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Author Topic: GNS Showdown  (Read 11749 times)
joe_llama
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« on: March 07, 2002, 10:53:15 AM »

(This post also appears on RPG Net for a different purpose)

First, I'm supposed to use this time slot to write game design comments for Universalis and instead I'm wasting it here. My apologies, Mike. I did not forget.

You see, I was constantly bothered with this GNS issue and I couldn't tell what it was until today. Today I've read an article called "Out of Dreamland"by Jocelyn Robitaille. Now, what I'm about to say is not to criticize Jocelyn in person - it concerns the whole theory.

I admit it. I have converted to GNS-ism. It took me a month to figure out what the hell it's all about but now I'm convinced. Not only that, I believe that I have become a sort of extremist in my beliefs. I now believe that Ron's GNS essay just puts things in nice and politically-correct words.

Ron says (at least, my impression of what he says): "There are three types of RPG's - Gamism, Simulationsim and Narrativism". I say: "There are three types of games which use role-playing as a major element". There is no such a thing as a 'role playing game' - it is a historical error born from the transition from one type of game to another through the same media. The 'Transactional perspective' given in the Jocelyn's article is exactly the wrong way to go with it.

I mean, Diplomacy an Risk are both 'world-war' boardgames. Does it mean they are the same? Hell no. And anyone who ever played both knows how incredibly diferent they are. After reading Christopher Kubasik's reply on RPG Net it became clear to me - role playing is just a game element, nothing more. Maybe this is why Ron has such a hard time explaining people his theory. Maybe his first words should be: "You have three games. All are wrongfully named RPG's". If someone would say that Monopoly and Clue are boardgames would you say they are the same thing? OK, so they both have a board, pawns and dice, so what? And what about Poker and Bridge? "Of course, they're card games and all card games should be treated the same way". This is wrong.

You have games. Game is defined (by Oxford) as: 'form of play or sport with rules'. That's all there is to it. Each game has different rules and uses different elements to convey different feelings and challenges. Maybe we should all discuss game design theory in general, and not just for 'role playing games'. The GNS article started studying many aspects of game design but it never got further than that. Ron is busy all the time 'defending' his theory when all he's trying to say is: "hey people, before you design a game you have to know what its goal is". That's what GNS is all about - it shows three types of games with totally different goals. And any theory should work with all games in general, not just RPG's. I now understand what Jared A. Sorensen meant when he started the thread 'why your game sucks' over at RPG Net. I've kept that thread because I knew it was talking about the most important thing in games - proper perspective of design.

If it was all up to me, I'd change GNS into completely sepreate games:

Gamism - Adventure Games (historical reasons)
Simulationism - Exploration Games (practical reasons)
Narrativism - Storytelling/Storymaking/etc Games (goal-driven reasons)

I wish that people could see this clearly with RPG's. We have no problem when it's a 'board game' 'card game' or 'ball game'. Why do we have this issue with 'role playing game'? Couldn't it be obvious that role playing is just a game element and not a game goal?

This is why 'universal' or 'generic' GNS RPG's could never work. This is why 'Transactional perspective' wouldn't work. You can't use role playing as an anchor for game design - it is an element. Just like you can't interest Bridge players with Poker just because it's a card game. This isn't an issue of Color or Setting or flavor or style - it's about the objective of the game. "To tell a story" is a very different goal from "To pretend you're someone else" or "To be a hero and defeat a villain".

In addition, GM is not a requisite in RPG's. Game Master is an element. You don't NEED a GM in RPG's. It seems to me that Jocelyn accepts GM as an inseperate part of the game. Although I can't quote this from anywhere, but Ron also seems to ignore this issue (my apologies if otherwise).

There is an old article called "I have no words & I must design" by Greg Costikyan. It addresses everything I talked about in the right proportions. When I read it now, I feel so stupid the way I used to treat it as 'just another interesting article for my archive' - this article is THE article all game designers should look at. The next time I design a game I'm going to hear in my head two things:

 1. Jared telling me: "Dammit Joe, you're a game designer, not a politician!" and
 2. Greg telling me: "Design your game without prejudice".

Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree here. Maybe I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. This post does not come from my head - it's from my heart. It's the way I feel things should be and my intuition tells me that other dissatisfied gamers exist becaue of the same issues I mentioned above.

With utmost respect to all the people mentioned in this post,

Joe Llama
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J B Bell
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Posts: 267


« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2002, 11:57:08 AM »

Well, Joe, however from the heart your post was, I'd say it's dead-bang on the mark.  I think you are beginning to tease apart game elements that have been unduly glued together for far too long.

Something that's been incubating in my mind is the interesting motility of tools originally thought to be Narrativist, especially Author Stance and Director Stance, and systems for explicitly handling those stances.  These turn out to work just dandy in Gamism, as the Donjon tour de force has been demonstrating in actual play time and time again.

This says to me that much of the resistance to "narrativism" as such, and to the GNS model more generally, actually stems from people's acute discomfort with not understanding those tools that actually are portable across modes.  I imagine that as these theories gain acceptance, there will be less of "I'm a Gamist" and more of "I like games with a lot of role-playing expressed through Actor and Director stances, and wagering systems to drive those things really float my boat.  I don't like being the ref. too much, though, so I prefer if there's a person designated with that role."  Bam.  That describes preferences in a very clear way that pegs the speaker as Gamist, but the use of the very broad term is not really necessary.

I certainly look forward to gaming in heaven, where these things aren't an issue.  :-P

--TQuid

P.S. I think identifying role-playing as a game element is brilliant, and while someone may have mentioned it before, pointing it up as being critically important in thinking about general game design has far-reaching consequences.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2002, 01:57:52 PM »

Quote from: joe_llama
Ron says (at least, my impression of what he says): "There are three types of RPG's - Gamism, Simulationsim and Narrativism". I say: "There are three types of games which use role-playing as a major element".

