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Author Topic: GNS, AI, and psychology.  (Read 2954 times)
Alfryd
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Posts: 118


« on: August 17, 2010, 06:24:28 AM »


Well, as far as I can tell, this seems to be the best place for this topic, but to be honest the subject's only tenuously related to specific RPG experiences (or, rather, it has a much broader application.)  So, stop me if I'm veering off into irrelevance, but I thought this might merit some investigation regardless.

See, I have an informal interest in AI research and, more broadly, functional intelligence in general.  I've come to suspect that the three major GNS modes correlate with, or at least bear some connection to, the basic cognitive functions of the modern AI agents.  Broadly speaking, these could be summarised as:

Gamism:  Action Planning.
Simulationism:  Environment Modelling.
Narrativism:  Rule Induction.

I further suspect these play a similar role in human intelligence, with the given secondary qualities:

G:  Satisfying basic needs or instincts, including competition/social dominance.  Overcoming challenges 'because they're there'.
S:  Curiosity, conjecture, objectivity.  Dreaming (i.e, unconscious simulation.)  Humour (i.e, appreciation of unexpected non-threatening connections.)  Emphasis on consistency with observations.
N:  Communication (of pertinent insight,) social rules, moral directives.  Aesthetics (i.e, appreciation of hidden structure or 'meaning'.)

I understand that it's a good idea to keep posts short, so I'll leave it there.  Do you think that this jibes with your experiences of play in the various modes and the attitudes or priorities of the players?
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Aaron Blain
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Posts: 29


« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2010, 10:28:31 AM »

Some years ago, I was in the classic situation, dating a hot sorority girl, keeping my xbox and my army guys tucked away, cringing at any mention of geekery, trying to get in as much fun time as possible before the inevitable came to pass. She was a caricature of conformity, and would often rant to me about how she disliked girls who looked or acted differently. Following the rules of society in order to be accepted and cared for was god to her. My suspicions should have been aroused when she lit up at the mention of the "Mafia" campfire game (a murderer secretly kills everyone each night and the survivors try to figure out who the murderer is etc.), which had been one of her favorite things from adolescence, something in which ten or twenty people become invested in reading and following the operation of a shared, orderly reality. Anyway, I had dropped down to one weekly game session in favor of getting laid, but I couldn't hold back from our campus' day long annual gamefest. She planned to be partying elsewhere without me, I thanked the gods. I went through my usual routine starting with the standard huge Munchkin game that was great fun for the first half of its duration, the getting mildly ill on free pizza, a few skirmish games that were decided by mysteries of initiative and spelunking arcane tomes of troop abilities, slogging through a hefty chunk of "So what are you guys doing?" - style WoD, and a blessed little no-strings, no-bs dungeon hacking. Just as I was smoothing myself off to sneak back to the realm of procreating daywalkers, five feet per round and checking for traps as I went, I stumbled into my busty blank-eyed lover. She had followed me over and had been playing some combination of oldskool Demon and Mage for six hours, and regaled me for a good twenty minutes with all the things she had caused to happen in this shared reality. Creatures were manipulated and splattered, bookshelves tossed around, alliances formed and broken, buildings demolished. I was stunned. This beautiful young woman, who frowned confused and worried when she saw me playing Total War, who could barely be in the same room with my Firefly DVD's, who candidly detested blue collar people and anything that was the opposite of wealth and status and security, had had more fun at the Big Ass Day Of Gaming Roleplaying & Eating than I had. After the initial shock, I saw that it made perfect sense. Something about that "Simulationist" creative pact, even though she had never seen a dee-ten in her sexy, preppy little life, had keyed in perfectly to her psycho-emotional needs.

Nowadays, I'm primarily a Cataan man looking for anyone willing to get good at Twilight Imperium or, better, Archon. I've come to esteem those mental games which are only a step removed from the visceral engagement of tangible sport, and that from the real-life get-killed go-hungry type activities without which those of us in developed countries wax neurotic.

