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Author Topic: On RPGs and Text [LONG]  (Read 48912 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #90 on: December 13, 2004, 01:33:27 PM »

Hello,

Small and short note: I despise the entire idea that anything is defined as "I know it when I see it." To me, definitions are concrete, transferable, and socially useful, or they aren't definitions at all.

I've never used that phrasing or logic in dealing with Narrativism. To have it attributed to me is not tolerable.

Best,
Ron
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clehrich
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« Reply #91 on: December 13, 2004, 01:41:35 PM »

Quote from: ethan_greer
Here's what I mean when I talk about Myth: Myth is an underlying cultural phenomenon. Its purpose is the communication and sharing of abstract cultural ideas. Its importance is diminished, has diminished, with the advent of text and the birth of a text-based society. Role-playing hearkens back to the time before text, when Myth was how we discovered, processed, understood, and internalized culture and one's identity within a culture. People perceive this more basic means of communication at a level that approaches unconsious; they've been doing it since before they knew words. The role-player, intrigued by the hobby's outward appearances or expressed concepts, tries it out and is moved by the experience of role-playing beyond any considerations of "let's pretend" or "let's tell a story together." That's Myth. If I had to place Myth somewhere in the Big Model, I wouldn't. I'd put it outside Social Contract.

Of course, it's possible I'm going on a metaphysical bender.
I think you just very neatly expressed a lot of what I've been going around in circles trying to express.  Thanks!  The only part I'm leery of is the bit about Social Contract at the end, but I need to think about it.

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Of course a Sim player is creating Myth - he/she is in the terrarium (from my post above). There's as much Myth creation in a single instance of a player's Pawn Stance as there is in all of a Sim GM's behind-the-screen machinations. It's not about explanations or validity, it's about taking part in a process, a "system" if you will, whose byproduct is Myth, or an attempt at it.
Well, it seems to me that the effect of the process is indeed explanation and validation, but if you're saying (as I think you are) that ultimately that's not really why we do this sort of thing, I would tend to agree.  That is, I think we manipulate these symbols and structures and tell myths in large part because it is deeply enjoyable and self-affirming; it also happens to be true, though this is often not apparent to people telling myths (or playing RPGs) that we generate an intricate system of interwoven meanings that take on a life of their own and tend to affirm the legitimacy of the way we choose to live our lives, but that's not the primary reason people do it.
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The concept of "Myth Now" is also very problematic for the same reasons - Myth is a much bigger factor in the process of role-playing than "Story Now," which is merely a factor of one of the Creative Agendas.
Yes, I'd agree.  I'm increasingly of the opinion that RPGs in general are a subset of the larger category "mythic thought".  RPGs are just one way to go about this, and they are narrower and in some respects less sophisticated than myths among tribal peoples who've been doing this for a hell of a long time.  By that logic, putting myth down into the boxes somewhere utterly misses the point.

But I'm still struggling with Gamism, probably because I have so little direct experience of it.
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #92 on: December 13, 2004, 01:55:43 PM »

Quote from: Matt Snyder
But, I have read Mike as saying the meaning in Narrativism is in making sense of the real world, to us the humans. By comparison, meaning in Simulationism is making sense of the imagined world. Of course, we might strive to do both in both Agendas, but the emphasis remains. In Narrativism, we're emphasizing results meaningful to our real, human lives. In Simulationism, we're emphasizing results meaningful to our explored, shared environment.
I'll let Mike handle whether you're reading him right.  From my perspective, this does seem reasonably accurate.  As you say, it's a question of emphasis: in both cases, we're manipulating symbols in order to impute deeper meaning to our actual lives, but that's relatively overt in Nar and not particularly so -- in fact often flatly denied -- in Sim.

John Kim has a thread going over in GNS that's about this in Nar.