Ahem, sorry if this sounds to critical, but I think I hear some babies going out with the bathwater.

Quote from: joe_llama
If it was all up to me, I'd change GNS into completely separate games:

Gamism - Adventure Games (historical reasons)
Simulationism - Exploration Games (practical reasons)
Narrativism - Storytelling/Storymaking/etc Games (goal-driven reasons)

Yep; those babies would be all the 'abashedly whatever' games and any kind of Transitional games (like mine, Scattershot).

Quote from: joe_llama
Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree here. Maybe I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. This post does not come from my head - it's from my heart. It's the way I feel things should be and my intuition tells me that other dissatisfied gamers exist becaue of the same issues I mentioned above.

Probably not the wrong tree, but it sounds like you might be barking a little too far out on one of its limbs.  Please don't take this as personal criticism (as might be expected from an 'attack on your heart').  I have read the RPG.net thread, all the cited articles, as well as a lot of Ron's writing on the subject, and frankly I'm mystified by what the problem here is.

I think the main point that Jocelyn Robitaille missed is that, as quite clearly stated in the GNS essay, GNS is a diagnostic tool (which is actually my main problem with it).  It's only for when things don't work!  Jocelyn Robitaille's 'rebuttal' is clearly about making something that works...work (ultimately pointless unless you exaggerate the idea that the gamemaster may only have fun being slave to the players).

Surprisingly, I personally share at least passing agreement with, of all people, eyebeams.  Only passingly, while I do agree that modal narrow-focus games will probably have likewise narrow audiences, I don't think his understanding of Ron's opinion on 'genre' is even close.  Nor do I agree that a focused game is such that it will 'force' coherency, but that all owes back to the missed point that the GNS is for diagnosis of problems.

I take issue on your point here because you are basically invalidating my design (and all of eyebeams' "big sloppy systems"), Transitional games like mine clearly aren't one of your "three types."

As a matter of fact, I reached an epiphany last night about Scattershot's mechanix.  I used to be somewhat upset that no one seemed to think they were worthwhile.  It finally occured to me that that was exactly the reaction I should have expected.  In order to make a game that can Transition to any mode of play, the mechanics (the part that would not change as the play mode is altered) should ultimately be 'abashedly everything.'  What this means is that I can't write the mechanics to promote any mode of play, they must, by nature of Transition, get out of everyone's way.

This means they most definitely should not be focused, nor should they promote any mode of play.  Obviously, therefore, they should fail to please anyone.  In that, I believe I have succeeded.

(As a side note, as I began to work on the 'techniques' for Scattershot, two things happened: the farther I went the more I could tell that I needed to be able to refer to the 'current point of Transition' and I got both the influenza and a sinus infection.  Some time soon, I plan to offer a 'position of Transition' thesis; when?  I'm not sure.)

Fang Langford
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Seth L. Blumberg
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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2002, 01:59:49 PM »

Totally off-topic, but I can't resist.

Reading the Costikyan essay, I was struck by the crushing irony in the following words:

Quote
Or take Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, which I designed. I could have taken Gygax & Arneson's Dungeons & Dragons and changed it around, calling swords blasters and the like.
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joe_llama
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2002, 06:35:09 PM »

No no no! This is going the wrong way.

Forget about the three GNS renamings. And I don't give a rat's ass about GNS theory or any other theory for that matter. Forget about theory. Forget about everything. Let's talk 'practical'.

You have a game. A game has rules. Rules tell you how to play the game. The rules force players to make decisions. These decisions will eventually lead players to some sort of goal. ANY goal. 'Having fun' is NOT a legitimate goal. All games are about having fun.

Poker is about having fun. Football is about having fun. Monopoly is about having fun. Vampire is about having fun. WYRD is about having fun. Snooker is about having fun. Scrabble is about having fun. Quake is about having fun. Golf is about having fun (although not my kind of fun).

A game has a goal. The rules are there to make the achievement of the goal interesting and challenging. 'Having fun' is the product of the game. I dare you to show me one game that isn't about 'having fun' (and I'm not talking about personal opinion). OK, professional Basketball players are doing it for the money but I'll be damned if they don't like playing it.

Just to be clear, we are talking about ALL games, not just RPG's. And here's the point: There is no such thing as an RPG. Not then, not now, not in a million years. Role playing games are not special and it doesn't take a special kind of people to play them. All of you folks having a hard time finding players - let it be known that you are treading down a doomed path set for you by people in the past.

Games are composed of elements. ALL games. One example of such an element is fortune (dice rolling, card drawing, etc). Another example of such an element is ROLE PLAYING. Don't take my word for it. Role play by definiton (Oxford again) is an 'activity in which a person acts a part'. This means specificly the element of being 'in character' sometimes called Avatarism. Is that all that you do when you play an RPG? Of course not, there are other elements involved. I dare you to show me one game that has only a 'role playing' element. That game could truly be called 'role playing game'.

When people say 'board game' they really mean 'a game in which the board is the most obvious part of the game'. When people say 'card game' they mean 'a game in which cards are the most obvious part in the game'. When people say 'role playing game' they SHOULD mean 'a game in which role playing is the most obvious part of the game'. The fun is over. We can all go to our homes now. RPG's are dead.

It's a wrong use of words. There are no game categories or types. The catogries are just there for convenience. If there are no categories, there is no such thing as a 'transitional' game. Each and every game is a stand-alone. It is unique and cannot be categorized. However, you can recognize the elements which compose a game. If you make an index of the games you know, you can categorize them diffrently every time. No wonder that every time I was looking for a game in some inetrnet index, I would find it under more than one category. Poker and Bridge are under 'cards', but Poker is also under 'Gambling' together with Craps.