I think this whole business has to do with how we form a social fabric and a concept of reality in order to survive. If I meet someone in a coffee shop, we might play some chess. If they ask me a question, and I respond in a deadpan, "Because I'm the Kwisatz Haderach." and they laugh, I know I can probably rope them into some DnD. If we get to know each other, maybe after a while we'll bust out the moral dilemmas. I guess it's a question of the similarity of our shared realities. The stronger our shared language, the more easily we can interact and get what we each want emotionally in our, er, Shared . . . Imagined . . . er, Space.
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Motipha
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Posts: 43


« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2010, 11:10:17 AM »

That is an awesome story, but I'm not seeing the connection to the AP.  But a really, REALLY awesome story.
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My real name is Timo.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2010, 10:23:16 AM »

Hi guys,

Aaron, did you intend to begin a new thread with your post? If so, let me know; I can split it. Because there are about 100 fun things to discuss there.

Timo, to follow up on your AI idea, I tend to think that all three "sectors" you describe are present in all role-playing, and often as priorities of technique, rather than expressing any of the Creative Agendas.

If I were to extend the logic of your post into something I'd be more likely to agree with, it'd approach not only the substance of cognitive effort, but the relationship of the actor with everyone else involved. It would focus more on group dynamics of approval or excitement, and then seek repeated cycles, and finally, examine the content and activity within those cycles.

I submit, or speculate, that all three things you describe would be present at peaks of the cycles, or in very successful play, throughout the cycles, and that other things - rather specific ones - would pop out as CA-identification for that group.

Does any AI research concern group dynamics and relationships among interacting AIs?

Best, Ron
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Alfryd
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2010, 10:32:18 AM »

Quote
The stronger our shared language, the more easily we can interact and get what we each want emotionally in our, er, Shared . . . Imagined . . . er, Space.
While I of course agree that role-play is a social activity that requires an overall concensus on 'what role-play's about', unspoken or otherwise, I agree with Timo that I'm not certain I see the applicable insight here.  Are you saying that this is an example of a Sim-inclined-player who contradicts the description I gave before, or that the term just isn't meaningful?  Was she playing in a Sim fashion, and/or with a Sim group, and/or using a Sim ruleset (I'm afraid I'm largely ignorant on the full array of systems out there)?  I'm not certain how to reconcile your mention of 'shared realities' with the apparent ease with which she enjoyed her role-play- weren't you citing her as a specific example of someone whose 'reality' thus far was at a 180 face-off with conventional geekery?

I mean, if there's some kind of truth to the comparison with the categories of machine learning I gave, then none of the three modes are inherently dependant on social dynamics at all.  An AI agent working in complete isolation can plan courses of action to attain specific goals, build up a model of their environment by exploration, and infer new formal rules based on prior observations, without ever consulting another agent or even requiring a theory of mind.

The idea of an Egri Premise being fundamental to dramatic narrative just struck me as an extension of pattern-inference, or, again in AI terms, of rule induction.  Taking a series of isolated observations and discerning an underlying structure behind 'em.  In this fashion, Nar play might be considered an extension of or reliance upon inductive logic, whereas Sim play would be an extension of or reliance upon deductive logic.

I mean, if you think of it in terms of computational processes within the brain, it would go some way to explaining why people show pronounced preferences toward particular GNS modes, and even go some way toward explaining the relative demographic sizes:  Gamists being the most common, followed by Narrativists, with Simulationists as a distinct minority.

The brain is presumably constrained in terms of calory expenditure, available synapses, neurotransmitter production, etc. with respect to how much computation it can do at once, and 'hardware' optimised for a given purpose might be rather poor at others (white matter vs. grey matter, for example, which is generally suspected to go some way toward explaining why women, with more white matter, are statistically more communicative, better at multitasking, etc.)  Each GNS mode would represent a specific kind of computational task that have to compete for resources within the brain.

Simulationism, insofar as it relates to building up a consistent model of the world, to acquiring and integrating data by hypothesis and exploration, is most biologically useful within environments that change rapidly.  In environments that change slowly, it's almost always easier and safer to get information about the world from your peers and elders.  For the vast majority of our evolutionary history, environments only changed slowly, and so the most volatile, exploitable, and dangerous aspect of the world was likely to be other humans.  Consequently, Sim-inclinations make up only a small aspect of the general human psyche, and most of that is focused on Theory of Mind: forecasting others' behaviour based on knowledge of their foibles, motives and predilictions.

