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Does GNS sometimes cloud Indie Design?

Started by Sylus Thane, June 03, 2003, 07:38:56 PM

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Ron Edwards

Hi Sylus,

I've taken your question to a thread of its own in the GNS forum, GNS and design.


Sylus Thane

Cool, Thanks Ron.

QuoteEven though the name of the forum, the Forge, suggests that things get the piss hammered out of them here I don't think that applies to newcomers.

Going off part of what was said here, do people think it would be impossible or unlikely to come up with a seperate set of Forge terminology Tools that are more generic in nature to help new posters within Indie Design? Or would people find it unterferes wit their understanding of GNS or what they feel the Forge is about?

I think if we could come up with more of a set of generic tools it would help us in drawing out the inner Game of new posters and help eliminate the potential of us drowning them in terminology even with the best of intentions.

My first suggestion would be, although necessarily terminology would be perhaps an icon put at the header of a thread of hammer. This in a way could be used with a simple descriptor to indicate someone needing help in "hammering" or fleshing out an idea. I don't know if it is possible forum wise but i think it could be simply labeled under something like forge help tools that can help get peoples attention. Or it could simply be used as term when trying to help a person as it is fairly common nomenclature.


M. J. Young

Quote from: Sylus ThaneI will see a new poster and the first replies they get consist of "What do you do in your game? (with no other questions or comments) or more usually a hearty welcome then followed by you should read this, this, and thi. Now although i do agree that new posters who do put in remarks regarding GNS should have it followed up on I think we can better serve those who don't by taking things gradually.
I'll probably answer the later question in the other thread, when I get there. Meanwhile, this issue is worth comment.

I rarely post to the Indie Design forum; as I've elsewhere commented, I don't have time to digest a dozen new games a month, so I can't keep them straight. I stick to those threads which are narrow in focus and don't imply that you need a working knowledge of the game as a whole to contribute.

Yet I think that sometimes I've been guilty of asking questions of the kind (if not the particular questions) you suggest. Mea culpa? Maybe not.

Game questions require some kind of context. That doesn't necessarily have to be a complete description of the game; such complete description is not always desirable, and perhaps more to the point it's not always sufficient.

Particularly the question, "What do people do in your game?" is very important. In many of the questions that are asked, you can't address the ideas at all without knowing that--and sometimes of course you come face to face with a designer who hasn't a clue. He's never wondered. Perhaps he wants a game that isn't all hack and slash, so he's designing away from combat emphasis--but not toward anything. Sometimes this sort of aimless "away from" design strategy shows through, and it doesn't bode well for a game.

I don't ask questions for which I don't think the answers important. I don't refer people to articles unless I think the article contains an answer to one of their issues. On the other hand, I do think that if someone is looking for answers and I suggest that he read a particular article (whether Ron's or mine or anyone else) that's at least a valid response. If he doesn't want to read that, fine.

Also, I've seen threads in which someone's use of words like "narrativist" were confusing because they thought it meant one thing and everyone else took it to mean something else. To use a theological example, if we got into a discussion in which you said you believed in the devil, but not that he was a person, and I objected that he was indeed a person because he had particular attributes of personhood, we could go round and round for a long time if it never occurred to us to figure out what we each mean by "person". If I mean that the devil has will, intelligence, and character, and you mean that he doesn't have two legs, two arms, and horns on his head, then we're not disagreeing--we're talking past each other. If someone says his game is "narrativist" and we assume he's on the same page as the rest of us, the more confused the thread gets from the misunderstanding the more jarring it's going to be when someone finally says, "What do you mean by 'narrativist'?" "Oh, I mean that the storyteller narrates what's happening." Now, probably around here someone would say, "That's not what narrativist means," when it would be more precise to say, "That's not what we understand narrativist to mean", but it's the same thing.

So those questions will appear, because sometimes they're necessary to communication.

Now, if all you mean is that we shouldn't expect every visitor to get a master's degree in game theory before asking questions, sure, you're right; but anyone who asks questions should be willing to accept that the answers might already be written somewhere else, and that it might be useful to be on the same page in terms of terminology to proceed.