Categories are CONVENIENT. They mean a lot to gamer who looks for a specific element. It means nothing to the game designer. You will never catch me again designing a Sim or Nar game because I really don't believe in them. You WILL find me designing games with fortune elements, diplomacy elements, and role playing elements. They will NEVER be called RPG's or any other faulty name. When you read the manual it will simply say: "The game objective is..." or "The goal of the game is..." and never will these blanks be filled with the words "about having fun". Becaue ulitmately, ALL games have a goal.

If your game has no goal then it's not a game. It's a toy. It's a toolkit. My first posts here at the Forge dealt with a system I built called Triad. I liked Triad very much but as a game it was crap. You could play G, N or S with it any way you like. But it was no game - it was a tool for creating games. You had to add something to make it a game - you needed a goal. If Scattershot is anything like it then it's not a game either. This is nothing personal either, I happen to read some very interesting concepts that are in Scattershot. I have to admit they intrigue me. I want to know more about Scattershot. But if it has no goal then it's not a game. Sorry. I'd argue this till my fingers drop.

So what does this all mean? It means that you people should start designing games and stop designing RPG's. You want to include 'role playing' elements? That's cool. But treat it as equal regarding other elements in your game. And of course your game should have a goal, no matter what. It could be 'to tell stories' or 'to simulate a cyberpunk reality'. There are countless goals, all you have to do is pick one.

And if you wanna talk game design theory, do it properly. You have two issues: goals and game elements. Ron's GNS model is an attempt to identify game elements in general. It got mixed up with game goals and categories on the way but his intention was good. There is a lot more to find out about goals and elements and there's no reason to stop looking for such knowledge. You can bash the model all you want or start doing something constructive like identifying game elements (I'm not sure Greg Costikyan covered it all) and looking for new exciting goals for games.

Stop whining about 'the right to choose my way of doing things' or 'the freedom of transition'. This is not politics. These are games, for crying out loud. They have rules to provide challenge and excitement, not just structure. Structure alone gives you a tool. Photoshop let's you process all kinds of images but it's not a game. Quake Worldbuilder let's you create enitre games for Quake but it's not a game on its own. If there was a worldbuilding contest then it would be a game. You have a goal - to win the contest. In short, the central issue of game design is the goal of the game. All rules of the game lead to that goal. Anything else is redundant.

So far I have seen one person actually following this standard and his name is Jared A. Sorensen. You want a lesson in game design, you go see his works and then you'll know what I mean. If only he would share his wisdom with us...

With respect,

Joe Llama
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C. Edwards
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Posts: 558

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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2002, 08:30:03 PM »

So what you are saying Joe is that:

 1) To be a game, a given system (set of rules) must have a stated goal that is unavoidably achieved by following said system.
     Example: Sorceror has the stated goal of exploring its Premise (simplified=You're a guy with a demon).  Monopoly has the stated goal of attempting to be the "winner" by driving your opponents out of business (bankrupting them).  Both of these are games not because the system makes their stated goals possible but because the system makes the stated goals unavoidable.

 2)An entity that fell outside the above definition by not having its goal inherently designed into the system would be considered a mechanic.  A tool to be used in the achievment of a goal decided upon by the players.
  Example: Candy Land is played, whereas The Pool is utilized as a mechanic in pursuit of a goal decided by the players.

  Sounds reasonable to me.  Hmm, what does that say about GURPS then (just to propagate GURPS comparisons)?  This is where my head starts to hurt....

Edited in:  I think I've answered my own question.  GURPS and The Pool are both in the same boat.  One is a simulationist mechanic and the other is a narratavist mechanic.  I don't think system exploration is valid as a stated goal for a game.
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joe_llama
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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2002, 01:42:12 AM »

Quote from: thickenergy
1) To be a game, a given system (set of rules) must have a stated goal that is unavoidably achieved by following said system.


Correcto mondo! The end rsult of every game (discluding 'RPG's' for the moment) I know has an identifyable goal. Does it make the game narrow? To some extent, but not really. When you play CoC (including back 'RPG's'), everyone is supposed to be dead or insane in the end. When you play Bridge the dynamics are endless. Having a goal is not a bad thing.

Quote from: thickenergy
2)An entity that fell outside the above definition by not having its goal inherently designed into the system would be considered a mechanic. A tool to be used in the achievment of a goal decided upon by the players.


Yes! More on that in the article by Greg Costikyan mentioned in the first post.

Quote from: thickenergy
Example: Candy Land is played, whereas The Pool is utilized as a mechanic in pursuit of a goal decided by the players.


I'm not entirely sure myself, but I think you're right. However, if the goal of The Pool is 'to tell stories' than one must figure out what would count as a 'valid' goal.

Quote from: thickenergy
I think I've answered my own question. GURPS and The Pool are both in the same boat. One is a simulationist mechanic and the other is a narratavist mechanic.


Yes, Gurps and The Pool are tools but they are NOT to be categorized as above. Sim and Nar are categories based on the GOAL of original games which shared the common element of 'role playing'. I'd say they are both systems that provide different game elements which focus different issues.

In addition, James V. West (who never ceases to surprise me) DID put this in the game intrduction:

Quote from: In The Pool James
The Pool by itself is merely a system; an idea for a way to play a game. If you like the concept, apply it to your favorite setting and see how it goes. I can't promise it will work wonders for all genres or types of settings. No game can do that. What The Pool was designed to do was to support a dramatic style of gaming that is very story-driven and very emergent in nature. I hope it does that.


Quote from: thickenergy
I don't think system exploration is valid as a stated goal for a game.