Of course, in order to acquire that knowledge in the first place, you have to generalise from observations (rule induction) and pay attention to second-hand info from other tribe members (communication.)  And naturally, Gamism trumps both N and S, because the organism is fundamentally concerned with the bottom line- survival imperatives.  In which respect I certainly agree with Aaron that "this whole business has to do with how we form a social fabric and a concept of reality in order to survive."

Naturally, of course, phenotypic variation would account for a wide spread of preferences within the larger population, because different GNS balances would have been optimal at different historical (or prehistorical) periods.
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Alfryd
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2010, 10:53:05 AM »

Ron- sorry, I missed your post there.  Fortunately, much of what I said above is, I hope, applicable to your own remarks.
Timo, to follow up on your AI idea, I tend to think that all three "sectors" you describe are present in all role-playing, and often as priorities of technique, rather than expressing any of the Creative Agendas.

If I were to extend the logic of your post into something I'd be more likely to agree with, it'd approach not only the substance of cognitive effort, but the relationship of the actor with everyone else involved. It would focus more on group dynamics of approval or excitement, and then seek repeated cycles, and finally, examine the content and activity within those cycles.

I submit, or speculate, that all three things you describe would be present at peaks of the cycles, or in very successful play, throughout the cycles, and that other things - rather specific ones - would pop out as CA-identification for that group.
*coughs*  *Morgan*

Well, in the same sense that (virtually) all role-play involves some degree of capital-E Exploration (Sim,) and some form of adversity or problem-solving (Game,) and some amount, however limited, of 'storytelling' or protagonism (Nar,) then yes, all three processes would be frequently invoked during any role-play experience.  But the basic idea of GNS theory, insofar as I understand it, is that individuals often have marked preferences for a particular mode or blend of modes, in terms of which they prefer to exercise primary control over first, or on which side they're most willing to accept compromises, or which they get the most enjoyment out of wrestling with, or which they consider to be means to other ends(?)
Quote
Does any AI research concern group dynamics and relationships among interacting AIs?
Almost certainly, but my knowledge of the subject is pretty limited- I took a university course on the subject along with some reading in my spare time, and given the breadth of the field we only touched briefly on inter-agent communication or language synthesis.  I'll see if I can look something up, but your guess may be as good as mine. :)
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Motipha
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Posts: 43


« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2010, 07:43:05 AM »

*grin* I was about to say.  I'd like to claim that I'm that savvy and insightful, but I cannot claim the OP.  I really was just wondering how Aaron's comment applied.

I still stand by the fact that it's a great story though.
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My real name is Timo.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2010, 10:55:37 AM »

Hi Morgan (sorry about the name mistake; I'm easily confused),

My take is that you are falling into some common misunderstandings of the body of ideas developed here.

1. Creative Agenda is a bigger topic than internal processes of a single participant.

Your claim here,
Quote
I mean, if there's some kind of truth to the comparison with the categories of machine learning I gave, then none of the three modes are inherently dependant on social dynamics at all. An AI agent working in complete isolation can plan courses of action to attain specific goals, build up a model of their environment by exploration, and infer new formal rules based on prior observations, without ever consulting another agent or even requiring a theory of mind.
... is flawed for the purposes of talking about Creative Agenda. Such individual or private functions are necessary to the activity, just as one's personal physique, psychology, training, and actions based on these are necessary to the activity of playing baseball ... but playing baseball is a social phenomenon, relying on communication, responsiveness, and above all the observably expressed priority (I do not mean speech, I mean actions while playing) of baseball and its reinforcement among the group members during play itself.

See What is Creative Agenda? It's not a great thread. The initiator of the thread, Fred/Vaxalon was in attack mode rather than inquiry mode, and one participant, Nathan (Paganini) was fundamentally confused despite posting with a tone of authority. However, I do manage to articulate there that a Creative Agenda occurs socially, and that whatever may be going on individually and internally is, for purposes of definition, relevant only to the social expression and reinforcement.

2. Brain anatomy and physiology

I'll leave your ideas on the individual prioritization of the modes based on brain physiology to the researchers in the topic. My questions to them would concern whether cognitive content is energetically limited, and whether gross architecture has been shown to play a determinant role when an individual trades-off among possible priorities.

