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Question for Vincent

Started by Sean, October 18, 2005, 11:15:50 PM

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Hi Vincent,

I don't know if it's OK to ask you questions here about anyway, but I don't know how to work your site, and it's a GNS related point you made anyway (I think), so here goes.

In introducing some thoughts of yours on meaningful character death from what sounds like a Narrativist point of view, you start out by saying that if you're really interested in either (a) (limpid VB text clearly describing Gamism) or (b) "peer-group supported wish fulfillment", you didn't need what was being written there about Narrativism and character death.

I don't understand what you mean by (b). (I mean, I really don't get it, this isn't a criticism, just confusion.) Do you intend that to be a stand in for Sim or some other form of Gamism? Or is it just how you think about exploration light incoherent play? Or is this some other cool idea you had? Or what?

I love something I might call 'peer group supported wish fulfillment', but I don't know if it's what you have in mind or not, and I don't know how to GNS it either, though I have some ideas.

So anyway if you feel like you can help me with this toss me a bone, man.

Eero Tuovinen

Could you link us to the post in question? I distinctly remember reading something like that at Anyway, but couldn't name the article. Refreshing on the original Vincent-thought would make this ensuing discussion easier to follow.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Sure, Eero, it's at

and you have to go down to the page to the part about character death. What he actually says is "the satisfaction of peer-appreciated wish-fulfillment". But my question still stays more or less the same.


Let the record show:
First: if what you get out of roleplaying is a) the accomplishment you get from rising to the challenge, not letting yourself or your friends down, learning the rules and just frickin' owning them, or else b) the satisfaction of peer-appreciated wish-fulfillment, you're off the hook. None of what I say applies to you, you're happy.

(b) means simulationism.

Is it fair? I don't really want to argue that it is, across the board. I'll certainly grant at once that it's unkind, fair or not.



Well, wish fulfillment as I understand it is one thing I look to RPGs for. So I don't find it unkind, at least.

What I'm less clear about is why it's a Simulationist tendency, but I don't know how to make much progress with that discussion. I mean, if you don't have a lot of money or power in life, like when you're a kid, gamist play can be a kind of wish-fulfillment if your character lives and you play better than your friends, and you wind up with this real powerful imaginary dude. That's a reward. Similar conditions can apply to narrativist play, I think: you're deeply satisfied with an outcome you angled for from the beginning, partly because of the choices you made to get there. Or maybe this is an example of 'subsidiary modes'.

I guess you could say "well, the gamism can't reliably provide, yadda yadda," and that's true, but it's not really that simple I don't think. I can daydream by myself, and I do, and I enjoy it. But socially negotiating the wish-fulfillment, even when it includes the option of not getting it, gives a different if related kind of pleasure, and it's not just 'deferred gratification' different.

Maybe it's just because the object of wish-fulfillment is always imaginary? So that if you're playing for wish-fulfillment you're playing to celebrate imaginary material?

I guess at an experiential level I have trouble some distinguishing between "I want a wish-fulfillment fantasy about being a king" being the point of play and "I want to think about what it means to be a king and what kind of moral choices I might have to make to become one" being the point of play. I mean, I could write a persuasive essay elucidating the difference. But I'm familiar with play that's clearly one or the other and then play that could be construed as either one about equally persuasively, and I don't find the third clearly less rewarding than the other two.

Anyway. Help with understanding what wish fulfillment in RPGs is all about would be appreciated, as would a characterization of the type of Sim play you think seems especially focused on wish fulfillment and what its characteristics are, etc.

The 'you' there can certainly apply to people other than Vincent, but if I could make a request to such people: as far as possible let's keep this thread focused on examples and particular experiences rather than general theory at the outset. This thread could really get wrecked for me fast if we go through the usual dialectic of reducing everything to a Sim/Exploration confusion and all the rest. I'm trying to understand the phenomena here, we can get to their synthesis later if at all. If that's OK.

Ron Edwards


This is a Say It Yourself thing in a big way.

"Wish-fulfilment" means a specific thing in Vincent's discourse, and he makes that clearer in the source material than this single excerpt quoted here can possibly do.

To say, "Well, wish-fulfilment means X to me, and I get X from any role-playing," is simply not constructive. Sure. Great. It's a labile term which requires clarification, and the best we can do is to identify it as such and restrict its use to idiosyncratic, local meanings. Which is what Vincent did, and why he posted it that way on his blog as opposed to, say, here.

If Vincent's way just can't be chewed on and swallowed by a particular person, then the person must step back and say, "Hey, that's a labile term, isn't it ... so this chain of thought isn't for me unless I replace it with a term which works better for me."

