this disentanglement Simulationism could not be solidly identified as a positive agenda and still account for the "null" moments.  Having culled zilchplay out, Simulationism can now be identified by its additive/positive description – the meaningful addition to the narrative elements (Exploration less formalized system) in the service of creating and maintaining the Dream!  Process and goal!! The more we Sim the more of the Dream we get!  That we have a definitional/positive description of Sim we can now put to rest the Beeg Horseshoe theory as Sim is no longer at the bottom of the shoe in some directionless limbo land halfway between Nar/Gam.  Sim as Exploration is no longer at the service of the two creative agendas, but stands alone with its priorities and strictures.  For example Sim cannot support Nar because Sim does not allow for the dynamic addressing of system that Nar can allow.  Also, with the identification of zilchplay there is no longer an onus to push such unidentifiable moments into a CA thus muddying the definition of said CA.  This makes defining a CA much easier as well as helping to define just what roleplay is.

So where does this leave us?  We need to define more clearly what Exploration is and if need be define a few more terms to pick up the some of slack that a more tightly defined Exploration would necessarily leave behind.

    [*]Is Exploration a process, the act of communicating imaginings employing the elements of Exploration i.e., adding to the SIS?

    [*]If Exploration describes a process, does it include the creation of zilchplay moments?

    [*]If Exploration is a process that does include zilchplay, then what do we call the process in which addition to the elements of Exploration must be present in order to demonstrate Creative Agenda?

    [*]Conversely if Exploration excludes zilchplay then what do we call that communication process that employs all the elements of Exploration but adds nothing to them?  Is that process still considered roleplay as the model only says that we must have the elements of exploration present and in employ, not that we have to add to them?

    [*]Is Exploration a thing and not a process – the elements of Exploration held in our imaginations but not yet communicated?[/list:u]

    While this may seem much ado about nothing, the identification of zilchplay has made it possible to liberate Sim, but it also brought to light a number of holes or at least problems and contradictions in the model or the vocabulary used in the model.

    I hope this helps.  Wow, another long post.  What a surprise....

    Aure Entaluva,

    Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.


    Ron Edwards

    Hi Jay,

    I see. I think this whole debate suffers slightly from a tendency to interpret any single proposed idea during a complex dialogue as a concrete position. I've noted this tendency on the parts of a lot of people who arrive at the Forge from a scholarly background - accustomed to reading texts as representatives of identified points of view, they aren't used to dealing with texts as "thickets of debate" in which everyone understands that the point of view is expected to emerge eventually.

    At present, I'm pretty sure that Exploration is widely understood as a process, not a thing. It occurs along lines of actual communication among real people. You do not "have" Exploration in your head; you do not even "do" Exploration in your head, at least not in isolation. Someone has to be communicating to someone else.

    Exploration = Shared Imagination = Shared Imaginary Space. If it seems odd that I'm calling a "space" a "process," I suggest that it's really not that hard or difficult a concept, and perhaps adding "Establishing" will help.

    Now, I'm on record many times as (a) questioning whether Simulationist play is really doing anything with Exploration or constitutes a "void" kind of play; but also as (b) concluding time and time again that the answer is Yes, it is. That's why my "GNS and related matters" essay includes it as a mode (Creative Agenda, although I wasn't using that term yet) at all. And that's why there's a whole Simulationism essay.

    I've often been puzzled by people's need to give names to what I consider a very simple idea: Exploration plus Simulationist priority (integrity of in-game causality). All done. Names like "Discovery" or "Emulation," although descriptively sound, seem to me to keep hopping back and forth between these two already-named components of this simple idea.

    So, what about zilchplay? Is it Simulationist? No. It's not role-playing. It opens up great potential for discussions of Social Contract, and it's a neat name for an observable phenomenon (apparently), but let's get it straight once and for all that Simulationism can happily proceed without getting labeled "zilch."

    Yes, I and others raised this question in the first place. I'm pretty much done with that debate. Simulationist play does do a Thing.

    Which means we can proceed as well without running back to the issue and (apparently very emotionally) getting all wrapped up with protecting Simulationist play from the nasty G and N bullies who keep insulting it on the playground.



    Quote from: Ron EdwardsI've often been puzzled by people's need to give names to what I consider a very simple idea: Exploration plus Simulationist priority (integrity of in-game causality). All done.

    Its funny you should say that.  Exploration isn't really such a very simple idea when you consider everything that is involved.  We start of with Exploration as a kind of communication.  We take it for granted that communication is as easy as... well as easy as talking!  Yet one of the primary driving forces behind the whole model was based on the idea that people weren't communicating effectively.  The Lumpley Principle, which presents a terrible stumbling block for so many people, my self included, is nothing more than a communications governing device and it too sits at the heart of Exploration.  Then there is the whole are of nonverbal communications.  Finally we come back to that Exploration as a kind of communication.  What kind is it?  One that limited to certain topics, the Exploration elements, one that has certain goals, Creative Agendas, and one that is governed in certain ways, the LP.  The Exploration Elements are universally known, Creative Agenda might be known out side this site on an intuitive level and on this site there is still much work being done, and the LP, which even here is frequently unknown.  Complex stuff going in this Exploration process!  I wouldn't be so quick to write it off as something easily understood.  Hell, we only just positively proved that Sim is not Exploration and that only came about with the discovery of the idea of zilchplay.