--M. J. Young


I took a long time to come to the Forge.  I'd known about it for a while, but I skipped out on really trying to come to terms with it because it had a great big GNS mothership hovering in its skies.

Now that I'm here, I still see the shadow of the mothership, and I still don't speak the strange but beautiful language of the alien race that hails from it, but I'm a lot less xenophobic about it.

It's only recently that I've even tried to understand the terms (because the Iron Chef thing sounded cool, but with it identified with a GNS bent, I didn't feel capable of contributing).

Today, if someone says something in a GNS context, they're basically still speaking Greek.  I'll nod and smile and occasionally catch some of the cognates, but that's about it.

It is something that I feel like I've got to "tough my way through" in order to get the non-GNS benefits of the Forge, though I can't easily point to specific things that gave me the feeling.

All this said, on some level I almost want to say, "So what?" to a concern that there's too much GNS at the Forge.  In a lot of ways, GNS seems to be the bouncer around these parts.  It's certainly the big muscular lug standing by the door.  Makes a fella nervous.

And that's kinda good.  It's entirely possible that this bouncer's what keeps out the drek factor.  People who can get past their fear -- whether they adopt GNS or not (I haven't) -- have passed the trial by fire.

I know the Forge has a certain inclusive attitude -- that's certainly what I encountered once I got past that door -- but from the outside, at least, it looks like a pretty elite club, and gives one to wondering if he can even make a bid for joining.

Mike Holmes

First, people ought not get the impression that one needs to know GNS to post here. I totally agree with Ron that people come here, see the GNS stuff, assume it's mandatory, and then try to speak it despite not really getting it.

It's not required to get it. Simply don't try to speak it until you've got a handle on it.

Look at the "problem" posts. You'll see exactly what Ron described every time. The poster comes in, assumes that they have to post their GNS goal, posts that incorrectly, and then get's corrected.

Then Ron or I or someone else comes in and say, "well forget about that for now."

So, I think the problem is self perpetuating. That is, as long as people keep posting that way, people will keep assuming that this is how one posts to the Forge (and that the correction process is some sort of trial by fire).

People come here all the time, get all sorts of good advice, and all without GNS ever being mentioned.

Yes, at some point we'll probably refer people to the essays. So we don't have to write them again in explaining some particular problem. But that's only when the problem is related. For example, I often refer people to System Does Matter, not because of it's primitive GNS content (indeed, I'm afraid of using that essay for just that reason), but instead because it has a very important point that people often miss, namely that embodied in the title.

Basically, there's no way to make the Forge more "open" seeming that doesn't involve one of two things. The first thing, and one that we can't do, is to drop the terminology. That would make all the work done so far pointless. The second thing, and one we can all do, is to take this thread as a warning that when you see a newbie tossing around GNS, the thing to do is not to correct him, but to point out that it's not important. If somebody doesn't understand GNS, there's no way that there aren't other issues to work through in the design as well.

Then, eventually when a design get's to the point where it has to look at GNS (assuming that it ever has to), enough will have been said about it that an intelligent analysis can occur. And hopefully the person will have had some time to get up to speed.

GNS does't cloud Indie Design. Misapplication of GNS clouds Indie Design. GNS is about the last thing that one should look at in their design. And not as some goal, really, but more as a check for functionality. Anything else is an over-application.

It's a great irony that, while we who promulgate theory about GNS are interested in it, and find it important, we don't believe it to be the end all of design. In fact, in some ways it's a very very small part. It's just that it gets discussed so much that people assume repeatedly, and mistakenly, that it's some sort of complete theory of everything role-playing. As soon as people start to realize that it's just a fraction of what's going on, and that there's a jillion other things going on in design, the problem will evaporate.

IMO. All one can do is keep repeating that like a mantra (I've written this so many times now I've considered making it Rant #6). The stickies at the top of Indie Design make this clear IMO, though perhaps they could be reworded some I suppose. But they get ignored as it is, and I'm not sure what can be done to prevent J Random Poster from making mistakes. What we who know better can do is to respond to them as best is possible.

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