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Author Topic: Problems with term "premise"  (Read 1854 times)
MK Snyder
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Posts: 116


« on: November 05, 2002, 03:45:34 PM »

I am continuing the discussion started in this thread

First off, I'm going to say that I do not care for the use of the term "premise" as it is employed in Ron's essay. I think it's common usage makes it too misleading a term for what (I think!) he is actually describing.

That said, onward!

I see "premise" actually being used in the essay to describe three things:

*The element(s) of the game that the individual player finds engaging.

*The element(s) of the game that the group finds engaging.

*The element(s) of the game that the designer intends to provide (with the goal that it be engaging...) I consider this  to be the more common concept of the word "premise"--what the game maker *offers*, not what the players as individuals and as a group *desire*.

There's also the form of "premise" that the advertising department will choose to describe to encourage purchase of the game; the "premise" non-players may perceive, and so on...

In actual game play, the "individual premise" need not be met all the time; not even the majority of the time; just enough of the time to keep the player playing. Premise in this sense can also change from session to session, depending on the player's mood, whims, etc.

In actual game play, very few groups go through an explicit negotiation and definition process to recognize or state the "group premise". There will be many forms of social interaction that serve to create unspoken contracts between players as individuals that effectively creates a "group premise"; but I think it is more a matter of a patchwork of compromises between players at different points of play than a single statement.

This "group premise" can change within a session, or from session to session as well, as the composition of the group changes *or* as the individuals desires' change. "Hey, that was a really cool thing in Buffy last night, lets' do that..." "I was in a casino all weekend, don't expect great tactics from me today..."

As for the "designers premise", for the game to sell, it must incorporate enough of the individual premises in the aggregate to appeal to many players. In the essay "Fantasy Heartbreakers", I think it's pretty clear that many games are designed with a core element dear to the designer's heart (hence, the designers premise), with other bits filled in because they are considered necessary to make a game.

It appears to me that the process by which the group negotiates their premise(s) is extremely important.  How does a game designer assist in this process? Well, some include text in their books suggesting various forms of communication and negotiation. I think we also assume that a "coherent" game accurately advertised will attract the "right players" who share premises and will enjoy playing together.

In other words, trying to design games that select their players.
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MK Snyder
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Posts: 116


« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2002, 04:11:45 PM »

The members of a gaming group can serve different functions in the conduct of play. These functions may be explicit and assigned per group or per session, they may explicitly be rotated, or they may be adopted by players as temprement and interest prompt them.

For example:

*Storyteller: Often considered the role of the Gamemaster to describe setting, manage plot, mediate NPC and PC interaction, and provide detail. However, other players may suggest "flavor text" at times, or suggest such elements to the GM, or even rotate the GM function.

*Chronicler: Records the games events; keeps character sheets; logs die roles and initiatve; manages turn structure. Often these functions are handled by the GM, but many GMs will assign them to other group members.

*Game Leader: Directs OOC player discussions, often tactical in focus; keeps members on topic; cuts short discussions to implement play. Can be more than one in a group, certainly.

*Emotional Leader: Sensitive to emotional states of players. Will mediate player OOC and out of game conflicts. Can be more than one in a group. Prioritizes fun and emotional bonding over game mechanics adherence, factual accuracy, narrative depth, etc.

*Rules maven: Individual with knowledge of rules and procedures. Often the GM, but others in play group will also have this knowledge. May argue with other rules mavens in group. Often develops house rules or other codifications to reduce conflict in these instances.

*Reference guide: Individual with knowledge of elements, such as facts of use to the "sim" aspects, of gaming. Usually rotates between players as their areas of expertise are encountered in play.

 Notice in this discussion I do not use the terms "role" or "class", and I do not discuss characters at all! There is far too much confusing of these things going on.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2002, 07:02:58 PM »

Hi MK,

In my essay, there is no such thing as Design Premise. No more than there is any such thing as a Gamist game design, a Simulationist game design, or a Narrativist game design. None of these exist.