Every so often, we have a Sim-spasm at the Forge. Bluntly, it's a worthless exercise, and would be with any luck almost fully eliminated if I were to post a "GNS updated" essay. In that essay, Sim play would be explained more according to the general outline which I arrived at in my Gamism essay and used again in the Narrativism essay. It would focus on the "celebration of input" concept that I have written about extensively in this forum. After that, people might bring up irrelevancies as perceived objections and valuable Say-It-Yourself stuff, as we see all the time now with N and G, but there'd be no more of this nonsense about "Sim is controversial" or "Sim isn't well understood."

But no one pays me to solve their problems, and I'd rather run the Ronnies anyway.



Hi Ron,

I don't understand your response.

- Am I wasting my time asking Vincent for help understanding what he's saying? Is it clear a priori that nothing will come out of such a request?

- Are you suggesting that I'm trying to bring on a Sim-spasm in my post, when the final paragraph of it was aimed directly at heading that off?

Bluntly, your post was exactly the kind of response I was hoping to avoid in this thread. But if I'm way off base asking for this kind of help in this forum, that's cool, I've adjusted my posting habits many times in the past in response to local custom, and I'm cool doing that, because I love the site.


This might help provide some context. I wrote this about kill puppies for satan, a while before I wrote the bit in question:
Quote from: lumpley on November 06, 2002, 10:49:37 AM
When the gang of us watched Trekkies, there were bits where I had to leave the room.  I've never hated a movie quite like I hate Election.  But American Movie and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control are two of my faves.  Being a geek is complicated for me, there're these like self-image and self-worth problems I have with my geekiness.  Trekkies was generally sympathetic to its geeks, but not always.  Election had total contempt for its geek.  American Movie treated its geeks with sympathy and humanity, and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control even admired them.

Killing puppies = being a geek.  It gives you power in your own marginal circle, but alienates you from actual society.  I think that many of us have to balance that in our lives, I know I do all the time.  Most games offer wish fulfillment -- in fantasy I'm powerful! I'm rich! I'm sexy! I'm immortal! they fear me now! -- which is appealing, but not that good for me, right?  Puppies is more like American Movie, genuinely sympathetic to me and my problematic geeky life.

(And I'll leave it to you and Ron to work out whether this is an appropriate topic here.)



Thanks, Vincent.

Yep, that's wish fulfillment, so not as semantically labile as Ron feared relative to you and me in particular at least. I guess we just disagree in our assessment of its value: I enjoy it and think it's good for me, at least properly titrated. That's cool. Some people like bowling and some don't also.

I mean, the discussion about wish fulfillment goes way deeper than the discussion about bowling, but there's no point I don't think in us dukin' it out over its moral value here, assuming we even wanted to. I'm fer it though.

In response to your self-commentary then I'd say 'unfair in absolute terms, since there are kinds of Sim play which aren't about wish-fulfillment and kinds of non-Sim play which use wish-fulfillment as part of the reward system, but I do see where a lot of identifiably Sim play is clearly about certain kinds of wish-fulfillment, so I understand why you might have written it.'

So...since I don't want to have the general discussion about Sim, I guess that's it for me in the thread. I might start a follow up about wish fulfillment as a reward system when I have time, but now work beckons, so thank you very much for your help. If Vincent wants to rebut my response a final statement would be welcome - I won't rebut the rebuttal - but otherwise I don't see much need to go further.

M. J. Young

Quote from: Sean on October 19, 2005, 01:21:46 PMWhat I'm less clear about is why it's a Simulationist tendency, but I don't know how to make much progress with that discussion. I mean, if you don't have a lot of money or power in life, like when you're a kid, gamist play can be a kind of wish-fulfillment if your character lives and you play better than your friends, and you wind up with this real powerful imaginary dude. That's a reward.
It's my belief that the driving force behind simulationism is the desire to know. In this case, we're talking about knowledge in the experiential sense, wanting to know what it would be like to be rich, powerful, or whatever else.

That's not the only kind of simulationism, and even when the question is "what would it be like to be X" it is possible that the player is asking it because it's the furthest thing from anything he would ever want to be. I might play a woman because I want to understand women; I'm about the furthest thing from a fighter that I can be, but I've played cavaliers just to see what it would be like to be a bit dull, a bit narrow, a bit arrogant, you know, like a high school football quarterback (sorry if that offends anyone; it's my model for a particular character type, and in fairness our school's quarterback was a good guy).

So "what would it be like" is one of the driving questions behind simulationist play, and "wish fulfillment" is a way of trying to experience that. (The accuracy of the experience is actually not relevant to the matter; the point was to experience it, to learn what it would be like to be like that, whether or not that is a realistic image of anything.)

So I agree with Vincent's characterization of some simulationism, and I'm not offended by it.

--M. J. Young

Ron Edwards

It was a bad idea not to moderate this thread off the Forge in the first place.

Closed now.