3. Sociobiology and world-building

I'd like to start by tagging your sociobiological musings as speculative, which is not itself a bad thing, but you're missing an important point: that the kind of cognition called "mapping," or in present terms "world-building," is common among organisms and the human version is not especially distinctive in many of its parameters. We probably inherited most of our cognitive capabilities rather than evolving them in the history of our one species. This is relevant to the present discussion because our brains, or rather the human mental functions, carry out such mapping at a constant, basic, no-attention-switch level. Arguably we can do hardly anything else without it. I don't see any evidence suggesting that we ever stop.

Although your speculations about the priorities are not illogical, and I do agree strongly with the idea that the selective context of human behavior was and is composed of other humans, I think you're falling into the trap of adaptationism - specifically, that for variation to be present (i.e. observable at present), the individual variations must have been optimal at separate historical points. Selection is frequently mixed up with one of its possible outcomes, fixation (100% presence of a single variant), whereas in real creatures, fixation does not appear to be the most common outcome of selection. Furthermore, flexibility among certain options (or spectra of options) may itself be the outcome of selection, rather than any single point on it being "the fitness" winner.

But again, I think you are focusing way too much on world-building = Simulationist. I know that my essays point to the idea of Simulationism being "Exploration squared," but later discussions finally uncovered more content. See my comments in Ignoring the subjective? about it (see the embedded link for the prequel and Constructive Denial? for the useful follow-up). These threads finally managed to extricate the definition from fictional content and to focus on the correct zone of interest, the social and creative priority.

4. And the big problem, individual typology. You wrote,

Quote
Well, in the same sense that (virtually) all role-play involves some degree of capital-E Exploration (Sim,) and some form of adversity or problem-solving (Game,) and some amount, however limited, of 'storytelling' or protagonism (Nar,) then yes, all three processes would be frequently invoked during any role-play experience. But the basic idea of GNS theory, insofar as I understand it, is that individuals often have marked preferences for a particular mode or blend of modes, in terms of which they prefer to exercise primary control over first, or on which side they're most willing to accept compromises, or which they get the most enjoyment out of wrestling with, or which they consider to be means to other ends(?)

Your "basic idea, insofar as I understand it," needs to be completely revised. I cannot state more strongly that marked individual preference is not the core concept of the ideas (technically the Big Model). It's a historical observation, and of great practical importance (hence why I originally emphasized it) but not a defining feature.

And furthermore, you have it backwards. In role-playing, I am emphatically not saying that Sim, Gam, and Narr are all present (and hence it's a matter of percentages), but rather than Exploration must be present, socially, and in that context only one such priority is viable at a time. It seems to me that you might be thinking in terms of what some people called "the GNS Triangle," which was an intellectual fallacy.

I think it would be useful as well to consider the difference between Techniques and Agenda. You may be missing that fundamentally important paragraph in GNS and other matters of role-playing theory:
Quote
For a given instance of play, the three modes are exclusive in application. When someone tells me that their role-playing is "all three," what I see from them is this: features of (say) two of the goals appear in concert with, or in service to, the main one, but two or more fully-prioritized goals are not present at the same time. So in the course of Narrativist or Simulationist play, moments or aspects of competition that contribute to the main goal are not Gamism. In the course of Gamist or Simulationist play, moments of thematic commentary that contribute to the main goal are not Narrativism. In the course of Narrativist or Gamist play, moments of attention to plausibility that contribute to the main goal are not Simulationism. The primary and not to be compromised goal is what it is for a given instance of play. The actual time or activity of an "instance" is necessarily left ambiguous.

This issue was made easier to understand when I defined the layers of the Big Model, especially in terms of Techniques as components of play, whereas Creative Agenda is a unifying principle rather than a component (or made of them).
See also Frostfolk and GNS aggravation and Frostfolk, carrying on for a good example of someone else grasping the difference.

In conclusion, I am not claiming that AI has nothing to offer our understanding of role-playing or other human activities (although the payoff to date is mighty low given all the rhetoric), and I definitely do think that sociobiological perspective has much to offer (although its adoption in non-biological disciplines is usually crappy). But I think that the first step would be to understand what I mean by Creative Agenda and then to see whether and how AI theory may apply.

And it strikes me that I do not want to slap you down, which this post seems like it might be bordering on. In the interest of following up on the part I find most interesting, the whole deduction/induction issue, check out zplay - liberating Sim and embarrassing Exploration!. Although the overall thread is totally obsolete and rife with gibble-gabble, Jason Lee's comments show how induction, deduction, and abduction are integrated within Exploration (i.e. all role-playing) regardless of Creative Agenda.