    I did not intend to imply that you held the point of view that Simulationism constitutes a "void" kind of play.  I only quoted and cited the various posters to indicate that the "thickets of debate" were still raging and that said debate was being held by some of the most well versed posters at the Forge.  I also wanted to indicate the debate raged on three completely intertwined basic areas – Simulationism directly, the nature of Exploration indirectly, and zilchplay which presence was felt like dark matter but was not understood until very recently.

    That Sim does do a Thing is, I think, solidly beyond debate.  But how Exploration works is an issue.  The Nature of Simulationism,  I can see, is also an issue.

    Exploration plus Simulationist priority (integrity of in-game causality)

    Seems like a very straightforward statement, but it fraught with all sorts of ambiguities.

    We've established that Exploration is a process, but what actions constitute that process?  We know that it involves communicating about shared imaginings.  We know these imaginings are limited to the elements of Exploration.  The question I have is, is it enough to merely talk about the imaginings (the elements of Exploration) to qualify as Exploration or must we be adding to the elements of Exploration to qualify as Exploration?  I am firmly in the camp that Exploration must connote and denote additive actions.  Exploration is the action of roleplay and roleplay is additive.  But apparently that is still up for debate.

    Why is this important?  Because merely talking about the imaginings without mindfully adding to them is zilchplay.  Why is this distinction important?  Because phrases like "Exploration of Character" get tossed around all the time.  Zilchplay Exploration of Character is merely talking about Character without adding anything to our understanding/knowledge/information of said Character.  Is this relevant?  I just saw the phrase Exploration of System that was clearly meant to mean mere employment of system without adding to it, but it was thought to be a form of roleplay.  If roleplay is an additive process, which I believe it is, then that particular usage of the phrase "Exploration of System" contained a logical error that is clearly demonstrates confusion about what the process of Exploration is.

    By the phrase Simulationist priority I will assume you are referring to the Simulationist Creative Agenda.  If that is the case then parenthetical is confusing.  If that parenthetical is meant to denote that the Simulationist Creative Agenda is "integrity of in-game causality" then that is incorrect.  If the parenthetical was meant as it was indicated, then all is well except for the apparent implied meaning that integrity of in-game causality is the Creative Agenda if Sim.  The goal of Sim is the Enlargement of the Dream in an aesthetically satisfying manner.  How is this accomplished?  What is the process?  By mindfully adding to the narrative elements with the aid of a static system in such a way as to support the Dream.  As was indicated in an earlier thread, integrity of in-game causality must be present in all Creative Agendas, its just that Sim says that you shouldn't violate it all.

    To make the above work would be more of something like –

    Exploration shaped by the Simulationist priority (mindfully adding to the narrative elements while maintaining the integrity of in-game causality).

    This means not only are we communicating about the elements of Exploration, but that we are purposefully, as the goal, adding to narrative elements of Exploration.

    Again, I believe the ambiguity and the construction of the earlier phrase stemmed from an ambiguous understanding of Exploration.  This is why I wanted to clarify the usage of Exploration.  I believe in the long run that much confusion can be avoided once this is cleared up.
    Quote from: Ron EdwardsSimulationist play does do a Thing.

    Which means we can proceed as well without running back to the issue and (apparently very emotionally) getting all wrapped up with protecting Simulationist play from the nasty G and N bullies who keep insulting it on the playground.
    Yeah!  Those G and N bullies had better watch out!  Simulationism is in the house an' is gonna come an' getcha!

    Aure Entaluva,

    Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.


    Walt Freitag

    Quote from: JayThe question I have is, is it enough to merely talk about the imaginings (the elements of Exploration) to qualify as Exploration or must we be adding to the elements of Exploration to qualify as Exploration? I am firmly in the camp that Exploration must connote and denote additive actions. Exploration is the action of roleplay and roleplay is additive. But apparently that is still up for debate.

    That's the issue. The proposition is, a meaningful distinction can be made between two modes of Exploration. Let's call them X Exploration and non-X Exploration. So the question is, is that true?

    A secondary question is, is "additive" and "non-additive" a clear and useful term for "X" and "non-X"?

    If the answer is no, then zilchplay as I defined it (role playing with non-X Exploration but lacking X Exploration) cannot exist because no exploration is non-X. The examples of zilchplay as a real-world behavior I've offered must be either role playing whose Exploration might not appear X but actually is (because all Exploration is), or play that lacks all Exploration and hence is not role playing at all. (I don't think anyone's questioning that the behavior does exist, and we can go ahead and call it zilchplay, but it cannot be zilchplay as actually defined as "role playing... lacking X (some quality) of Exploration".)

    If the answer is yes, then zilchplay as I defined it can (and almost certainly does) exist. Then the question shifts to my second key proposition, that zilchplay expresses no Creative Agenda. I think that one's a slam dunk, given the first proposition -- but the first proposition is the sticking point.