I think it is too early to answer that thought. However, we have a very interesting issue going on here. If Gurps is a system that explores itself, isn't it stuck in some kind of loop? Self-exploring systems is a vast issue in Mathematics and (to make a long story short)  its conclusion is that such a thing is incomplete (a la Godel). Could this mean that all 'generic' systems are doomed to incompleteness by mathematical definition? Even if this is so, it is stepping out of game design and going into fancy shmancy philosophizing so let's just drop this last subject.

I think people are starting to get this. Ironically, this 'new' and 'unorthodox' perspective that we're dealing with here is something that is more simple and practical than the usual high-level philosophical academical babble we are used to seeing ("dice mechanics reflect quantum duality with sociobiological implications on both receiver and creator... [continue technobabble]" ) or the political crap we got used to feeding others and eating it ourselves ("Games are all about fun and in the end it doesn't really matter which way you go with it").  

Games have goals. Games have rules. Games are made of elements with role playing being just one example. Any other design that discludes any of the above is cool and everything, but is not a game.

With respect,

Joe Llama
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2002, 02:49:28 AM »

Quote from: joe_llama

You have a game. A game has rules. Rules tell you how to play the game. The rules force players to make decisions. These decisions will eventually lead players to some sort of goal. ANY goal. 'Having fun' is NOT a legitimate goal. All games are about having fun.


Are they?  Depends what you think a "game" is, dunnit?  Is there a distinction between a "game" and a "sport", say?  What about a conversation - most people don't think this would constitute a game, but its been demonstrated (to my satisfaction anyway) that many conversations can be considered "games", including by use of the definition offered above.

Quote

A game has a goal. The rules are there to make the achievement of the goal interesting and challenging. 'Having fun' is the product of the game. I dare you to show me one game that isn't about 'having fun' (and I'm not talking about personal opinion). OK, professional Basketball players are doing it for the money but I'll be damned if they don't like playing it.


No - the rules are NOT there to make the game fun; the fun is the positive reward administered to the player for their participation.  Rules are their to regulate behaviour - to impose a value system on player behaviour which produces a mandated outcome.  The purpose of the game is to achieve that outrcome - whether or not the participants have fun is entirely incidental (at least; to the game structure - it may not be so to the game designer).

Quote

Just to be clear, we are talking about ALL games, not just RPG's. And here's the point: There is no such thing as an RPG. Not then, not now, not in a


Quite right.  Hide and Seek is a game, which has rules.  None of the rules address, or can address, whether the participants are having fun - it emrely provides them with an architecture in which the fun arises from their own behaviour and interactions.

Quote

It's a wrong use of words. There are no game categories or types. The catogries are just there for convenience. If there are no categories, there is no such thing as a 'transitional' game. Each and


Wrong.  Take the distinction between diplomacy and Risk.  They have extremely distinct mechnanics, one fortune and one karma.  This produces different player behaviours; the processed experience of the karma-heavy game is sufficiently distinct from processed experience of the fortune heavy game, and as a result the two structures appeal to distinct audiences.  Probably overlapping audiences, but in most peoples experience, getting tired of one of these games, say, would not necessarily imply being bored of the other; nor does liking one stand in opposition to disliking the other.  Their mechanics are different, which means player behaviour is different, which produces different analyses and valuations of them as entertainments.


Role-playing is a VERY distinct form.  For example, the famous Stanford experiment into mechanically reproducing the brutalisation of prisoners simply by legitimising "appropriate behavior" as roleplay.  I saw a play a few years ago which used roleplay as an explicit device to engage the audiences suspension of disbelief (partly becuase the audience was more likely to identify with the played character than the actors chartacter) - and not only did it work, it probably worked better for it.  Again, look at what we do physically: the entire process is conducted as a form of communictaion, person to person in a small environment.  Are we not using, primarily, the same tools as the hypnotist - eyes and voice?  Huge quantities of information are exchanged unconsciously between humans, and the material presence (or absence) of other humans has an incredibly powerful effect on our psychology, frex the stockholm syndrome, or the predictable methods employed by armies the world over for the indoctrination of their troops*.  As a method, a physical form, RPG is quite distinct from many, many games, and it is IMO ridiculous to lump them all under one undifferentiated category "game".  That tells you nothing and allows you to do nothing.  

I'm not sure where Jocelyns influences originate, but the use of "transactional" may be an allusion to transactional analysis, which most certainly does exploit a model of game-based human behaviour to examine human interactions.  Various "strokes" are administered from participant to participant; these are the "currency" of the game quite regardless of its actual form (like, potentially, a conversation).  "Fun" in games is a stroke, or more accurately the subjective experience of such strokes.

Furthermore, "Fun" is a uselessly non-differentiated; is it not obvious, given the varieties of explicitly entertainment-aimed games, that people have substantially significant opinions and what kind of activities are fun?  Rodeo riding has rules, probably like basketball, people start out 'cos its fun to them - but can we not recognises that this is a substantially different TYPE of fun to that of the RPG?

IMO, this thread misses hug chunks of Jocelyns argument.  It repeatedly says that the GNS is valuable; I don't think think it was meant in a highly ciritical manner (not by my reading anyway).  But I think the concerns expressed are substantiually correct: the GNS model is an idealised abstraction of what actually happens, and there is the danger of using the ideal model INSTEAD of the reality.  I too think that Rons insistence of the coherency of GNS in real play is misplaced; hence I have explicitly asked questions about differentiated and unbalanced social contracts.  We can use ideal models as thought experiments, but it is sometimes very dangerous to apply the conclusions of those experiments "in the field".

Quote

If your game has no goal then it's not a game. It's a toy. It's a toolkit. My first posts here at the


Thats fine.  People play games with toys, and with many things that are not toys.