Best, Ron
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Alfryd
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2010, 09:05:55 AM »

Hi Morgan (sorry about the name mistake; I'm easily confused)...
No worries. :)
Quote
... is flawed for the purposes of talking about Creative Agenda. Such individual or private functions are necessary to the activity, just as one's personal physique, psychology, training, and actions based on these are necessary to the activity of playing baseball ... but playing baseball is a social phenomenon, relying on communication, responsiveness, and above all the observably expressed priority (I do not mean speech, I mean actions while playing) of baseball and its reinforcement among the group members during play itself.
Again, I agree fully that role-play is a social phenomenon and, so, obviously, when discussing specific CA in the context of role-play social forces are very important.  The point I'm making is that the same basic agendas need not be limited to activities that are defined as social.

I mean, just to give a simple example, SimCity is a highly successful video game which many people play with no clear win-conditions, no detectable story, and no external social expectations whatsoever.  To a first approximation, it's a solo experience, but nonetheless oddly compelling.  (People often make the assertion that SimCity and related games are about 'tackling challenges', but closer inspection belies that- the game's baseline mechanics get steadily easier as you go on, rather than throwing escalating challenges to match the player's skill or resources.  It's mostly about deriving enjoyment from watching the interplay of internal cause-and-consequence.)  Similarly, although Narrativist examples of video game design are essentially nonexistant (because we don't yet have the AI to recognise and accomodate questions of theme and protagonism,) there are no shortage of devotedly single-player video games which show an abundantly clear Gamist agenda, either in terms of their design, how players tackle them, or both.  (It's also interesting to note how many players of the Sims or Crusader Kings seem to take active pleasure in spinning dramatic narratives out of their in-game experiences, and this, too, is an essentially solo activity.)

I just think that placing analysis of social interactions ahead of the private motives and instinctive abilities of the players is, in a sense, putting the cart before the horse.  If players didn't have innate preferences that frequently outweighed or were at least comparable to social expectations, I don't see how GNS disagreements could arise at all.  And if those modes or preferences are observable in situations which are about as non-social as human activities can get, is it really useful to restrict discussion about them to social settings?
Quote
I'd like to start by tagging your sociobiological musings as speculative, which is not itself a bad thing, but you're missing an important point: that the kind of cognition called "mapping," or in present terms "world-building," is common among organisms and the human version is not especially distinctive in many of its parameters. We probably inherited most of our cognitive capabilities rather than evolving them in the history of our one species. This is relevant to the present discussion because our brains, or rather the human mental functions, carry out such mapping at a constant, basic, no-attention-switch level. Arguably we can do hardly anything else without it. I don't see any evidence suggesting that we ever stop.
Oh, everything I'm saying here is just amateur speculation- feel free to "slap me down" if the situation calls for it.

I fully agree that environment mapping is present in many other organisms and no doubt represents the outcome of a long evolutionary process, but precisely the same can be said for methods of social networking and action planning.  We decide on things to do to achieve long-range goals on a constant, basic, no-attention-switch level.  We infer insights about large-scale structure across many data points on a constant, basic, no-attention-switch level (it's arguably fundamental to sensory processing.)  But organisms were taking action, and sending eachother 'messages' of some form, long before they had any kind of abstract knowledge about their environment.

I also agree that "arguably we can do hardly anything else without it".  In the same sense that you can't have an imaginary situation without Exploration, you can't have 'intelligent' cognition without environment mapping.  You need to know how the world works before you can manipulate it to achieve desired ends, and any patterns you infer need to be checked for consistency with prior knowledge.

However, I feel that the specific psychological impulse associated with what could be called Simulationism is a kind of detached pleasure in relating and observing cause and consequence, relations between facts, in searching for 'objective' understanding for it's own sake, without particular regard for any immediate practical purpose.  Broadly speaking, a blend of skepticism and curiosity:  "Why does this happen"? or "what would happen IF?"