    I'm willing to accept a yes or no answer based on logical principles and/or evidence. (The only answer I'm not willing to accept is "yes, there's a distinction, but it's complex and hard to perceive, so we'll pretend it doesn't exist." But I don't believe anyone so far has taken that position.) However, there's little use talking about all the implications of a "yes" answer, its importance and its import, the effects (good or othewise) it might have on our understanding of this or that, ambiguities resolved or clarity gained. All that is meaningless if it just ain't so.

    So -- let's look at your particular stating of X. What does "additive" or "non-additive" Exploration actually mean?

    We're talking about the shared imagined space here; that's the imagining that's important in role playing and it's the only thing that's meaningful to be adding to. So, right off the bat, information that's not shared (such as a GM's not-yet-revealed secrets), that is to say not explicitly communicated to the group, doesn't count. So, any narration of a fact that wasn't previously narrated is additive. (Under narration, include any substitute form of relating concrete information, such as showing an illustration.)

    Or is it? Does the shared imagined space of a game taking place in a Western setting in an 1850 California boomtown really not include swinging doors on the saloon until someone says out loud that it does? I think those swinging doors are in the shared imagined space by default, and the fact that we know that they are is likely to be one reason we're setting the game in a Western town instead of a zatzat factory on the planet Xxplpgh. There's a body of shared assumptions about the shared imagined space that is part of the shared imagined space without having been explicitly communicated. (Others have called this the "baseline," in contrast to "vision" which is the explicitly communicated information that modifies or adds to the common assumptions.) So, "the saloon has swinging doors" is not additive under the described circumstances. Simple.

    Now let's suppose that the GM narrates, in the same Western game, that the saloon has stained glass windows because it used to be a church. That's not something anyone would lilkely assume about the setting, so it's additive. Or is it? Suppose it was in the GM's notes the whole time. He's not making up anything new at runtime. Does that make it non-additive?

    No, because being in the GM's notes doesn't make it part of the shared imagined space. Narrating it adds it to the shared imagined space. Simple.

    What's not simple? Where's the gray area? It's when the narration is pinning down specifics from a set of shared assumptions about the range of possibilities. We know the saloon keeper in our Western town is going to be either a grizzled guy with a short temper and a shotgun hidden under the bar, a jolly genial guy who tries to stay out of trouble and worries about his pride and joy behind-the-bar mirror, or a brassy former hooker with a heart of gold. Is it additive when the GM tells the players that it's the jolly guy, and what his name is? We can't be certain that a band of outlaws is going to ride into town, but we know it's one possibility among others. Is it additive when the GM tells the players that a band of outlaws is riding into town? We can't assume that there will be one of those horse-watering troughs that are just the right size for a man to fall lengthwise into, or hide in under the water, and if there is one we don't know where it will be located. It is additive when the GM tells the players that there's one on the east side of the street, in front of the blacksmith's?

    Similar for typical routine player-character actions. If we know from experience that Knuckles the Thief will always try to waste an enemy with his crossbow, then it's pretty clear that Knuckles the Thief trying to waste an enemy with his crossbow in any particular instance is not additive. But if Obidiah the Ranger sometimes hangs back and fires arrows, and other times charges with his sword, mixing it up deliberately so that his tactics don't become too predictable, is it additive when he does a particular one in a particular instance? Is it additive when a wizard chooses which new spell to learn, when given a choice of 40 or 50 on a list?

    There's also the action of randomizers to consider. When a fortune resolution results in a character being seriously injured in mid-combat, is that additive? (Remember that situation is one of the Elements; the combat result has altered the situation from fighting-whatever to fighting-whatever-while-seriously-injured.) Suppose the player of the Ranger in the previous example flips a coin to decide whether to fire or charge, to make sure his tactics are truly unpredictable?

    I think it would be an uphill battle to convince people that these events are "non-additive" to the Shared Imagined Space. At the same time, I think that most of the examples are consistent with zilchplay as I've conceived it. (The clearest exception is the Ranger's tactics choice, when not made randomly, which is recognizably Gamist -- partly because I included an interpetation of the action's meaning -- "so that his tactics don't become too predictable" -- in the example. Also, I say "consistent with" because none is conclusive of zilchplay in and of itself.) So, I conclude that "additive" and "non-additive" fails as a term for the hypothetical X vs. non-X distinction. By "additive" you apparently want to mean not that things are being added to the shared imagined space, as the term implies, but that what's being added to the shared imagined space is interesting or creative or (as I tried to put it before) unexpected. Or, as you put it yourself, is added purposefully.

    I think that last possibility, purposefully, is the key one -- and at the same time, indicates why this might never fly within the strictly behaviorist Big Model. Let me propose another adverb I like even better, one I've used before: meaningfully. The ranger choosing between sword and bow is an action with a Gamist meaning. The saloon with the stained glass windows likely has, depending on its context, a Simulationist meaning: building a certain mood, adding an aesthetic touch, piquing curiosity. The other examples have no meaning that we can perceive on this scale; they may or may not have meaning within the overall context provided by the instances of play in which they occur. (The selection of a spell from the list certainly could have a Gamist meaning, for example.) They're consistent with the possiblity of zilchplay. But meaning or its absence can only be interpreted in its overall context over a sufficiently long period of paying attention.