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Now this part I don't get.  You're making a subtle distinction here and I'm not quite following it.  It seems to me as though these two things are very tightly bound together: the explanation is what validates the system that describes the world, so explanation builds realness prompts explanation and so on.  For me, that was why I thought Sim was the obvious analogy, since as you say the reality of the otherworld is very much the point.  But as I see it, any myth necessarily asserts the validity of the culture that produces it, which in RPG terms means that any effective gameplay necessarily builds the reality of the otherworld by legitimating our understanding of it.  Something like that, anyway.  I thought this was the point of Sim, but not so much of Nar; by your argument, I think, the explaining and the realness are in effect simply preferential strategies that get labeled as Nar and Sim, respectively, but really they're the same process and ultimately produce the same thing -- which is to say myth.
.... I'm lost as to the how you found (but perhaps no longer do?) Simulation more ... relevant (?)  than other modes as it relates to myth. I don't understand, for example, how Simulationism accomplishes what you describe above in a way that other agendas do not. My uninformed position says, "Hmm, sounds like just ol' Exploration to me, so myth is applicable to all agendas here. Neat!" Indeed, that seems to be what you're getting 'round to thinking, maybe?
All I meant was that Sim is in some sense "about" the depth and meaningful cohesion of the game-world; this I think is what Ron means by the Dream.  Of course such meaning and cohesion is important in all gaming, but my understanding is that Sim is defined as making this the central issue.

I am, as you say, increasingly coming to think that myth is at the core of all RPGs.  I don't know that I'd plop that down as Exploration, though, at least not in the local jargon sense.  It seems to me that Exploration is quite a lot narrower.  To my mind, myth is a really vast and complicated thing that works at all kinds of levels simultaneously; I'd tend to agree with Ethan that if it were placed in the Big Model at all, it would have to go in right up there at the top.
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I rather like the comparison to myth, the notion that RPGs create myth. I think it's a fine way of expressing what has long remained "that unamable thing" that RPGs produce or share like no other media.
Well, it's certainly helpful to me.  I must confess that I'm rather surprised so many others find it so, although I'm delighted.  I feel like in this thread we're all making some kind of larger progress, and it sounds like you think so too.
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Chris Lehrich
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #93 on: December 13, 2004, 01:58:40 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Small and short note: I despise the entire idea that anything is defined as "I know it when I see it." To me, definitions are concrete, transferable, and socially useful, or they aren't definitions at all.

I've never used that phrasing or logic in dealing with Narrativism. To have it attributed to me is not tolerable.


Well, it might read that way, but I never atrributed that to you, look again. Simply that whatever the definitions of premise/theme are, currently that they're not widely known, understood, or accepted. I'm sure you know what you mean by it, and have tried like the dickens to get the idea across using any number of definitions. But at least one person has been left scrathing his head at times.

And it's not because I don't want to define it, or want it to be "What I know when I see it". It's merely because at this point I don't have a better way to explain it than that. What I'm doing here in this thread is hoping that Myth will turn out to be it. Because it seems right to me.

In the end, why all the "say it yourself" stuff, if it's not a problematically defined concept at this point? If there were a definition of these things that everyone could hang their hat on, then this wouldn't be required, would it?

What I can say is that in my "say it yourself" moment, that I say that narrativism produces myth. That's what works for me. Before all I could say was that I know it when I see it. Which wasn't tolerable.

Now, I'm probably wrong, but nobody's proven that to me yet.

Mike
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clehrich
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« Reply #94 on: December 13, 2004, 02:20:52 PM »

In "Story Now," Ron quotes with approval the following, originally written by Langdon Darkwood:
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In Narrativism, by contrast, the major source of themes are the ones that are brought to the table by the players / GM (if there is one) regardless of the genre or setting used. So, to sum up, themes in Nar play are created by the participants and that's the point; themes in Sim play are already present in the Dream, reinforced by the play, and kind of a by-product.
So for example, if we play a heavy moral anguish about espionage thing, we can do it Sim by examining the ways this moral anguish is part of the genre, of the source material.  Alternatively, we can essentially use the genre and the play to address this ourselves, bringing something that is understood to be exterior to the game-world (i.e. what's going on in our heads and our lives) into play.

Now I think this is a pretty subtle distinction, a very fine line.  The thing is, Sim may claim not to be bringing that exterior stuff into the game, but of course it is -- unless of course the players are actually robots.  Conversely, Nar may think of these issues as in some sense exterior, but there would be a total communication breakdown if those issues were not already potentially active within the game-world.

From my point of view, this is what makes Sim more overtly like myth.  It makes the claim, anyway, that it does not draw into the game anything not already present in it; like the bricoleur, the Sim gamer refuses to put new things into his work, and uses only the stuff he already has.