I will try to read up on the threads you cited and muse on the subject some more, and I do appreciate your commentary on the subject of variability and selection.  Perhaps rather than 'historical points' it would be better to talk about 'relevant variation in adaptive pressures'?  I'll have to think about it some more.
Quote
Quote
For a given instance of play, the three modes are exclusive in application. When someone tells me that their role-playing is "all three," what I see from them is this: features of (say) two of the goals appear in concert with, or in service to, the main one, but two or more fully-prioritized goals are not present at the same time. So in the course of Narrativist or Simulationist play, moments or aspects of competition that contribute to the main goal are not Gamism. In the course of Gamist or Simulationist play, moments of thematic commentary that contribute to the main goal are not Narrativism. In the course of Narrativist or Gamist play, moments of attention to plausibility that contribute to the main goal are not Simulationism. The primary and not to be compromised goal is what it is for a given instance of play. The actual time or activity of an "instance" is necessarily left ambiguous.
Again, I don't disagree with any of this.  The point I'm making is that a similar argument could be made with respect to the role and importance of action planning, environment modelling, and rule induction under these circumstances.  In Sim play, action planning can be present, but it's either a side-effect, non-competitor or means-to-the-end with respect with the larger goal of maintaining an internally-consistent imagined world.  Conversely, in Nar play, environmental modelling can be present, but it's either a side-effect, non-competitor, or means-to-the-end with respect to the larger goal of developing or expressing an underlying emotional theme.

My point is that everything you could say about specific techniques or decisions that, considered in isolation, would lead you to conclude that someone's role-playing is "all three", arguably evaporates when you consider the larger context.  A dedicated-Sim player will engage in action planning IFF their environmental model (or SIS) predicts 'that's what the character would do here'.  The overall trends and patterns they'll look for and appreciate will be rooted in data available to their character- which is to say, consistent with the environmental model which states that Bob can't magically know what Sally is thinking, feeling or doing unless in a position to observe or overhear it.  For a Sim player, the pleasure taken in maintaining a consistent environmental model (if one includes theory of mind as a subset of 'environment') trumps, contrains, and redirects the desire to infer patterns or surmount ambient challenges.
Quote
Although the overall thread is totally obsolete and rife with gibble-gabble, Jason Lee's comments show how induction, deduction, and abduction are integrated within Exploration (i.e. all role-playing) regardless of Creative Agenda.
Thanks for all the links- BTW, I will be sure to look them up and get back to you on this.

I agree that Exploration is crucial to all role-play, and in the same sense, one might naively argue that all role-play is partly Simulationist, and this would be perfectly consistent with the environment-modelling hypothesis.  (I'm aware you've explicitly disavowed Exploration == Sim in the past by defining Simulationism as Exploration-to-the-exclusion-of-all-else, and I guess it's mostly a question of terminology, but I'm also not certain it's much more than a tautological declaration:  You can't be 'partly entirely' something.)  Again, it's possible that's a misconception on my part.

On the subject of the role of induction/deduction/abduction, I suppose that's a valid point.  I guess, for example, that rule induction could be used to furnish either (A) mechanical insights about how the world works which could be used to extend the environmental model, or (B) rule-of-thumb heuristics for beneficial action under particular circumstances, which might be related to questions of morality or theme.  Abductive reasoning (which I'd incline to call 'informed speculation',) is, I fully agree, something tied up with Exploration, and by extension, tied up with 'curiosity'.





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Alfryd
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Posts: 118


« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2010, 12:33:44 PM »

Ron- I just read through the threads you suggested.  There's a lot of stuff there I can agree with.

"Constructive Denial", though.  In a sense, I agree this is a useful insight, but in another, I think the term is so general as to be useless.  Every CA has to establish rules and procedures that facilitate a particular form of play while compromising or 'denying' others.  When the rules of 3E D&D state, in effect, that my Sorceror will never be particularly good with slings regardless of how often she practices with them, that is a 'denial' of a potential course the player might take.  It's constructive from the perspective of Gamism (or at least a particular brand thereof,) but denial nonetheless.  It's absurd to speak of Simulationist play as being inherently more abstemious in terms of potential choices available to the characters (and I sometimes feel that deprivation quite acutely during Gamist play.)