What do exist are elements of game design that facilitate Gamist play, Simulationist play, or Narrativist play, and there are elements of game design that facilitate Premise (which is to say, some version of any of the three modes).

With that mis-perception eliminated, it's much easier than people make it.

1) I approach a game - "Oooh," I say, "Nifty thing to imagine."

2) We approach a game, each armed with our #1. With any luck, they're all compatible and we can share it. So #2 is basically the same thing as #1 at a social level (enter Social Contract, or its foundation).

3) Now we put #2 into action, during play, which is to say, making System "go." See? #3 is just #2 in motion.  It hasn't changed. That's why it keeps its name.

Because more than one basic form of "it" exists, then people get confused ... but they shouldn't. GNS is only a way to describe the "it."

Best,
Ron
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MK Snyder
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Posts: 116


« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2002, 08:06:31 PM »

Abandoning GNS for the moment, and the essay:

There are the cookies I as a player find tasty. There are the cookies that are sufficiently tasty for each person (two for you, one for me, three for him, etc.) that the group wants a specific bag to eat as a whole. There are the assortments of cookies the designer offers in their bag on the store shelf.

For every session of group cookie eating, the group negotiates the cookie mix.

This is not usually done consciously. Gamers compromise on their cookie desires in order to have group cohesion. Some gamers do not get as many cookies as others and become resentful. Some gamers are finding lots of nummy cookies and think the other gamers are immature with undeveloped palates for the True Cookie Experience.

The Cookie Model makes it easier to discuss cookie preferences and allow players to make known to other players what cookies they want.

The Cookie Model also makes it easier for designers to sort and package cookies such that they will make it easier for groups to form appropriately by sorting themselves into cookie selection groups.
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MK Snyder
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Posts: 116


« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2002, 03:25:35 PM »

Back to "premise" in the essay:

it is defined as a product of group negotiation.

Thus, premise at the individual level is "embryonic", and premise outside of a specific group's session does not exist (no "designers premise")

It is also defined as a product of functional group negotiation, such that it can be expressed as a sentence.

So...if a group is disfunctional, if it fails at the "agreeement stage", there is no premise?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2002, 03:34:01 PM »

Hi there,

Right. Or perhaps there are several embryonic Premises "struggling to be born" during play, with the people continually butting up against one another's assumptions that everyone does agree (when they don't). This situation is observable, I think, across many instances, and as I say, I think it's responsible for many a fizzled group.

It's not all awful or doomed, though.

Another possible outcome might be what Walt suggested as "Congruency," in which different players may be engaging in different GNS modes simultaneously, and the standards of play (including the topic being imagined) permit them to be compatible. So far, this possibility remains hypothetical, although by no means impossible.

And finally, hybrid game design, in which the rules facilitate one mode operating as a reinforcer of another, is also possible. In this case, (1) everyone is all on the same page regarding the primary mode, (2) players who like these two modes might engage in both (within each person, "shifting" back and forth a little during play), or (3) differing players might get along all right as one or the other takes a back seat while the other shines. I've seen all these in action at one time or another, especially in the heavily-Drifted form of Champions I played in for many years.

Thinking it over, all of these positive possibilities do rely on Social Contract, though. So in sum, I'd say that some kind of agreed-upon standards & practices of play are necessary - that "some kind" doesn't necessarily mean "one and only one Premise ever," though. Functionally, this kind of play's Social Contract would be something like "We agree to put up with one another about goals of play, in such-and-such a way."

Best,
Ron
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MK Snyder
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Posts: 116


« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2002, 04:10:50 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

 Functionally, this kind of play's Social Contract would be something like "We agree to put up with one another about goals of play, in such-and-such a way."


It doesn't have to be that grim either; the relationship between the players can be such that each player actively enjoys (as audience) the other players' styles.