The thing that's really peculiar here, with both Sim and Nar, is that there is this acceptance and agreement that there really is a firm distinction between in-game and out-of-game.  But analytically, such a distinction just doesn't make a lot of sense.  If we are people sitting around talking, how does having dice in our hands suddenly make that not humans communicating?  I find that claim fascinating, and it's something I do not think is usually present in myth.  It's quite distinctive.

In any event, I'm hoping that we're getting closer to a sufficient baseline agreement on the distinction between Sim and Nar that we can debate more deeply how these things relate to myth.  And I'm also hoping that somebody is going to explain Gamism to me!
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Chris Lehrich
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #95 on: December 13, 2004, 03:02:12 PM »

Quote from: clehrich
Now I think this is a pretty subtle distinction, a very fine line. The thing is, Sim may claim not to be bringing that exterior stuff into the game, but of course it is -- unless of course the players are actually robots.
Well, again, see my comments about this in Beeg Horseshoe 2. I don't actally believe in sim all by itself. I think all play is to some extent actually hybrid, or described in other ways, depending on your opinion of what sim is. Basically they are occasionally mutually exclusive, but otherwise both constantly present.

So this doesn't conflict with your viewpoint, AFAICT. Matt's sorta right in his reading. I wouldn't put it the way he did, but it's not adverse to how I see things.

Anyhow what this points out, however, is that two players may be getting their myth in ways that displease the other as a member of the group. Again, is the player creating meaning in an external (metagame) fashion, or is he only doing so as an internal part of the game process?

Mike
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clehrich
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« Reply #96 on: December 13, 2004, 04:46:57 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Well, again, see my comments about this in Beeg Horseshoe 2. I don't actally believe in sim all by itself. I think all play is to some extent actually hybrid, or described in other ways, depending on your opinion of what sim is. Basically they are occasionally mutually exclusive, but otherwise both constantly present.
I'll sit down and re-read that soon.  From the way I recall it, this explains our apparent -- but not perhaps real -- disagreement.  You're talking about CAs according to a somewhat different baseline theory.  So when you say myth and narrativism are very similar, you don't mean "as opposed to sim," because you consider sim a fundamental part of nar.  Right?
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Anyhow what this points out, however, is that two players may be getting their myth in ways that displease the other as a member of the group. Again, is the player creating meaning in an external (metagame) fashion, or is he only doing so as an internal part of the game process?
That makes sense to me.  For me, it's also one of the distinctions between CAs, but I gather that's not how you see it?
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #97 on: December 13, 2004, 11:38:46 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: clehrich
Now I think this is a pretty subtle distinction, a very fine line. The thing is, Sim may claim not to be bringing that exterior stuff into the game, but of course it is -- unless of course the players are actually robots.
Well, again, see my comments about this in Beeg Horseshoe 2. I don't actally believe in sim all by itself. I think all play is to some extent actually hybrid, or described in other ways, depending on your opinion of what sim is. Basically they are occasionally mutually exclusive, but otherwise both constantly present.
Okay, so I just read the first couple of pages of that thread (which is here).  Are you saying that the flat plane upon which the Nar and Gam axes are projected is myth?  Or are you saying that the Nar axis is myth while the Gam axis is something else?

I'd agree with the first (within that framework, anyway) and not so much the second.  The more I turn all this over in my head, the more I think that mythic thought is an overarching category into which gaming falls.  If you like models like this, with planes and axes and such, I suppose you could say that the plane is properly speaking Exploration, the axes express some further choice or direction (CAs Gam and Nar), and the whole piece of paper or something is myth.  The point being that there is a lot more to myth than we actually find in gaming; gaming is tightly constrained and limited by comparison.

Now following that up for a second, I think this actually makes good sense for a tripartite model rather than Horseshoe 2.  Here's why.

Okay, so you've got this enormous and difficult thing: myth.  It's something we've really lost track of in our culture, largely as an effect of writing's dominance, and in many respects we are not very good at it.  Under certain odd circumstances, we can set up a very narrowly delimited field of action in which we can do mythic thinking.  But if we let it get loose, we lose our grip, because (1) our universe is too damn big and we don't think everything in it is controlled and meaningful, and (2) we're just not all that good at this any more.  So what we do as I say is set up a tight constraint; this is what Ethan neatly called the terrarium.  The field is circumscribed and in theory its borders are impermeable to the outside; we can look in, and we can manipulate what happens on the inside, but we tell ourselves that the inside doesn't get outside so that we can keep the thing under some sort of control.