    Much like... Creative Agenda. So much like, in fact, that I conclude that our enigmatic X is exactly equivalent to Creative Agenda itself.

    (The second proposition, that non-X play expresses no Creative Agenda, becomes a tautology.)


    Zilchplay is Exploration without perceivable Creative Agenda.

    Zilchplay IS Exploration.

    Exploration without perceivable Creative Agenda is possible (and observable, most often on the part of individual participants rather than a whole group).

    Zilchplay is or is not role playing depending on whether your definition of role playing has CA as a requirement.

    How's that?

    - Walt
    Wandering in the diasporosphere


    This is sounding strangely like the Type 1, Type 2 Simulationism discussions from a way back Walt...

    Mike Holmes

    QuoteZilchplay is Exploration without perceivable Creative Agenda.

    Zilchplay IS Exploration.
    This is illogical. By the transitive property, I could then say, "Exploration is Exploration without percievable Creative Agenda." Which you do not mean to imply, right?

    What you mean by the second clause is that Zilchplay is a subset of exploration. Right? This has some interesting ramifications on the rest of the argument.

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    Walt Freitag

    QuoteWhat you mean by the second clause is that Zilchplay is a subset of exploration. Right? This has some interesting ramifications on the rest of the argument.

    Yes, that's right. "Is" as in "is a form of," not as in "is equivalent to." (I guess sometimes it does all depend on what your definition of "is" is!)

    QuoteThis is sounding strangely like the Type 1, Type 2 Simulationism discussions from a way back Walt...

    Why "strangely?" It's a whole lot like those discussions, quite on purpose and, I thought, overtly. The difference is that I've taken to heart the counterargument made at the time that the difference between "creative and noncreative" Exploration (as I called it then) is not unique to Simulationism (so it's not really about "splitting" Sim, let alone "protecting" it).

    Ulterior motive? Sure, I've got one. What I'm really digging up from the past is the cranky old idea of a "transactional model" of role playing. I'm working toward a model in which Creative Agenda is described as a meaning (which is subject to interpretation) of self-expression through play, rather than as an overt property of play behavior. This should shed some light on at least one class of answers to some of the Hard Questions; more generally, what exactly as a role playing participant might I be expecting to give to and receive from the other participants? And how do these differ in role playing games from other available activities? I've been prodding GNS on styles of play in which Agenda is less focused or apparent (Zilchplay, Sim1, congruence, solo games, vanilla/El Dorado, etc. -- this goes back a long way, obviously) to determine whether such a model must be distinct from Big Model/Agenda/GNS or is an "interpretation" of it (the way Copenhagen, many-worlds, and pilot-wave theory are all "interpretations" of Quantum Mechanics, ways of explaining how the theory or the phenomena it describes "works" without altering its predictions in any way).

    - Walt
    Wandering in the diasporosphere

    Jason Lee

    Wow.  Good stuff, but also lots to quibble over.  As I've neither time nor inclination to quibble I'll just state my stance.

    My take on Exploration is that it is a process, but not so strictly defined as to only occur as part of the conversation.

    Exploration that has been Integrated is part of the SIS, but there is still Exploration occurring in the head of the players without being part of the SIS.

    I'm going to detour for a second, but I think it's for a good reason.


    Let me see if I can sum up my opinion on the process of IIEE (IEE) and the Lumpley Principle real quick.

    EDIT:  So that we might not wander so much, I moved this section to its own thread:  Jason's Unified Theory of Exploration


    Anyway, back to the point.  I consider the Conception phase to still be part of the Exploration process.  Meaning, the stuff in the players head is part of Exploration.

    Long walk to Pathology - gotta go.
    - Cruciel

    M. J. Young

    I was going to write a meandering sort of dialogue in which a group of guys are setting up a Monopoly game--picking what pieces they wanted to play, agreeing on house rules, looking up the amount of money to deal out, stuff like that.

    Well, that's enough of it for you to get the idea.

    The fact is, if you set up a Monopoly game but you never play, then the setup wasn't playing a game of Monopoly. On the other hand, if you actually do start playing the game, then all that time you were setting up is part of the game, part of play. Even if you quit before you had a clear winner, you would say "we played Monopoly last night" as long as you rolled dice, moved around, bought some property, and paid some rents. If you didn't do all of that, you would say, "we were going to play Monopoly last night, but it fizzled before we got started."

    Now, let's take this to role playing.

    We often debate whether preparation is part of play or not. The answer, from the Monopoly example, would seem to be that creating a character that you use in a game is part of play, but creating a character that you never use is not playing. How many of us have had people show up and create a character, but then never play the game? We don't say that those people played with us--we say they were going to play, but they didn't, right? Got as far as creating a character, but never started playing. If they did start playing, that aspect of playing feeds back into the prep time, as that was part of play once play is established.

    I'm going to push it a bit further.