* (I considered mentioning this in the recent Horror thread; I do NOT want to evoke a genuine horror experience for the players, and contrary to many of the efforts I see, I think it is Too Easy rather than Too Hard.  I actively avoid it.)
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2002, 03:01:07 AM »

Quote from: joe_llama

I think people are starting to get this. Ironically, this 'new' and 'unorthodox' perspective that we're dealing with here is something that is more simple and practical than the usual high-level


Or, less simple and practical, as you have abandoned any form of constructive analysis.
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joe_llama
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« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2002, 05:07:38 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
Depends what you think a "game" is, dunnit? Is there a distinction between a "game" and a "sport", say?


Not really. A bit more sweat, I suppose.

 
Quote from: contracycle
What about a conversation - most people don't think this would constitute a game, but its been demonstrated (to my satisfaction anyway) that many conversations can be considered "games", including by use of the definition offered above.


Very true. They also came up with a name for it - it's called Game Theory. Pretty neat, ha? (I'm referring to conversattion as part of a strategy, as an element in a larger game. More on that later).

 
Quote from: contracycle
No - the rules are NOT there to make the game fun; the fun is the positive reward administered to the player for their participation.


That's why I wrote: "Having fun" is the product of the game. I believe we agree on this point.

 
Quote from: contracycle
The purpose of the game is to achieve that outrcome - whether or not the participants have fun is entirely incidental.


That's why I wrote: The central issue of game design is the goal of the game. All rules of the game lead to that goal. Anything else is redundant. Again, I believe we agree on this point.

You are on my side, Contracycle: Fun is a byproduct and not a goal.

 
Quote from: contracycle
Wrong. Take the distinction between diplomacy and Risk. They have extremely distinct mechnanics, one fortune and one karma. This produces different player behaviours; the processed experience of the karma-heavy game is sufficiently distinct from processed experience of the fortune heavy game, and as a result the two structures appeal to distinct audiences. Probably overlapping audiences, but in most peoples experience, getting tired of one of these games, say, would not necessarily imply being bored of the other; nor does liking one stand in opposition to disliking the other. Their mechanics are different, which means player behaviour is different, which produces different analyses and valuations of them as entertainments.


That's why I wrote: Diplomacy an Risk are both 'world-war' boardgames. Does it mean they are the same? Hell no. And anyone who ever played both knows how incredibly diferent they are.

And: Categories are CONVENIENT. They mean a lot to a gamer who looks for a specific element.

You could have a 'board' enthusiast who likes to play any game that has a board in it. You could have a 'politics' enthusiast who likes to play any game where diplomacy and manipulation are the main elements. Both could possibly play Diplomacy and enjoy but they will go in seperate ways when it comes to Risk. This is us agreeing again. The 'overlapping audience' likes to play the same game for different reasons. But if they fail to agree on the same goal, then the game is doomed. If you like playing Hero Quest for the sake of the story and I just like playing it for the cool characers, we will eventually find it hard to get along. Our goals are different - the game will split two ways. Heck, I might like playing it your way but then I've changed my goal, didn't I?

 
Quote from: contracycle
Role-playing is a VERY distinct form. For example...


I agree with you. If you don't mind I'll take it even a step further. You are playing a game RIGHT NOW.

Overall goals:

1. To survive
2. To maintain the existence of your 'type' by reproducing.

Rules of the game: Too many to count here.

Elements used during the game: diplomacy, role playing, socializing, simulation, and many others still uncovered.

The name of the game is LIFE. WHY do we play it? Hell if I know. I just follow the rules whether I like it or not. You wanna quit? Find a cliff, a bottle of cyanide or wait around a hundred years. Game over.

We like playing games because they are good practice. That's why humans play games. That's why dogs play games. Why do some things provide an enjoyable experience and others don't? What is enjoyment anyway? Too high for me.

What's important is this: A game has a goal. To reach the goal you must use the rules. Fun is a byproduct of the game. Other things produce pleasure in life (like food, sex, etc) but that pleasure is a byproduct and NOT the goal.

Jokes and drugs produce pleasure alone. How come? It's because humans have found a way to bypass their own system and trick themselves into pleasure. That's the amazing thing with humans - they have a brain that includes many brilliant tools to handle the game of LIFE and to such extent that these tools come in conflict with each other and create anomalies. Take suicide, for example. This is breaking the rules (at least from an individual's POV, maybe there's a higher goal to it in society).


 
Quote from: contracycle
As a method, a physical form, RPG is quite distinct from many, many games, and it is IMO ridiculous to lump them all under one undifferentiated category "game". That tells you nothing and allows you to do nothing.


OK, let me put it this way. When people say: "RPG's are unique in that they give you this freedom of imaganiation and all" they are falling into a very clever mousetrap. They THINK they are free but they're actually trapped in the term 'role playing games'. Their freedom is limited in its use to just one element out of many others. What I'm saying is: "Get out of the box. You have games and they're made of elements, with role playing on the list too, but these elements are not your goal".

We do "lump" all games under the big "game" category, but we also do another thing: we try to identify the elements which compose games in general and give structure to such things. That is what Greg's article and Ron's GNS model STARTED doing, but this job is far from being finished. It is OUR job as game designers to map the elements so that everyone will have an easier time designing games in the future (including ourselves).  

If you stick to the traditional definition of 'role playing game' then you are going down the path of doom. Forvever you will be in struggle with yourself and your environment. This attempt to make a niche out of RPG's is wrong. It has become a cult. It is a (strange) status symbol to play these games. It is the source of the undeniable elitism spoken of gamers worldwide (and gamers speaking about themeselves, too). You have 'factions' within the RPG scene. And those 'factions' further divide into smaller 'sub-factions'. All of this because there really are no 'types' of role playing games. There are types of elements that make up a game. There is room for investigation as to the nature and quality of each element. Making 'role playing' into a game gives you LESS freedom of design and play. You are treating one and only one element in the design.