Now within the terrarium, we still need constraint, because to begin with it seems like just emptiness.  We need to decide on what sorts of things belong in the terrarium and what sorts of manipulation of them we will do.  Without that, we don't have any way to assess whether what we're doing is valid.  If this were regular myth, without the terrarium, we have two great ways to validate our myths: first, whether it fits smoothly with how our culture actually works, and second, whether it fits with how the natural things we play with actually operate.  The former is why myth tends to be very conservative, bolstering cultural structures and choices.  The latter is why mythic thought has an odd habit of discovering all kinds of technical and so forth advances without anything resembling what we'd recognize as experimentation.  But getting back to gaming, we don't have this, because we've announced that the glass of the terrarium is impermeable.

So first we choose some materials to throw in there: the source material, of whatever kind.  Next, we make some aesthetic choices about how we will play with them: these are the CAs.

If we choose Gam or Nar priorities, we in effect set into motion a particular kind of process within the terrarium, and we manipulate our symbols and objects with reference to that.  Are we creating Story Now?  Because if not, we're doing it wrong.  And so on.  (I'm working on how Gam fits this, but I think it does.)  If we choose Sim priorities, we basically say, "Okay, apart from the fact that this is happening in a terrarium, we're going to do myth quite straight: this is about valid manipulation of the symbols to discover new facts about the terrarium-world and to legitimate that world as a world.  But note that this choice is a real choice, not a default: we have elected to set up our priorities in mythic terms, which is by no means a normal thing to do in our culture.

Now a number of factors result from this, as I see it.  I'll give a list next post, as this is already getting long.
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #98 on: December 13, 2004, 11:49:47 PM »

Okay, so just a few "predictions" from this myth model.   Obviously they're not really predictions, because I know the results in advance, but this is how the mythic thought approach really pays off for me: it makes comprehensible and even obvious a number of odd factors about gaming that usually seem to require independent explanations.

1. Gam and Nar must recognize from the outset that the guiding aesthetic (the CA principle) is not logically part of the terrarium-world, but rather imposed to give it better order.  Thus Gam and Nar are also somewhat less concerned with the coherence and consistency of the terrarium-world, because they have already accepted an overriding concern from outside of it.  This also entails that Gam and Nar can be somewhat more overt about the effects and meanings of the myths they create upon their own actual lives.

2. Sim takes it as a fundamental priority that the game-world be tightly constrained, because without this you have no guard-rails to keep myth within sane bounds and the whole thing collapses.  This leads to a certain amount of overstatement and a kind of haunting fear of the lines being crossed.  For example, I think things like Mazes and Monsters pick up a very real fear in Sim gaming, but invert it: they do exactly what is in a sense least likely to happen in Sim.

3. The fact that we usually associate this kind of thinking with a type of myth that has, for us, become very much a literary form, entails that there is a tendency to want the game to turn into a story.  That is, we think that if our game generates a story of some kind of literary quality, this will demonstrate that we have really succeeded mythically.  This is not in fact the case, a matter of category error, but it stems from our historical association of myth with moral allegory and tragedy and the like.  Thus perhaps the Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.

4. The fact that mythic thought really does tend naturally to incorporate everything entails that RPGs, perhaps especially long-running campaigns, increasingly become rich worlds of their own.  This can lead to all sorts of subcuture behaviors, because in a sense it is increasingly difficult to see why the terrarium-world is not considerably superior to the real world, at least in the sense of having rich depth and meaning at a human level.  I think this is one of the things that is particularly attractive about the fantasy genre, e.g. Tolkien: meaninglessness and existential angst and so on just don't really happen there, and the smallest person (literally, in the case of hobbits) and his personal peculiarities have a real place in the cosmos.

5. To throw yet more confusion into the mix, I should note that the construction of the terrarium, as a limited sphere within social discourse and within which mythic thought will happen in a constrained manner, is exactly what Catherine Bell means by "ritualization," and it has many of the same effects.  In particular, the division tends naturally to acquire claims of radical difference or distinction.  For example, gamers quite naturally seem to see a hard division between in-game and out-of-game, in-character and OOC, and so on.  None of these things would be immediately obvious to an outside observer with no prior experience of gaming, but they are extremely so to any gamer.