    We certainly agree (I think) that if a creative agendum is established, be it gamist, narrativist, or simulationist, a seemingly meaningless action like crossing the street actually does contribute to that agendum because it is part of the totality of the play experience. The only question is whether such meaningless actions can be their own agendum if one of these three are not established.

    What is the creative agendum, and how does it relate to exploration? It is the answer, the explanation of the exploration. We usually say it's why you are exploring; but it is just as true that creative agendum is what you are exploring.

    Which means if you don't have a creative agendum, you are not exploring something.

    So then are you exploring nothing?

    That's the sort of nonsense with which Lewis Carroll would have had great fun. It's complete nonsense. You can't explore nothing. Exploration, as a verb, always has an object: you must explore something, or you are not exploring.

    If you are not exploring, you are not role playing.

    Thus if you do not have a creative agendum that says what you are exploring, then you have never actually started playing. You're still preparing to play. The game doesn't begin until someone says, within himself, Let's explore this--and at that moment, you have a creative agendum, and the game begins, and everything that led to that moment becomes roleplaying, down defined because we know what we are exploring.

    As far as I'm concerned, Zilchplay is dead. It doesn't exist. It either is exploration, in which case it has object and thus an agendum, or it is not exploration, in which case it is not roleplaying.

    --M. J. Young

    Ron Edwards


    I'm starting to shape up with M.J. on this one.


    Walt Freitag

    Quote from: M. J. YoungWe certainly agree (I think) that if a creative agendum is established, be it gamist, narrativist, or simulationist, a seemingly meaningless action like crossing the street actually does contribute to that agendum because it is part of the totality of the play experience. The only question is whether such meaningless actions can be their own agendum if one of these three are not established.

    Very nicely stated. I do agree with that, with the proviso that "seemingly meaningless" means "seemingly meaningless unless we know the entire context in which it occurs at the moment it occurs." I'd be a little more reluctant to accept that a "seemingly meaningless until we look at it in retrospect at some future time" action can be said to be meaningful.

    QuoteWhat is the creative agendum, and how does it relate to exploration? It is the answer, the explanation of the exploration. We usually say it's why you are exploring; but it is just as true that creative agendum is what you are exploring.

    This line of argument looks flawed to me. If creative agenda* are** what you are exploring, then what are character, setting, situation, system, and color?

    What you've done is introduced a whole different meaning of "exploring." Sure, you can say, with some justification, that Gamist play is exploring Step On Up, and Narrativist play is exploring Premise or exploring Story Now. (And Sim play would be exploring Exploration.) But that's using "exploring" in its conventional English sense of examining, investigating, conversing-about something. That's not what the model means by Exploration, which is all about shared imagining of the listed Elements. (Step On Up in Gamist play, for instance, is not imagined in the hypothetical, as in "let's imagine I the player have social esteem at stake here;" it's a real thing in the real world.)

    Now, if by "exploring" you mean something like "conversing about examination or investigation of," then I agree with you that what you are (in that sense) exploring is indeed the Creative Agenda. But I then propose that you can be (in the GNS sense) Exploring without exploring anything.

    One can be talking without saying anything (that is, in the sense of saying anything meaningful), and one can be saying things that might be meaningful to an audience without self-expression (e.g. reciting memorized poetry because asked to do so rather than because of any desire to express the ideas in the poem). Similarly I believe that one can be participating in shared imagining without doing anything meaningful, and can participate in shared imagining and do things that other participants find meaningful but do not express one's own creative agenda. The first, I believe, is definitely zilchplay. The second is probably zilchplay too (I haven't reached a conclusion on this), because it's not self-expression through play and (I theorize) only self-expression through play results in a visible, identifiable creative agenda.

    - Walt

    *Agendum? Sure, the dictionary says it's the singular form. But in real current English usage it ain't so. I've never heard any English speaker or writer say e.g. "He came to the meeting with some agenda," or "Our agenda for this project are summarized on page three."

    **See what I mean?
    Wandering in the diasporosphere

    Walt Freitag

    Hi Ron,

    M. J.'s conclusion might be right, but that line of argument doesn't get you there. Creative Agenda in the current model is emphatically not "what you are Exploring," as the model describes Exploring.

    And, I should add, I don't really see the relevance of the preparation for play issue. I've never tried to argue (or even thought about) whether preparation for play in general, or any specific example of it, is or is not zilchplay. I took it as an example supporting a proposition that participant actions that appear meaningless when they occur can later, in retrospect, acquire meaning with regard to a creative agenda. I'm reluctant to put any stock in that. (Premise or story perceived only in retrospect still doesn't float your boat Narrativism-wise, right?) But even accepting that as a possibility, it doesn't rule out the existence of zilchplay unless it could be further argued that all player actions that appear meaningless when they occur must always inevitably acquire retrospective meaning that way. That seems far-fetched.

    - Walt
    Wandering in the diasporosphere


    Several current threads seem to be tying together in one place.  There's Jason's Unified Theory, plus all of the various parents about Sim and zplay.  I think Walt's right to focus on the communicative or transactional process of Exploration, and I think Jason sets up a nice model to examine that.  Let me go briefly on a tangent, then come back to Sim, Exploration, and Zplay.