However, what I feel might be referred to here is the idea that, in Sim play, beyond a certain point, in-game events are supposed to be decided first and foremost by the in-game events that preceded them- that Internal Cause Is King.  In that sense, the real players' personal choices are sorta not relevant, because the real players aren't part of the imagined world (which doesn't exist,) but rather a sort of 'distributed platform' for simulating a (mostly?) deterministic cosmos, and social interaction consists of a kind of mutual error-checking with respect to the computed results put forward by each individual.

So I guess, in that sense, I can see a qualitative distinction between Exploration and Simulationism- in that the former requires no active violation of established facts about the world, whereas the latter occurs when the 'lock in' factor of Exploration extends to the point where only one consistent 'vision' of events is really permissable.
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Aaron Blain
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Posts: 29


« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2010, 01:16:45 PM »

Whoa!

I tossed out an anecdote because the OP fascinated me but stopped short of citing actual play. I didn't mean to present any sort of argument, just to validate the connection between cognitive survival strategies and modes of role-playing.

Forgive me. I would like to participate, but I am not smart enough to navigate this conceptual labyrinth. What exactly are we talking about here?

Permit me to reload my spaghetti cannon.

Could we have some more illustrations drawn from game experiences, however tenuous or imperfect? I'm fascinated that you mention Sim City, and I've often made your same observation. I enjoy the old "The Settlers" myself, watching the little animated guys tote their raw materials around through my meticulous infrastructure.

I have also noted that, amongst my friends, I am the one who feels most compelled to get "the good ending", to produce a result in a video game which reflects my values. For example, I am into Spelunky pretty hardcore right now. If you haven't played it, which you all should, the method of regaining your hit points is rescuing dames who are trapped in the cave and getting them to the exit. After the level ends, she gives you a kiss and says, "My hero!" and you get a heart restored. Sometimes I drop a dame on some spikes and she dies and I feel disappointed. Not because of the hit point. Do you follow me?

You could address this old phenomenon we all know -- I choose in DnD to play "finesse fighters" whose efficacy stems from their investment in their own minds and bodies, rather than being reliant on their possessions. This is clearly my desire to somehow communicate my worldview. This causes my agency in the game to become suboptimal when we drift G-ward. Why do I do this?

And am I the only one who has, separated from his trusted gaming circle, gone straight back to RISK and the like?
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Alfryd
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Posts: 118


« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2010, 01:55:48 PM »

Aaron-  I'm sure there was some useful observation on the topic in the anecdote you presented, I probably just wasn't 'keyed in' enough to winkle it out.  As for the 'conceptual labyrinth'- I need to get down to nailing down what I think the precise meanings and correlations between cognitive processes and GNS agendas would be, and hopefully give some examples of how an AI would handle these in formal logical terms.  If I've been unclear, it's because I don't know exactly what I'm talking about.

As for specific in-game examples: I can probably cite a few, certainly on the subject of video games, but my actual hands-on experience with tabletop RPGs has been fairly limited- maybe a dozen sessions of D&D, CoC, and Advanced Fighting Fantasy down the years (perhaps more if you include things like CCGs or the Milton Bradley HeroQuest.)  Most of my interest in tabletop RPG design and rulesets has been theoretical, since video games and game design are sort of my long-term career goal.

The Settlers seems to be another Sim favourite, and off the top of my head I'd probably add Majesty, Stronghold and the Citybuilder series to the list.  The Quest for Glory series also seems to have been rather Sim-influenced, in terms of their system of practice-based skill progression, environmental puzzles and enforcing actual time limits on quest deadlines.

On the subject of "good endings" in games, one of the most interesting things I've observed is that Gamists seem to have... unexpected reactions to 'morality incentives'.  A friend of mine who enjoys GTA4, for example, deliberately goes out of his way to murder innocent pedestrians, not because he takes any particular pleasure out of the act itself, but because it makes the character's life harder.  i.e, when the cops and military get called in to bring him down, that increases the Challenge, and hence the fun.

Conversely, the Thief series of games has a protagonist, Garrett, and is widely considered to encourage moral behaviour in the player when moral behaviour is actually penalised.  Using the blackjack or expensive gas arrows to knock out opponents is more difficult (or costly) that simple skewering them on pieces of sharp metal.  In other words, because the moral option is harder, it represents more of a challenge, and Gamists rise to the occasion.  (The Garrett I played was a murdering psychopath, natch.)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2010, 08:27:05 AM »

Hi Morgan,

It may be that we've bashed the topic to the limits of where you're currently able to go with it, but that's your call. I do think it's time to review the thread and decide whether it should be let lie, perhaps to serve as a foundation for later ones.