6. I suspect that this ritualization, read here also as the assertion of the impermeability of the terrarium walls, will tend to reach its most extreme expressions in Sim, because of the lack of other constraints.  Thus we would predict, and I suspect it's the case, that Sim games will be particularly inclined toward rules about speaking in-character, to rigidity about character knowledge, and so forth.  AD&D's demand that certain manuals -- such as the Monster Manual -- not be accessible to the players fits this well.

7. One thing that I think is particularly interesting here is that because Sim is naturally inclined, as a relatively "true" form of mythic thought, to run loose, I think the tendency toward very strong GM control is a way of imposing constraint.  At the same time, from this analysis it would seem also to undermine the whole point of Sim; this is something I think is very important, and it needs to get worked out.  To put it directly, why do Sim games lend themselves to authoritarian GMs constructed as godlike?

8. Given the contradictory nature of the imposition of Gam or Nar preferences over the internal cohesion of the game-world, I think it's not surprising to find, anecdotally at least, that such games do not as a rule run on extremely long.  Sim games, by contrast, develop their validity through the ongoing construction of cohesion and complexity, and thus you have the sort of Holy Grail traditional sprawling campaign that runs for years.  What's important here is that Sim games often do hold this up as an ideal, whether they achieve it or not, while I do not generally see this in the rhetoric of Gam or Nar.

9. Lévi-Strauss made a weird argument that myth is classifying and ritual unifying.  In RPGs, this works simultaneously at contrasting levels.  Within the game-world, classification is very important, in the sense that we want to divide up the initially similar into different things.  We encounter “a policeman,” and we have a choice whether to keep him vague like this or make him specific, a person.  More specifically, this is mechanics: instead of “well, you shoot him,” we want to know what happens in particular.  How does this shot happen?  How much damage is done?  How do we assess the meaning of the shot?  All that.  So the mechanics assist us in dividing up the bits and pieces we encounter and giving them specificity and structure.  By contrast, the unifying ritual effect occurs socially, because the ritual process here is about that terrarium we set up.  So at that level, the desire is to come to full agreement and unity about what is happening in the game world, and for us as a group to be a group.  Thus the tendency to think that gaming makes us friends, the Geek Fallacy.

Anyway, enough rambling.  Thoughts?  I feel like we’re getting somewhere, but that could just be me.
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #99 on: December 14, 2004, 06:32:18 AM »

Regarding your point 7, why do Sim games lend themselves to authoritarian GMs? Historically, I think this may stem from the style of Gamism that went on in the early days, when games really did need a "referee" in the literal sense of the world. As Sim priorities came to the fore over the years (which occurred as a result of the propensity toward Mythic thought in role-playing) this concept of a GM as final authority was carried along. From a practical standpoint, having one person watching over the terrarium and maintaining the Mythic consistency could be quite liberating for the players, who can push and prod the Myth to discover its boundaries while knowing that someone will keep the whole business from collapsing.

In general, I'm in 100% agreement with you, Chris. I'm also with you on the feeling that this is an important conversation.

For me, my understanding of Myth makes it unmistakably the "It" of role-playing. This is a pleasing discovery to have made.

I guess my question would be, what do we do with this information? Are we navel gazing? Or is there practical application for all this theory stuff? I guess for me the application is my own understanding of and new appreciation for the form. But if we can somehow apply these concepts to game design and/or play, that would be super duper.

Regarding Gamism: I have two thoughts. 1) Gamism doesn't fit in with Myth; it's something else that from the outside looks the same as Myth-based play. I'm not very satisfied with this, but I mention it as a point for discussion. 2) Gamism is about Heroes, Campbell's "Hero's Journey", and that sort of stuff. I don't know if that's particularly valid, but it's an association that I can't seem to shake so I'm airing it.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #100 on: December 14, 2004, 07:13:02 AM »

First, it's not precisely inaccurate, but misleading to say that my version of the Beeg Horseshoe says that Sim is a fundamental part of Nar. What I say is that either Sim does not exist alone in a vacuum, and all play is hybrid, or Sim does not exist at all. To the extent that Sim does exist, it's as a support level for the "realness" of the game world, a threshold below which the player is not willing to go.