    Jason proposed a structure like this:
      [*]Conception: Idea in player's head
      [*]Proposal: Formulation of idea externally (in language, etc.)
      [*]Validation: Testing of legitimacy of Proposal (including negative Validation)
      [*]Integration: Validated Proposal becomes part of shared space, usually through description of immediate entailments[/list:u]It strikes me that this is interestingly similar to some classic semiotic models, i.e. models for how signs and language manage to communicate meaning.  I'm not going to go on a long rant about semiotics here — that would be a very different thread! — but I do want to note that we could align Jason's model to a semiotic one in these terms:
        Conception is idea or concept
        Proposal is Sign, the actual unit of communication
        Validation is Interpretation by what's sometimes called an Interpretant, which just means the person who has to do the interpreting
        Integration constructs an imagined Referent, a thing to which the Sign refers[/list:u]But why do I bring any of this up, you ask?  Well, three reasons.  

        First, the classic, never-answered question in semiotics is how you get from Sign to Referent.  If by Referent you mean an actual physical thing, the answer is you don't.  But here, you actually do, because all Referents are part of an imagined space, not a physical one.  Thus things (referents) are actually constructed through signification (Proposals, language, signs, etc.).

        Second, because of this first problem, the sticking-point in these sorts of models is commonly that between Jason's Proposal and his Integration, which is to say it's when the GM (or whoever) has to Validate the Proposal, or Interpret the Sign.  This is in fact what we'll find is the central issue in Exploration.

        Third, as Jason noted, this system is circular.  Integration changes the shared space, and thus the range of possible Concepts alters on the basis of what gets Validated and Integrated.

        The only important points I'd change or clarify in Jason's model for this purpose are:
        – this isn't always about player and GM; really, it's any two players, or any player and any other with the power to Validate a Proposal
        – a Proposal need not be spoken, as it can include things like rolling dice.  It's really anything that amounts to a sign that requires interpretation by another player.  Umberto Eco has said that a sign is anything that can be used to lie; in this context, we could say that a Proposal is anything that can turn out to be false, i.e. negatively Validated.


        Now in reference to the big discussion of exploration here, I think this is a very useful way to make sense of what's going on.

        Additive: Walt's very nicely described how the swinging doors on a Western bar are not additive, but the stained-glass windows are.  Okay, so this takes us to the Conception level.  If the Conception is one that already is or can be presumed to be a part of the Integrated shared space, the Proposal based on it is non-additive.  To take an extreme example, the swordsman's player thinks, "I have a sword."  If he makes this into a Proposal — "I have a sword" — this requires no Validation at all, because there's nothing to Integrate.

        Conclusions from this:
        – Validation is only necessary if the Proposal requires Integration
        – The need for Validation defines additive-ness
        By the lumpley Principle, this is in fact what System is: how one Validates Proposals, and also how one determines whether a Proposal requires Validation

        In Zplay, player Proposals do not require Validation or Integration.  Traditionally, GM Proposals require Integration, but Validation is automatic, inherent in the office as it were.


        Exploration is therefore a testing of the validity of one's own Integration, by examining whether Concepts arising from it are Validated.  For example, the Western saloon has been described or referred to, Integrated into the shared space.  A player now tests whether her own Integrated vision is the same as everyone else's, in other words whether her imagined space is indeed the shared one.  
        – Her Concept is, "If this is a Western saloon, there's probably a swinging door."  
        – Her Proposal: "I push through the swinging doors and march in."  
        Now Validation occurs.  If this is passed over, i.e. the person with Validation power sees this as not requiring specific Validation, then the statement was non-additive, and Integration has not occurred.  From this player's perspective, Exploration may have occurred, depending on how certain she was about her Concept in the first place, but that's probably an unnecessary distinction; at base, Exploration has not generally occurred here (but see below).

        Now consider a very rules-heavy system, one which tries to detail everything and which shifts as much Validation as possible to mechanical means.  The player makes the same Concept and Proposal, and then the GM says, "Hmm, says here that there's a 95% chance that there's a swinging door <roll, roll> Okay, there is indeed a swinging door.  You go through it."  Now Exploration has occurred, because it was necessary to test the Concept.

        This takes us also back to the sorts of statements we find in a lot of recent systems, especially indie systems, that some range of routine or easy actions requires no mechanics.  In other words, these are removed from the extent of Exploration.

        Interestingly, this goes some way toward explaining why Simulationist games classically were very rules-heavy.  The more explicit and detailed the rules, the more Exploration is required at all times.  It may not emphasize the Exploration that players are most interested in, but very little is removed from the Exploration sphere of play.  Since Simulationism emphasizes Exploration over all else, an easy way to support this CA is to provide a rules-system that makes Validation a constant, explicit procedure.


        Exploration of Finite Options: Walt also proposed that the bartender in our saloon will probably be one of three types (simplifying somewhat).  The player now faces a problem of shared space.  Her Integrated space may involve the ex-hooker with the heart of gold, but the GM's may involve the jolly fat guy.  Walt suggested that simply defining which one is behind the bar is non-additive, in that it doesn't add to the Baseline sense of the Western saloon.  True, but it is still Exploration: the player tests through Concept (the bartender is the ex-hooker), Proposal, and Validation.  This is why I think Baseline (the Western saloon) is different from shared space.