In practice, all 'RPG's' have more than just the role playing element, but they are never treated equally as such. Fortune and diplomacy are rather loose elements but role playing is sacred. This is NOT the way to make a game. You first identify your goal, then you put in elements that are NECESSERY to reach the goal. All else is redundant.

Frex, if Mike wants to make a game, the first question he should ask himself is: 'What is the goal/objective of the game?'. Once he answers that, he identifies the elements that are most beneficial to the goal he wishes to express.

Here's an alternative: Mike thinks about a cool idea and uncovers the elments and goals on the way. Say he wants to make a medieval game with kings and heavy armors. He needs to choose his ways to express he idea he has. If Mike's picture is that of a battlefields and smart decisions, he will use strategic elements. If Mike's picture is that of intrigue and corruption he could use diplomacy and role playing elements. In the end, the game might have six diplomacy elements, four role playing elements and two fortune elements. Maybe the game will have boards and cards and dice and pawns and chracter sheets. So what is its category? Nothing. But as a gamer you'd be able to recognize the elements you like in the game and those that you don't.

Not to forget, Mike needs a goal for his game. It could be 'to win the battle' or 'to tell a tragic tale' or 'to earn a bigger share through manipulation and intrigue'. And the game elements MUST support the game or else the game will NOT deliver the goal.

This is the same issue with Premise that Ron is trying to explain all the time on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The goal of his 'narrative' games is to express a certain emotion or condition, to bring up a conflict that concerns humans and resolve it. It has a special feeling that other games might not want to express. If your goal is to create an emotional story than this 'narrative' element is a MUST. If not, go look for other elements that will best express your game.

 
Quote from: contracycle
Thats fine. People play games with toys, and with many things that are not toys.  


Oh so very true. But people lack the courage to admit their creation is not a game. More specificly, people are afraid to let go of the 'old' term of RPG and open to this 'new' concept of games having goals and elements (in fact, it's the other way around - the 'old' and 'new', that is). Do you think Fang would admit that his game is not a game but a toy? You think he would like us to call his creation a toy, with all negative meanings of the word running around in his head? I bet he's preparing a huge flame as we speak to burn this thread completely. People fear of being mocked and degraded. "I'm not a low level scum. I'm grade A, baby! I'm the real thing! I'm gonna make a game that will change the world!".

Unfortuantely, this is all a big misunderstanding. No one is trying to degrade anyone. Fang is high on my list as one of the most talented designers out there. But he's not making a game. He's making a toolkit FOR games. Is it that bad? On the contrary. With a tool such as Scattershot games could reach high and far. But it's not a game.              

Again: Games have a goal. The goal is reached through the use of rules. The rules are elements of the game. All elements support the goal of the game. All else is redundant. ('Resistance is futile' :)

With respect,

Joe Llama

ps - I realize I'm a bit emotional in my replies. My sincere apologies if anyone is personally hurt by my words and I will make my apology public if asked to.
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Le Joueur
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Posts: 1367


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« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2002, 07:41:41 AM »

Hi Joe!

First I want you to know, I haven't seen anything offensive so far; just a lot of oversimplification.  That was what I wanted to highlight; I never took offense.

For example you started off with:

Quote from: joe_llama
I admit it. I have converted to GNS-ism. It took me a month to figure out what the hell it's all about but now I'm convinced. Not only that, I believe that I have become a sort of extremist in my beliefs. I now believe that Ron's GNS essay just puts things in nice and politically-correct words.
...and...
Quote from: joe_llama
If it was all up to me, I'd change GNS into completely separate games:

Gamism - Adventure Games (historical reasons)
Simulationism - Exploration Games (practical reasons)
Narrativism - Storytelling/Storymaking/etc Games (goal-driven reasons)

I'd call that an oversimplification.  As I said, it cuts out a lot of things that have a "role-playing element."

But just about as quickly, I see you posting what appears to be a complete turnaround:

Quote from: joe_llama
Forget about the three GNS renamings. And I don't give a rat's ass about GNS theory or any other theory for that matter.

What I need to know in order to respond is which is it?  Are you a GNS convert or have you disposed of it?  Have we witnessed an epiphany?

Personally, I'm neither for nor against the GNS, Ron has gone to great lengths to point out that it is a device he uses to diagnose problems, problems with a gamer's fun, problems with a game's design, problems with a game's application, but only for problems.  If something works, it pretty much has nothing to do with the GNS.  (That's why I have little use for it; Scattershot is not to the point where it could even have problems – not being done and all – and in it I need to explain how to play – not fix – role-playing games.)

Quote from: joe_llama
There are no game categories or types. The categories are just there for convenience. If there are no categories, there is no such thing as a 'transitional' game. Each and every game is a stand-alone.

Now that's a gross oversimplification.  Ever play Klondike (a form of one-deck solitaire)?  Did you play one-card draw or three-card draw?  Both are valid forms of the same game.  These are not house rules; they are 'legal' permutations of the same game (and if you want to argue that they are separate "stand-alone" games, I'm not going to bother to dignify it with a response).  Transition is nothing more than the same mechanism employed to change from one to three-card draw in Klondike.

I have been using "Transitional" as a term around here to prevent arguments over Scattershot's GNS focus, nothing more.  This gross over-simplification flies in the face of such discussion, but I can't respond until I know whether you think all games with "role-playing elements" fit neatly into three categories or not.

Quote from: joe_llama
You will never catch me again designing a Sim or Nar game because I really don't believe in them.