Because I don't think that Sim creates meaning in, if you'll pardon me, any meaningful sense. You have it here:
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To put it directly, why do Sim games lend themselves to authoritarian GMs constructed as godlike?
Because the meaning element has to be added by someone. In sim play, the players do not add meaning, any more than one adds mythic meaning through day to day living. In sim play, the player rejects the metagame, and, sans some other controlling factor, all you get is a facsimile of life in another place.

To the extent that you insist that all creation is, in fact, meaningful, you agree with me that all play of this sort is actually narrativism. This is why I come to Beeg Horseshoe from Ron's theory. When it comes down to it, narrativism is about players creating meaning of some sort from what I can tell.

Here's where you and John Kim have always had a problem with the theory, because you rightly don't see any play by the players as being devoid of meaning. So all play that you, he, and I observe is narrativism to some extent. The only question is to what extent power is given to the players to do this in a somewhat metagame way, or to which they are required not to be storytellers, but merely the interpreters of the acts of characters inside the game.

Again, that doesn't mean that they aren't making meaning, even if they're playing completely in-game. But, again, the only reasonable definition of narrativism that I can find includes this play as "narrativism-ish". Simulationism as a CA, devoid of narrativism,  then would only be those players who somehow are either stripped of all power to create meaning by the GM (which I postulate is actually somewhat common thing to be attempted, but which may not be completely possible), or where the player abdicates all willingness to create meaning, and only has his character do "plausible" things without care for meaning.

Again, as I see it, "Sim" is merely the attempt to give the game world "weight" but not meaning. Narrativism is the meaning. Hence why I see nearly all play as hybrid this way to some extent. I can't see many games being completely devoid of either.

What I can see are thresholds for these things set at such levels that play of one player will still annoy play of another player. So the model still has predictive power just as it did before. And still, IMO, explains the problems of incoherent play. My "adjustement" to the model is only to get people to understand that narrativism never, ever does with less than complete plausibility. The only question is whether or not the players have powers that make them not only actors in the otherworld, but also "gods" like the GM.

People make this mistake all the time. Gamism and narrativism can be completely as plausible as sim. Where they differ is in the maintenence of the illusion that the player is in-game, and that in-game world has some "real" existence. That is, as soon as a player starts making myth, he's no longer the character only, but a god as well. To the extent that this is obvious it may step over the sim threshold.

To put this all in another perspective, if we say that sim can create meaning, then what is it that nar does? Your argument is that it "textualizes" or makes more like literature the myth being created? Well, I simply don't see it that way, that's not my experience at all. Nar is about how obviously metagame the player's power is to create meaning.

So I see you as shifting the GNS paradigm here in a way that's confusing. Separating meaning from how meaning is created vis a vis the metagame seems intuitive to me. Saying that they're both creation of meaning, but that one then goes on to make that meaning specialized in some way seems to be creating definitions that weren't there before, and, worse, lose GNS it's predictive powers.

That is, the use of GNS is in predicting incoherence. If we go with your model, we now have to suppose that the players in sim somehow reject the "textual story" that's created by narrativism, because they want to creat myth instead. Well, again, if that's the case, then all of the power that I've given to my players has been used to create myth, and my players are all sim. In fact, there are no players who play using narrativism that I've ever seen.

Again, this shows where you and John have a problem understanding narrativism, because you both assume it's something that you've never seen, when, in fact, you have. The people who claim to play narrativism don't sit around the table saying things like, "It would be really cool to end the story with a Faulkner-esqe twist, so let's try to maneuver things so that we can accomplish that." Making a protagonist out of a character merely means making him someone who creates meaning for the players. And nothing more than that.

This is why I rail at Paul Czege sometimes when he tries to add things to the definition of narrativism. Because in doing so, he, too, breaks GNS from it's predictive power by trying to make it more about literature and the like. The dividing line between N and S, where one player will like play, and another player will not in terms of being mutally exclusive agendas of play, is only at the point which the play by players becomes "noticeably" metagame.

Where I agree with you and with what John has pointed out so many times before, is that RPGs are not literature, or other media. What they create is, in fact, more mythic than these things, from what I can tell.


