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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: GNS will fade into the background of RPG Theory  (Read 4658 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« on: February 18, 2003, 08:46:46 PM »

I realized something very important about GNS which is that it will and should fade into the background of the theory. I doubt if it will fade away entirely. It will remain important to understanding in general at a theoretical level, but in practice it will cease to be very important compared to other features of RPG Theory. Allow me to explain.

The most important part of RPG Theory is arguably the creative agenda, the Narrativist Premise, the Simulationist “dream,” the Gamist goal or victory conditions or whatever. This is what keeps the players sitting at the table. This is what they hope to get out of playing. The agenda can be explicitly stated either by the game authors or the players themselves or it could be implicit, not openly stated and just kind of “known” to the players. Problems occur when players with incompatible agendas attempt to play at the same table.

Typically, we will identify which mode of play the players are using. Maybe by saying “most of the group is attempting a Gamist mode of play but the problem guy is trying for Narrativism.” It seems very simple and straight forward, but within each mode there are incompatible creative agendas. Simulationism, for example, has five major agendas for Exploring the five elements of roleplaying: Character, Color, Situation, Setting, and System; and with these five agenda are nigh-infinite agendas which may also be incompatible. So identifying the group and the problem player as Simulationist in preference is not useful.

I find it similar genre. When someone says a game is fantasy, we need more information because fantasy covers too many bases. We then must get more information to find out what, exactly, is the content of the game. So it is with modes of play. When someone says a game is Simulationist*, it narrows the possibilities of what it could be, but not enough to really understand what is going on.

I had been thinking this for a while, but didn’t voice it because I thought that the three modes were useful for Drift in that it is easier to Drift within one of the three modes. I don’t think this is the case. Drift can happen just as easily from G to N as it can within S. This sort of thing is a case-by-case basis, I think.

So I think that GNS will fade to the background of the theory since it is, in and of itself, not as useful as the creative agenda itself.


* This is, naturally, short hand for “a game which supports a Simulationist mode of play.”
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2003, 11:47:43 AM »

I'm not so sure. I used to think so, too, but now...

Previously, I thought that Stance would become much more important than GNS. But partially because of it's lack of discrete links to GNS, it hasn't. Think about science. Newton is still, hundreds of years later, amongst the most important scientists and mathmaticians ever. Sure, his stuff has been improved on over time. But to understand the improvements you have to understand Newton first.

I think GNS is like that. It may turn out to be of basic importance in understanding RPGs.

But only time will tell.

Mike

P.S. of course Ron is just playing Newton to Mr. Kim's Leibnitz.  :-)
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2003, 12:09:42 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I think GNS is like that. It may turn out to be of basic importance in understanding RPGs.

I think so too, and I thought I had put that in the original post, but I guess not. It's like in zoology, you can say "mammals" or "birds" or "fish" and the basic idea gets across, but it is still not enough. Dogs and cats are mammals, but they are not the same.

Before either one of us (mostly me) falls too deeply in love with these comparasons, RPG Theory is neither mathematics nor zoology. As you had said, time will tell. One thing is, though that while the terms that make up GNS may be the basics of understanding, they have also been a big stumbling block towards people's understanding (see Seven Misconceptions) even today.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2003, 12:14:10 PM »

I do agree that GNS may no longer be the "focal point" of discussion after a point, but I think it will definitely be there as a foundation block.  What will be very interesting, is to start exploring some of the stuff that Ron has been clamoring for above and beyond GNS.  

What I'm definitely looking forward to is checking out the relationships between the various bits of Exploration(Character, Setting, System, Situation, Color), Creative Agenda, and Social Contract, along with the GNS stuff already coverd.  I think a great deal of interesting stuff remains to be uncovered in this area.

Chris
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Rob MacDougall
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Posts: 160


« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2003, 01:21:49 PM »

My snap judgment about this (and I may very well be wrong) is that GNS terminology is and will remain important for two reasons:

1. I suspect that GNS incoherence/incompatability is usually more severe, that is, more destructive to gaming fun, than differences in agenda within the GNS categories.