I feel the same way.  That's why I waited until I had established the "Transitional" terminology before I submitted any of the specifics about Scattershot.  It really has prevented a lot of pointless arguments.

Quote from: joe_llama
If Scattershot is anything like it then it's not a game either. This is nothing personal either, I happen to read some very interesting concepts that are in Scattershot. I have to admit they intrigue me. I want to know more about Scattershot. But if it has no goal then it's not a game.

You are exactly correct.  As a matter of fact, Scattershot's design benefits a great deal from the fact that one of the extractions from it becomes a personal melee card game (and that's how I brought traditional game theory into the design).

Later you write:

Quote from: joe_llama
Categories are CONVENIENT. They mean a lot to a gamer who looks for a specific element.
and
Quote from: joe_llama
All of this because there really are no 'types' of role playing games.

Again, you raise the specter of oversimplification.  I am still in the dark about your current feelings about the GNS.

Quote from: joe_llama
Quote from: contracycle
Thats fine. People play games with toys, and with many things that are not toys.

Oh so very true. But people lack the courage to admit their creation is not a game. More specificly, people are afraid to let go of the 'old' term of RPG and open to this 'new' concept of games having goals and elements (in fact, it's the other way around - the 'old' and 'new', that is). Do you think Fang would admit that his game is not a game but a toy?

Actually, I have been waging a quiet war to convince people of exactly this fact.  I happen to have gotten the original Interactive Fiction issue that carried Greg Costikyan's article; I Have No Words & I Must Design.  What he wrote about Will Wright's ideas about his Sim City completely changed how I looked at role-playing game design.  Ever since that time, I have looked at the Scattershot part of what I am doing as exactly a toy.  (But try floating that idea around here, sheesh.  If I "let go of the old term," there aren't any people around to discuss Scattershot with.  Think of it as a marketing ploy; I'm selling a toy to role-playing gamers.)

Quote from: joe_llama
You think he would like us to call his creation a toy, with all negative meanings of the word running around in his head? I bet he's preparing a huge flame as we speak to burn this thread completely.

Sorry, to disappoint.  (Um, what "negative meanings?")  To me, Scattershot is a toy.  Scattershot presents: Universe Six, the World of the Modern Fantastic is a (superhero) game played with that toy.  (I always felt one of the failings of the design of GURPS was that they didn't conceive of the core system as a toy, but I digress.)

Quote from: joe_llama
Unfortunately, this is all a big misunderstanding. No one is trying to degrade anyone. Fang is high on my list as one of the most talented designers out there. But he's not making a game. He's making a toolkit FOR games. Is it that bad? On the contrary, with a tool such as Scattershot games could reach high and far. But it's not a game.

That's right, it's a toolkit I plan to make games with.

Thanks for clarifying things for everyone.  I hope people come to understand and respect your idea, because I haven't had much luck saying the same things here.

Fang Langford
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2002, 07:47:28 AM »

Joe, you have just summed up what I was trying to express in my old thread when I first posted up here at the Forge(Gaming goals? ack can't remember it now).  Every game has a goal.  Sometimes you create the goal for each game, but that is part of it being a game.  You can have fun without a game(see a movie, hang out, read a book), but a game is something different.  You can have a ball, but once you decide you want to see how far you can throw the ball, how many times you can drop it into a hole, or hit someone with it, you have a goal, and, a game.

Plus, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who can't stand people getting too serious about theory.  Yes, let's understand how things work.  But more importantly, let's play.  Maybe other folks have fun arguing, discussing, etc.  I want to play games.  That's why I came here.  You guys make great games with great ideas.  Let's put'em to use.

:)

Chris
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2002, 02:54:14 PM »

Wow, missing my oxygen again or something.

OK, some games are actually toys. Or something like that. Uh, what do I do differently, now? How was I trapped before? Universalis falls into the toy category, I'll bet. Was the problem that I was just deluded when agreeing to label it a game? Perhaps I should try communicating the concepts of the game in a non-written fashion. Ah, whatever method I use, I'm sure my particular biases will be translated, somehow. Guess I'm screwed.

Or, I'm really missing the point of this whole thread. Um, does it have one? Funny, I thought that GNS was about goals. Seems like it to me.

One can carefully analyze games and play them, Chris; the first does nothing to harm the second that I can see. I intend to play Dunjon, Universalis, Dead Meat, 2PAM, and Geek Season this weekend. I'll let you in on a secret, I only wrote so much on The Forge because I can get away with that at work, but I can't play here.  Not that I ever have enough particiapants to play all my games; I'd always have some time to post about these things. I guess I find them interesting, or something. And, Ron, King o analysis doesn't seem to have a lack of playing time.

The more I analyze, the more I want to play to test practicalities. Yes, this stuf is all theory. But theory that I, at least, have found very useful in a practical sense from design to actual play. What should we do instead, here at The Forge? Do you doubt my testimony? Well, what can I say to that?

If you're not interested, then why do you read it? Methinks that some here doth protest o'ermuch. Does Clinton have his shotgun to your head again, Chris? Well, I can't let one terrorist prevent me from doing what I feel is valuable research.

Deconstructionists begone!


OK, forgive the silly tone, but there seem to be a lot of words here that just aren't going anywhere. Maybe I am just dumb.

Mike
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joe_llama
Member

Posts: 84


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« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2002, 03:03:11 PM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
I'd call that an oversimplification. As I said, it cuts out a lot of things that have a "role-playing element."


Exactly. The goal of these games is not "role playing". The new names I gave represent the true goals of these games. I refer to them by goal and not by element. In addition, I didn't put too much effort in choosing these names so they are probably incorrect and somewhat misleading. They were just an example to the type of change needed in this field. We need to change our way of thinking. We are stuck in the past. We are stuck with wrong concepts which we keep arguing about.  