Now, I'm not buying a lot of what's going on here. But just for kicks, if you want to mix gamism in here, here's a crazy notion that just might fit. It goes to the idea that RPG play is heroquests, or visionquests. And that is, if these things actually have ritual property, then, Chris, does it not stand to reason that the participant in the ritual be tested, and, if successful, have his position in the community validated in some way? Isn't the self-esteem gained by "winning" the challenges of the game a way to validate the player's quality in belonging to the community? A rite of passage, as it were? This is interesting in that the act itself doesn't create mythic meaning, but instead validates the player's place (player, not character) in the myth. Making them mutually exclusive, as the model predicts. That is, in TROS, one shifts modes from creation of meaning before combat, to validation of player participation in combat. Attemtping to mix the two will end up with player rejection as they either fail to make meaning outside of combat, or their character dies in combat.

So:
Narrativism - player creation of myth
Simulationism - validation of the ritual space in which the myth is created (consecration)
Gamism - validation of player participation in the myth

Seems pretty tidy to me. Not that I buy it, particularly, but it would be a good place to start a cult from. :-)

Note this post cross posted with Ethan, but the difference between the Campbellian Heroquest and the original concept is that the character is a surrogate for the reader in literature. In a "real" quest, the participant is actually tested. Again, this matches up with gamism, and the need for "real" failure conditions, and "fairness" and all of the other necessities of gamism. The player is actually tested in the ritual, through the vehicle of the character, as opposed to simply the character being tested.

Mike
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Caldis
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« Reply #101 on: December 14, 2004, 07:46:23 AM »

I've been following the discussion all along and it's been fascinating, thanks for taking the time to start it and bringing your knowledge of Levi-Strauss to us Chris.  I still have a problem in understanding how mythmaking worked for the tribes that employed it and I think my problem relates to the distinction between nar and sim agendas.

I'll quote a little bit of your last example.

Quote from: clehrich

One solution is the cargo-cult, but Hainuwele is another.  Through myth, we think it through, and we come to a solution.  The gifts are shit (thus excreted), and not valuable, so we don't owe the Dutch anything.  And if we use the gifts for other purposes (such as trading with our neighbors), we can make them into yams (thus the planting of the body and its turning into yams) which do have value, therefore getting something for nothing.  The trick is thus to transform shit into food, and in order to do that we have to refuse direct relations with the shit-givers.



My question is one of process.  When would the myth be created?  In this example you seem to be saying that the myth is created and used to help make the decision on how to use the Dutch trade goods.  That would seem to be narrativistic to me, using the created 'story' to make a point.

On the flip side you've mentioned that two entirely different stories can be the same myth, "rotting lizards and exploding grandmothers".  It seems unlikely that both could have been used at the same time to make the decision so it would seem likely that they were created after the fact as an oral history.  This would seem simulationist to me, with only the gm knowing how the story works out and the players taking the part of the meaningful players in the story.  They are expected to act as the symbolic thing they represent, warrior, healer, scoundrel, vampire, etc.
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contracycle
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« Reply #102 on: December 14, 2004, 07:55:43 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

Simulationism - validation of the ritual space in which the myth is created (consecration)


Apart from general agreement with your post, this looks very juicy to me.  I think it can be expanded somewhat to explain to the auteur-GM role as well; just as in most cases where an object or space is rendered sacred by some form of ritual specialist, one could see the game space being rendered 'live' by the game-specialist.  

The attributed social authority of the GM/Priest empowers them to consecrate the game/ritual.  And this authority is based on the GM/Priests special, unusual, knowledge and insight.  

And actually it occurs to me further that this insight and knowledge are themselves alien, possessed of an even greater super-legitimacy than that of the presiding officiant simply by virtue of existing as published work, as being From Afar, as being handed down by a Higher Power - the designer.  The GM is moses come down from the mountain.

All of which makes the cargo-cult phenomenon of RPG seem inevitable.  So I was wrong after all - the GM is not god, the GM is a priest.

I'm not going to comment on the gamist angle just yet but I'm champing at the bit.
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #103 on: December 14, 2004, 08:22:18 AM »

Mike, I think I can I see where you're coming from now, which is a big relief. I don't agree with all of what you're saying, but I can at least understand it.