I do want to point out that although I agree each identified Agenda in my model is an expression or application of larger-scale social and possibly psychological phenomena, I discuss each of them only in terms of the specific activity of role-playing (or "table-top," the particular activity focused on at this site). In other words, CCGs, video games, and any number of other hobby gaming activities aren't really accounted for or encompassed by my model, which again, is more about this single limited context for application of Agendas (or failure to do so) than about the sources of the Agendas in the larger picture.

Finally, I want to stress that I really am talking about a social phenomenon, which cannot be summarized as a list of each participant's miniature internal version. I think there's a quantum shift in actual content and definition involved, i.e., I do not think there is an "atomic" notion of Creative Agenda per person (aside from expectations/hopes/fears regarding the group experience), nor do I think smaller-scale aspects of play like a specific Technique or a time-span limited to a single session or scene can be similarly atomized in GNS terms. This is not to slap you down via spouting definitions, but to clarify my outlook so you'll know where some of my posts are coming from.

Best, Ron
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Alfryd
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Posts: 118


« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2010, 02:36:39 AM »

I appreciate that, Ron, and I don't want to dismiss or minimise the significance of social input and reinforcement in the hobby- in particular, I think that the 'mutual exclusiveness' you mention is probably the result of social feedback, insofar as useful group cooperation requires a consistent, strong agenda in order to work.  In other words, social interactions are the reason why you don't see a full spectrum of coherent, fun, Group-CAs within the 'GNS triangle'- that G, N and S represent the 'stable equilibria' within the space of possible group interactions.  So that, somewhat ironically, the group dynamic highlights those psychological drives more clearly than analysis of individuals in isolation could.

I agree that individual preferences aren't 100% G, N or S- indeed, I'd suspect the 'GNS triangle' is probably valid when it comes to describing individual preferences or aptitudes (it certainly shows up in rulesets.)  When I say 'a Gamist', I mean 'person with marked preference or aptitude for Gamism', not that this person couldn't turn their hand to other agendas with reasonable success.  (The GTA player I mentioned loves SimCity and Morrowind, for example.)  I recognise that single techniques or scenes do not a CA make, (e.g, 'environmental puzzles' can complement either a G or S agenda, and even that's a little narrow,) but I think looking at the overall pattern of techniques or scenes used in CRPGs often reveals interesting GNS correlations (particularly since many of the former are lifted directly from tabletop ancestors.)


I suppose my eventual 'goal' with these 'investigations' would actually be to try programming a simple game which can demonstrate AI capacities of this kind.  (Most likely text-based, since that defines the simplest possible 'environment' for either a human player or resident AI agents to deal with, when/if specified in formal logical terms.)  Ideally, I'd like to establish some form of 'pattern recognition' that could recognise emergent 'themes' behind the player's actions and challenge them accordingly, since that's pretty well virgin territory in the industry.

Anyway- on the subject of whether to close up the thread:  There is another topic I'd like to visit (on the subject of processing-in-sequence vs. processing-in-parallel, which I suspect ties in to the autism spectrum, multitasking, communicative ability, measured IQ and introversion vs. extroversion,) but it's only tangentially GNS-related.  I'll probably try to revisit the general subject of AI at a later date, if and when I can get some formal examples ready.  But overall, I suppose I'd leave it there for now?
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Caldis
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« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2010, 08:35:49 AM »


I dont have much to add but I have two examples that show the difficulty of assuming GNS as atomic elements of play.

In table top roleplaying and in computer games there are many games that are heavy fighty games that most people would assume facilitate a gamist agenda.  The D&D games I played in the 80's were like that as is the World of Warcraft MMO.  The way we used them however ended up being very Sim/right to dream.  D&D play that doesnt challenge the players to step on up was how we played.  We entered dungeons and faced "dangerous" situations but the game was balanced out so there was no actual risk of failure, we used the system to put our characters through these situations and then level up to face bigger and more scary dangers.

WoW (and all MMO's) works in much the same way with the level grinding and zones that put you up against appropriate levels of competition.  There's is little risk of failure just an amount of time spent to play out the dream. 
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