Quote from: Le Joueur
What I need to know in order to respond is which is it? Are you a GNS convert or have you disposed of it? Have we witnessed an epiphany?


I'm beyond GNS :)

Really, what I mean is the GNS model has some pretty ineteresting points on game elements but the view is too narrow. It's too focused on the so called 'role playing games'. I mention this again - there is no such thing! Games are catalogued by people. People tend to overemphasize a certain game element to their like/dislike. So in a way I'm the biggest fan of GNS but would never support or encourage its principles.

Confusing, you say? OK, here's the blunt version: The GNS model is on to something but it got stuck in the middle. We need to let go of the 'old skool' term of 'RPG game design' and start dealing with 'game design'. Role playing is cool. I love it. You love it. Evreyone here on the forum loves it. But it's just a cool game element. It is EQUAL in power to other elements. It has NO advantage over them. It has NO disadvantage compared to them. It is an element that MAY be useful when you design a game but it isn't a game in itself. And it isn't a goal, either. It is an element that helps in expressing certain aspects of the game's goal and it is just like any other element - it serves a cause. It is one of the means to an end. It is used by the game designer ONLY if it's suitable. It does not define the game. It is only part of the game. It can be a big part or a small part. It can be specific or encompassing. It is a flexible element. But it is just an element. We need to investigate this element and we need to do it without messing around with issues that are not specificly concerned with it. There is too much noise here. This whole "RPG theory" is wrong. It should be "Role Playing Element theory". And there should be a "Fortune Element theory" too. And "Diplomacy Element theory", and "Color Element theory" and "Goal theory" and "Resource Management theory" and "Element Mapping theory". We need to move on. We are stuck.

You want to design games? Cool. Start from scratch. Think about it as "my game" instead of "my role playing game". Later on, if it suits the goals of your game you might put in a role playing element. If not, then don't. That's it. No special theories, no nothing.

You want to delve in deeper? You wanna know how games work? You want theory? Cool. Start from scratch. Think about it as "game design" instead of "RPG design". Recognize what elements appear in a game. Investigate those elements seperately. Investigate how they react to each other later on. Map those elements. Identify what goals do games have, maybe even discover new goals. If it interests you, go and investigate the role playing element. But when you do so, for heavens sake do not look back. Forget about old theories and game habits. Examine role playing in its pure form as a game element. Later, you could test it in the field with other elements and observe some neat results. But for heavens sake do not look back. You will turn to stone. And you will be perpetuated as "just another RPG designer" in the huge forest of stone figures already behind you.

What I'm going to write is aimed personally at Fang but yall can listen in if you like :)

Fang, we speak the same language. There is a slight off-set, that's all. If we ever sit down and play Poker together I'm sure we'll have a good time. However, it's very possible that you and I play different versions of Poker. Both are valid forms of the same game recognized by the National Association of Poker and Legitimate Modifications (NAPALM). What are we going to play? And if we come up with our own 'house rules' in the process? Are they less valid than the official versions? Of course not. Who cares about NAPALM? We play this game for fun. But is this 'just or fun' the goal of the game? No. It's the byproduct of us playing the game. We could drop the game and start telling jokes and we would still have fun.

I have gone through the whole process of having fun with official rules, modified rules and no rules. The game categories don't mean shit. They are made for the convenience of game stores who need an orderly catalog to work with. They are made for the convenience of gamers who are looking for specific kinds of games and don't want to go through an alphabetic list and check every game there. And once the gamer finds a game, they will only play it if they like it. If they don't like some elements, they will do some tweaking. If they don't like it at all, they don't buy it or throw it away. The game index brings down search time - it does not create actual/absolute/universal types and categories.

When it comes to game design, we need to establish some common ground. In the process, we will create TEMPORARY types and categories simply for the sake of better understanding of each other. These concepts could change in time - grow bigger, smaller, or disppear altogether.

But one thing will always remain the same: Games have goals. Games are made of elements. Rules are elements of the game. Games have rules that lead to the goals. All else is redundant.

With respect,

Joe Llama
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joe_llama
Member

Posts: 84


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« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2002, 03:44:39 PM »

Quote from: Bankuei
Plus, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who can't stand people getting too serious about theory


We should get serious about theory, but the RIGHT kind of theory. What has been done up until now is plenty of babbling with occasional useful information emerging from the chaotic soup. Lots of noise and very litle progress. I can count the useful game design articles on one hand. Quality always comes in small quantities, but this is far too little and far between.  

 
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Or, I'm really missing the point of this whole thread. Um, does it have one?


Yes. Games are made of elements. All games have goals. Rules lead to the goal. All else is redundant.

 
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Funny, I thought that GNS was about goals. Seems like it to me.


You are correct. The GMS model is about goals, but these are

1) design goals (they concern only aspects of game design and not actual play)  

2) proto-goals (they are designer concepts which provide a guideline towards a certain 'feeling' of game).

Later on, the GNS article describes specific game elements to achieve these goals.

So GNS goals aren't really game goals, just design goals. They help you create a specific gaming environment such as 'storymaking' 'competition' or 'simulation'. But this doesn't give your game a goal. You still need to design a goal for your game. In 'storymaking' games, frex, the goal is called Premise.

My problem is that people might confuse 'design goals' with 'game goals'. People already confuse the 'super goal' of 'having fun' with the game goal. (and don't forget: fun is only called a goal because we are bypassing the reason we have fun playing games in the first place - good practice for the LIFE game).

Mike, all the rest of your concerns I believe are answered in my previous post (which came as a reply to Fang and further grinding of my point).    

With respect,

Joe Llama
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