One disagreement I'd like to discuss:
Quote
In sim play, the players do not add meaning, any more than one adds mythic meaning through day to day living.

Are you using "meaning" to mean the same as "Myth" here? A Sim player is very much a part of the creation of Myth (or meaning as you seem to be using it here), and as people, we certainly add mythic meaning through day to day living, almost by definition. Again, it seems like when you say "Myth" you mean something different from what Chris and I mean when we say "Myth." I provided a summary which Chris agreed with a few posts up; can you take a look and tell me whether or not we're on the same page?

In your latest post in which you break down the three modes, you seem to be landing on the side of Chris and me that Sim is the baseline mode; it is the "purest" search for Myth. Is that a fair statement?

I like your take on Gamism. Near as I can tell, we agree. That is, while the character in the game is going on a Campbellian Hero's Journey (Ron's Challenge), the player is seeking status within the micro-culture of his or her fellow players (Ron's Step On Up).

Edit: I just realized that this thread has answered both of Ron's Hard Questions from the the Nar and Gam essays: We role-play because it produces Myth, and no other activity in our culture does so. Neat.
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clehrich
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« Reply #104 on: December 14, 2004, 09:27:17 AM »

Quote from: ethan_greer
Regarding your point 7, why do Sim games lend themselves to authoritarian GMs? Historically, I think this may stem from the style of Gamism that went on in the early days, when games really did need a "referee" in the literal sense of the world. As Sim priorities came to the fore over the years (which occurred as a result of the propensity toward Mythic thought in role-playing) this concept of a GM as final authority was carried along. From a practical standpoint, having one person watching over the terrarium and maintaining the Mythic consistency could be quite liberating for the players, who can push and prod the Myth to discover its boundaries while knowing that someone will keep the whole business from collapsing.
I think contracycle is on to something on this one.  I don't think this is an effect of Gamism; there's something not quite clicking for me there, and I feel like if I could get my mind wrapped around how GMs are supposed to work within a mythic context I'd be more satisfied.  I'll comment on contracycle's interesting suggestion in a sec.
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In general, I'm in 100% agreement with you, Chris. I'm also with you on the feeling that this is an important conversation.
Yes, I genuinely think we're making some progress.
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I guess my question would be, what do we do with this information? Are we navel gazing? Or is there practical application for all this theory stuff? I guess for me the application is my own understanding of and new appreciation for the form. But if we can somehow apply these concepts to game design and/or play, that would be super duper.
Well, you'd have to ask someone more practically-minded than I, but I do think there are significant practical implications here.  Sim has long seemed like the "tricky one"; I think in the Horseshoe 2 thread Mike remarked that it seemed like the weird uncle in the closet.  My sense is that this is because Sim is trying to do something that has very little other outlet in our culture, and this causes all sorts of confusions and distractions.  We get all tied up with things like rules systems and GM power and stories and so forth.  But if we have a clearer sense of what it is we're doing, by really delving deeply into mythic thought, we have a better chance of having our Sim games work actively (rather than what Ron calls "ouija board play," where you wait for "it" to happen).

One thing I could see coming out of this is in mechanics development.  Instead of working strictly on causality and "realism" sorts of issues, it might be worth trying to build mechanical models that guide bricolage.  This would allow one to construct myth sort of with a net, which helps in a society that's less familiar with the process as a basic activity.

Another point is I'd like to see more development of ways to manipulate the objects of the fictive world, using explicit analogical structures and so forth.  This would to some degree replace the spontaneous mythic thought with a conscious reflexive version, but that seems to me in keeping with the general tenor of our society and this kind of activity.

Just a few thoughts, but yes, I do think this has practical implications.
Quote
2) Gamism is about Heroes, Campbell's "Hero's Journey", and that sort of stuff. I don't know if that's particularly valid, but it's an association that I can't seem to shake so I'm airing it.
That one I need to think about a lot.  I haven't read Campbell in years, and didn't like him then.  But what you're describing sounds to me not unlike how his mentor, Mircea Eliade, used to talk about myth in terms of a kind of participation and reactualization process.  Let me get back to that when I've had a chance to turn it over in my head.  If you guys want to explain how you link up the heroquest to gamism, I'd be much obliged.
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