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Author Topic: State of the art  (Read 3181 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: May 30, 2001, 07:44:00 PM »

Hello everyone.

These last few days on the Forge have been a big frustration for me.

1) Flaming, frankly. What's up with that (as my students would say)? That is a rhetorical question.

I've talked with a few people about it. The next few days will tell whether we can sustain a reasonable atmosphere.

Please practice netiquette in full. Please remember that people perceive multiple posts (perhaps because they can come to the computer once when you can come ten times) as yelling. Pace every discussion to the slower of the active participants.

2) Some interesting observations about the use of the G/N/S model. Good. Stuff to debate, stuff to consider, stuff to worry about. A lot of people are asking me about it.

Here are the topics that I think we DO need to consider.

Let's consider the overall topic of "role-playing," and imagine that we are looking at boxes within boxes. What "boxes" does G/N/S sit in?

I suggest that the biggest box is the social, human act of getting together to role-play. No matter what, all role-players (even on-line ones) are in this box. Since it's not a paid activity, and it sure-as-shit ain't a spectator activity, it must be a leisure/fun activity. That's UNIVERSAL ONE. There are about a dozen important topics about this alone that have never been addressed.

The next biggest box is what IS role-playing. Here, we'd probably talk about the existence of imaginary characters, the almost-universal presence of a GM, and the very notion that causal events based on these characters' actions are being generated in the group imagination. That's UNIVERSAL TWO. It includes some very powerful questions, like, "does an announced action PROPOSE or INITIATE the action in the game-world?" That's a very hard question.

I think G/N/S (or whatever names you care to use) thinking represents the next box in. These are much, much broader categories than I think is recognized. There are MANY brands of each category. We need to consider some RESPECTFUL inclusion and understanding of these categories.

It may be, for instance, that "simulationism" is too teeny a word for the diversity of role-playing that exists in what *I* consider Simulationism. Elayjitist (? damn!) play is very distinctive; so is the brand of 80s-style play associated with 4th-edition Champions and RoleMaster. I call it all Simulationism - that may or may not be the right thing to do. I'll be happy to consider an umbrella term, because I do think they share a distinctive goal of play.

Can role-players be classified? Strictly speaking, only their BEHAVIORS can be classified. In practical terms, we can use short-hand - e.g., a person who demonstrates frequent Gamist behaviors may be called "Gamist," and so on. It's short-hand. Should there exist a person who demonstrates any and all G/N/S behaviors, why then, fine. Such short-hand will not work so well for them.

Can games be classified? With the proviso that they are often very heterogeneous, sure. It might be good to break them into components for this purpose. For instance, Maelstrom is very strong on Narrativist mechanics, but weak on Premise - which "softens" its Narrativism overall. Or, Unknown Armies has a strong Simulationist element in its resolution system, but it lends itself nicely to Narrativist tweaking due to the moral themes in its concept of magic.

It is a matter for debate - and I'd look forward to that - to figure out WHICH G/N/S combinations ARE functional for game design. Certainly I can think of some that are not.

Anyway, these topics are what have emerged for me over the last few days. Moving on, I have some statements to make - take them as you will.

Here is a statement of my behavior on the Forge.

There is no close-out on debate. There is no close-out on new views. For such things to happen, though, they must be PROPOSED, ARTICULATED, and JUSTIFIED. Vague dissatisfaction won't contribute anything. "Sensing" intent or feelings won't contribute anything. I can only deal with actual, proposed, plausible ideas.

Now for a few personal statements.

Brian: please feel free to raise or contribute to any issues of G/N/S you think are weak, inconsistent, or problematic. I'm prepared to address any of them.

Raven: the fight is over.

Ralph: we need discussion about the meat of G/N/S thinking - is it any good? does it work? Why or why not? No one can work with discussion about "how we feel" or "what we mean" about it. These topics spin out of control because they are cannot be addressed except in terms of accusation and defense.

Logan: the fight is over. On with the FAQ.

Jim: I wouldn't mind discussing the putative Gamism of Humanity in Sorcerer in the Sorcerer forum.

Clinton: one of our goals is to astound visitors with the strength, clarity, and utility of the ideas discussed at the Forge. How do you and I, as the moderators, help to achieve that?

To everyone: please contribute to the Actual Play forum. Frankly, all this talk is JUST talk without actual play occurring too. What games are you playing? How are they going? And most importantly, is any of this theory actually helping? Why or why not?

Best,
Ron

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