2. GNS theory provides a language for talking about things that many gamers have experienced but lacked the terms to express. System/Setting/Character, on the other hand, are already pretty widely understood concepts in gamer culture well beyond The Forge. I suspect many gamers with no experience with Forge terminology already have an understanding of, and a way of talking about, the difference between exploring character, exploring setting, and so forth.

Like I say, this is just an off-the-cuff judgement. Happy to see counterexamples or disagreements.

Rob
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2003, 03:01:51 PM »

Well said, Rob.

Jack, terminology used in specific ways always bamboozles people who don't look at it closely enough. In basic training, I met a guy who was convinced that "evolution" meant that some monkey at some point in history had turned into a man over the course of it's lifespan. And getting him to understand what Evolution really meant was terrifically difficult. But I tried until I was certain that he had gotten the concept. And in the end I remember him saying, "Well, I still don't think a monkey could turn into a man."

He was dead set on misunderstanding if that meant that he was right.

I still believe, however, that achieving understanding is one uphill battle that's worth fighting.

Mike
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2003, 07:13:44 PM »

Quote from: Rob MacDougall
I suspect that GNS incoherence/incompatability is usually more severe, that is, more destructive to gaming fun, than differences in agenda within the GNS categories.

I'm not sure about severity, but aren't GNS incoherency/incompatability and creative agenda incompatability the same thing, albeit looking at the same phenomenon from different angles so that one issue looks like it contains the other, or something like that?
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M. J. Young
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Posts: 2198


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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2003, 10:30:42 PM »

I read this yesterday, and decided not to respond until I'd seen some other posts; but I think this is pretty close to what I'd have said yesterday.

The part that catches my attention is here,

Quote from: where Jack Spencer Jr
The most important part of RPG Theory is arguably the creative agenda, the Narrativist Premise, the Simulationist ?dream,? the Gamist goal or victory conditions or whatever.

The reason this catches my mind lies here: in defining the problem, Jack had to recognize that the premise, the dream, and the objective were different but related things, and that they were different precisely because of GNS concepts. Thus whenever we approach a game, we're going to have to consider what the creative agenda is, and the first aspect of that is going to be whether it's a dream, a premise, or an objective--that is (respectively) whether it's simulationist, narrativist, or gamist.

Now, we might make a lot of progress in the area of examining the differences between one dream and another, various types of premises, differing objectives; but even before such discussion can begin about any particular game, we've got to decide whether it is a dream, or a premise, or an objective under discussion.

I'm reminded of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. I was one of millions who started watching that series trying to unravel the mystery: who killed the girl? The entire show seemed to be about who killed the girl. It got more and more bizarre. It took a long time before we mystery lovers realized we had been suckered: it wasn't a mystery at all, and Lynch neither knew nor cared who killed the girl. We were wasting our time and effort trying to solve a mystery that wasn't a mystery. Now, I'm not exactly sure what Twin Peaks actually was (existentialist nightmare comes to mind); but as long as we were thinking it was a mystery it held our interest trying to do what it wasn't designed to satisfy. Columbo, Murder She Wrote, Banacek, Poirot, Miss Marple, Ellery Queen, Sherlock Holmes, Cadfiel--these are mysteries. You don't always solve them, but whether or not you find the solution you always feel in the end like you had a satisfactory mystery story (even if it's not a very good story). But before you can enjoy a mystery and try to unravel it, it helps to know that it really is a mystery.

Before you can consider very much about the creative agenda of a game, you've got to know what kind of creative agenda it is in the most general terms, and that means GNS terms. So as important as creative agenda is going to be, the most important thing about creative agenda is probably going to be GNS.

In this regard, C. S. Lewis use to say that every part of creation could consider itself the centerpiece of creation. Planets could see the universe created as a place in which they travel, and life as decoration on their surfaces. Plants could see the planets as there for them, animals as their servants. Humans could see the worlds as their home, the angels as their protectors. Angels looking at the physical world could see it all as a lesson intended to teach them. The beauty of it, according to Lewis, is that they're all correct. Sure, GNS exists as parts of Creative Agenda; and as much as this is so, Creative Agenda only exists through GNS. One level cannot really be more important than than another, as each is perhaps the same thing viewed either in greater detail or in greater totality.

Or something like that.

--M. J. Young
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