        In some game systems, the player may simply Propose, "I see that the bartender is one of those ex-hookers with a heart of gold," and something in the system allows this to be Validated, contrary to what the GM had imagined.  In some systems, the Proposal should be: "Is the bartender an ex-hooker with a heart of gold?" so that the GM can, without conflict, negatively Validate the Proposal.  But this is certainly Exploration.  It is additive because it requires Validation one way or another.  It does not alter the Baseline, but it does further specify this particular shared space.


        Abduction: No, not aliens.  This is a very unfortunate term coined by C.S. Peirce, the inventor of semiotics, for a mode of interpretation that goes in the same bag as Deduction and Induction.  Basically in Abduction, you take a set of known facts, then create a story or image which, if true, would make all those known facts obvious and expected.  If you think about Sherlock Holmes, this is what he does.  His next step is Deduction: given the Abducted story, he thinks, "If that were true, what else would have to be true that I don't already know?"  And then he goes and looks for that.  For example, in "The Adventure of Silver Blaze," Holmes includes in his Abducted story the fact that the guard-dog did not bark; if the thief were known to the dog, this would be obvious and expected.  Suppose that his Abducted story said that the thief had drugged the dog; he would now be able to Deduce that there should be hints of such drugging, and he'd go look for them.

        In RPG's, I suggest that the relationship between Concept and Integrated shared space is necessarily Abductive.  Given what we already know, we generate a total picture in our heads.  Next, we make the classic Deductive move: if that total picture is correct, then the following further fact should also be true.  We now put this forward as a Proposal.  For example, given that this is a Western saloon, there should be swinging doors, so I propose to walk through them.

        Now Exploration in this case of the swinging doors only comes negatively.  If we discover that there are no swinging doors, our Abducted image must be incorrect, and we revise accordingly.  If the doors are there, nothing has changed.

        So if the doors are Validated, is this Exploration or Zplay?

        I think this can only be analyzed with hindsight.  The question, really, is whether the Deduction that there should be swinging doors ultimately did or did not change the saloon.  Did it matter?  For example, did it mean that the characters inside the saloon could see someone walking by in the street?  Without clarifying the swinging doors, this might not have been obvious, and thus not even known.  In essence, if the Deduction of swinging doors led to a further Deduction — anyone passing in the street should be visible — then this was Exploration.  Otherwise it simply added expected color, and can be called Zplay.

        Note that this makes Zplay perfectly enjoyable: it adds sharpness and clarity to the picture, adds depth and richness to the experience.  But it's not Exploration.

        In the other case, of the bartender, we have something that is definitely Exploration.  Based on successful Abduction of the saloon situation, the player Deduces that there are a limited number of possible bartenders.  But she cannot tell, without further data, which bartender this one is.  Her Proposal, and its Validation, leads to Integration: the Deduction was correct, and led to discovery of a new fact, leading to a further Deduction (who the bartender is).

        In short, Exploration is distinguished from Zplay based on whether successful Deduction leads to further Deduction.


        Preparation: By this formulation, preparation simply amounts to one player's construction of an imaginary space which he wants to make shared.  But the only way that space becomes shared is through progressive Validations, leading to Integrations; in short, the other players must Abduce the total space.  All the preparation in the world is not play, because it doesn't create Proposals; semiotically, there are no signs, because all signs require an interpretant to be such, and since there are no signs, no Abduction can occur.  One person creating a personal language in a closet is doing something, but it's not communication.

        This reminds me of some old threads about No Myth gamemastering.  Fang Langford emphasized this "myth" that prepared material was already present in the game, and said that on the contrary, nothing is present in the shared space until it's, well, shared.  The semiotic model would support that conclusion: you can Explore a pre-prepared space, just as you can Explore a totally open-ended one, and either way it requires addition because it requires successive Abductions and Deductions.

        Chris Lehrich

        Note: If you care about semiotic modeling, Jonathan Culler's The Pursuit of Signs and Thomas Sebeok's The Sign and Its Masters are probably the best places to start.  Umberto Eco's Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language is also useful, but a little dense, and his A Theory of Semiotics is (uncharacteristically) nearly impenetrable.  Eco and Sebeok have edited a whole bunch of nice volumes of essays about this stuff, mostly very readable, notably The Sign of Three which includes essays on the semiotics of Sherlock Holmes, Auguste Dupin, and so forth.  Good stuff.  Those of you who already know a lot about semiotics will note that I've oversimplified pretty drastically the basic definitions of sign and referent, among other things passing over the whole Structuralist formulation of signifier and signified.  If I've gone too far with this, let me know!
        Chris Lehrich


        Hey Chris!

        I certainly enjoyed reading your analysis and appreciate the time you must have put into it!  That type of thinkin' only gives me cramps.