In fact, I think many groups actually need hybrid games (shorthand for games designed with hybrid style priorities....), because the group pre-exists the game. Many of the roles of group play have already been worked out, because the same roles the group has "assigned" for other social contexts--Task Leader, Emotion Leader, Expert etc.  The group has already taken in to account communication styles and personalities; probably has a good idea of how competitive each member is; and so on.

Certainly families require games that are sufficiently open to support different styles. It's fascinating to watch children's styles change as they mature intellectually and emotionally.

"Hackmaster" for example is billed as supporting gamist play. Yes, it can; but I think (and don't tell anybody, shhhhh) that it also strongly supports narrativist/dramatist play in the sense of emphasizing humor in sessions and the creation of humorous character histories.  D&D certainly did; it is the adults that fondly remember those anecdotes that is the primary audience for Hackmaster. They don't remember who was the best player of their group in experience points, back in the day, but will recount the same battle tales for twenty years...
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Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2002, 07:20:52 AM »

[quote="MK Snyder"Hackmaster" for example is billed as supporting gamist play. Yes, it can; but I think (and don't tell anybody, shhhhh) that it also strongly supports narrativist/dramatist play in the sense of emphasizing humor in sessions and the creation of humorous character histories.  D&D certainly did; it is the adults that fondly remember those anecdotes that is the primary audience for Hackmaster. They don't remember who was the best player of their group in experience points, back in the day, but will recount the same battle tales for twenty years...[/quote]

I'm not sure you're getting it yet MK.

1) narrativist/dramatist doesn't exist.  They are too different to combine like that.  Even if dramatist does exist seperately from Simulationism (where it resides in GNS) it isn't the same thing.

2) I'm not sure how or why you're equating humorous character histories and character anecdotes to narrativism at all.

Narrativism does not mean having a series of really cool/interesting/funny events to relate.
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MK Snyder
Member

Posts: 116


« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2002, 11:05:18 AM »

If Narrativism is defined as placing a priority in play on the generating of satisfactory story

then placing a priority in play of generating funny stories is a subset of narrativistic play.

Not all stories are novels.  The composition of witty anecdotes is a form of narrative.
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Valamir
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« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2002, 11:19:02 AM »

That I think is where the break down is.

Your definition of Narrativism is wrong.

ALL GNS modes can be concerned with a satisfactory story.  Story is one of those problematic words that its best to avoid using if at all possible.

Also, do not confound the presence of a narrative...with Narrativism.  As I mentioned elsewhere that is yet another unfortuneate choice in terminology.

If Ron would grant me just one wish I'd wish that the next version of the theory replaced these problematic words.  The theory wouldn't be nearly so hard to understand.

Heres an interesting exercise.  Grab a copy of the GNS article.  Do a find and replace and substitute Gemism, Nemism, and Semism for the GNS terms...its amazing how much more sense the theory makes when you are able to evaluate the term definitions on their own without trying to understand the theory through the filter of what you already know about the word's meaning.
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MK Snyder
Member

Posts: 116


« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2002, 12:03:47 PM »

I'm in complete agreement on the terminology problem.

OK:

"Nemism is expressed by the creation, via role-playing, of a story with a recognizable theme. The characters are formal protagonists in the classic Lit 101 sense, and the players are often considered co-authors. The listed elements provide the material for narrative conflict (again, in the specialized sense of literary analysis). "

In discussion with Ron, "the creation" (gerund, tense indeterminate) has been clarified to mean, "placing priority in play on creating..."

Now, to Lit 101: what if the players wish to create a humorous Picaresqe "story"? Thus, they are placing priority on creating, in play, sequences of events that are funny, both at the time of creation (play) and in later recountings (thus satisfying both narrativism and dramatism defintions).

*They are prioritizing this over optimizing for victory conditions (gemism)
*They are prioritizing this over maintaining plausibility and/or consistency and/or a sense of immersion (semism)
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