        By your conclusion I would say that then you believe that Exploration is not just a communication process, but one that must be "additive" in that a Proposal, or its effects must be integrated in some fashion.  For clarity's sake I'll say that said act of integration means integrating a "new" fact into the elements of Exploration that are being "held" in the shared imagined space.

        If I may, I'll make a small adjustment to your model.

        Quote from: clehrichTo take an extreme example, the swordsman's player thinks, "I have a sword." If he makes this into a Proposal — "I have a sword" — this requires no Validation at all, because there's nothing to Integrate.

        The Lumpley Principle nonetheless requires that every communication/Proposal does go through a validation process, even if it seems unnecessary in order to enter/integrate into the SIS.  Such a statement under the circumstances you indicated would still be ratified/validated at the very least by silent consent.  Someone could have objected, and that possibility is always there, but no one found a reason to do so.

        Since the LP validates any Proposal that makes it into the SIS, I think a better distinction whether a Proposal is zilchplay or not is whether or not there are any reasonable grounds for contest.  If a Proposal cannot be reasonably contested it is because it has no perceived potential for requiring integration into the elements of Exploration.

        It seems to me that this description of the Exploration process includes two "additive" acts in order to be successful.  First, the Proposal must be validated, i.e., the Proposal successfully navigates the LP and makes it into the SIS.  Second, the Proposal must also require integration in the elements of Exploration.  If the Proposal does not require integration, if it has added nothing to the elements of Exploration, then it could be called a zilchplay moment.

        This sounds kinda goofy, but not all integration validation actions are overt.  The DM may let it go straight in through a vote of silent consent.  The key here is that he could have contested, but purposely opted not to.  A DM could not reasonably contest a zilchplay moment.

        So where does CA fit into all this?  CA can only be found by examining the Proposals, but only if the Proposals require integration.  Even then it can be difficult in examining individual Proposals to find a goal or pattern of behavior.  A moment diagnosed as zilchplay cannot determine whether a player had a Creative Agenda or not, it only says that a Creative Agenda cannot be determined from the evidence at hand.  Zilchplay most assuredly is NOT a Creative Agenda.  Whether or not play dominated by zilchplay moments reflects any sort of noncreative Agenda is up for debate.  But this does raise some questions.

          [*]Does roleplay require an agenda?
          I would say, yes.  If we are putting out the effort to do something we are always motivated by some sort of desire.

          [*]Must this agenda always be a Creative Agenda?
          I don't know.  This is currently up for debate right now.

          [*]And to just make things interesting, are there only 3 Creative Agendas possible?
          This would be something for another thread, but I am kind curious why there appear to be only 3 Creative Agendas.  I think the answer lies in the fodder for the game – the narrative elements.[/list:u]
          Quibbles on the usage of Simulation made twice in this thread.

          Quote from: Walt Freitag(And Sim play would be exploring Exploration.)
          Quote from: clehrichSince Simulationism emphasizes Exploration over all else...

          Exploration is a process not a thing!  What you referred to as the objects of Exploration, Exploration, are less confusing if they are called the Elements of Exploration.  Sim prioritizes the Exploration of the 4 narrative elements of elements of the Exploration.  One cannot Explore system in Sim simply because system is fixed, you cannot integrate anything new into the system as a whole.  Remember if there's no integration then its zilchplay.

          Aure Entaluva,

          Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.


          Walt Freitag


          This is interesting, a very intriguing parallel.

          However, one quibble, which then leads into a more important point: You apply the principles you're describing to demonstrate that some of my examples of likely Zplay are exploration after all. But I never claimed otherwise. Zplay is not non-exploration, it's exploration without Creative Agenda. Distinguishing Exploration from Zplay leads only to contradiction.

          This is important because examining Zplay and Creative Agenda requires a second turn of your semiotic crank, if you will. A participant has an idea or concept of a change in the Shared Imagined Space. The player expresses that idea (Sign) through or during play. It's validated (Interpreted by means of system) and if valid, it gets integrated into the Shared Imagined Space, which is the Referent. Now, take that change in the Shared Imagined Space as being itself Sign. The Referent of that Sign is the present instantiation of the Creative Agenda: the Premise in Narrativism, the fitness being demonstrated in Gamism, the aesthetics of the imagined space in Simulationism. The Creative Agenda itself (assuming coherent play) is the mode of Interpetation of the Sign. If the change in the Shared Imagined Space is not Sign, then it's Zplay.


          You've taken my statement about "exploring Exploration" completely out of context. I was attempting to refute, not propose, the idea that Creative Agenda is "something Explored."

          I've questioned the idea of Exploration of System before. But you must take into account that System as an Element of Exploration doesn't only refer to the (usually fixed) procedures involved; it refers to the action of System during play to produce time and change in the Shared Imagined Space. In this sense System can hardly avoid being "additive."

          I agree with the general idea that turning the crank on mechanical elements of the System to see what comes out is a hallmark of Zplay. But it's not System's "fixed-ness" or inability to add to the Elements in the Shared Imagined Space that makes it so. (Consider what a simple wandering monster check roll and table do.) I think this is another area where the "additive vs. non-additive" test fails.

          - Walt
          Wandering in the diasporosphere