Moving on from "GNS"

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Moving on from "GNS"
« on: July 30, 2015, 01:49:45 PM »
Vincent,

You've mentioned elsewhere that you feel it's time to put some of the Big Model in the dirt, and to move on to better ways to understand games.

What was the turning point, in your mind, on this topic? When did you start feeling this way and why?

How much of it is a problem with the Model itself, and how much of it is a problem with the conversations it generates?

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lumpley

  • 1291
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2015, 10:54:27 AM »
Oh sure.

So the Big Model is full of little taxonomies, right?

DFK. People said, "what about [this rule], is it D, F, or K?" The correct answer is: who cares? D, F and K are obviously just placeholders for the interesting thing to examine, which is the actual working of the rule itself.

Now, DFK is trivial, so it was easy to realize the correct answer. People only bothered to ask for about a month, and then everybody realized the correct answer and nobody asked after that.

IIEE. People said, "what about [this rule], is it II*EE, IIE*E, or what?" The correct answer is: who cares? I, I, E and E are obviously just placeholders for the interesting thing to examine, which is the actual working of the rule itself.

FitM/FatE. People said, "what about [this rule], is it FitM or FatE?" The correct answer is: who cares? FitM and FatE are obviously just placeholders for the interesting thing to examine, which is the actual working of the rule itself.

Stances. People said, "what about [when I did this], was it Actor Stance, Author Stance, or Director Stance? Or maybe Pawn Stance?" The correct answer is: who cares? the stances are obviously just placeholders for the interesting thing to examine, which is what you actually did.

Authorities. People said, "what about [when I did this], was I exercising Content Authority, Backstory Authority, or what?" The correct answer is: who cares? That list of "authorities" is obviously just a placeholder for the interesting thing to examine, which is what you actually did. (And furthermore, casting it as a question of authority in the first place is a bad idea. It's the worst idea in RPG thoery. Yes, worse than "if the GM can't arbitrarily kill any PC with no warning, it's not really an RPG," or any other bad idea you care to mention.)

For a long, long time, maybe embarrassingly long, I thought that GNS was an exception. That G, N, and S were "observed," true categories of play. I'd say things like "you know how most of the taxonomies in the Big Model are just, like, placeholders for the interesting things? GNS is the exception. G, N, and S are for real."

But one day, maybe 4-5 years ago, I caught myself, and said, "self, are you positive?"

And I concluded that when people say, "what about [this time we played], was it G, N, or S?" the correct answer is: who cares? That list of creative agendas is obviously just a placeholder for the interesting thing to examine, with is the actual working of that time you played.

Interpreting it into a box is not the same as understanding it, and, in fact, might be the opposite of understanding it.

So that was the turning point for me.

I'm saying that the model itself is obsolete. It is 100% about the Big Model itself.

-Vincent

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2015, 11:53:44 PM »
This is totally fascinating to me, because I'd always assumed that the "G, N, and S" modes *were* effectively placeholders.

Kind of like how you can have an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. We can all describe features those three things generally have, but still end up being wrong about any particular dish.

I suppose I'm beginning to realize that this conceptualization might not have been as "kosher" as far as the Big Model went as I thought.

All those other things, in the meantime, I took as being a little more "solid", in effect. And, looking at it now, there's no reason to see it that way: of course the same kind of logic applies.

Now, next question:

Given that this kind of understanding is, by definition, limited, what's the next step?

I would imagine you would still agree that these placeholders and concepts allowed us - as a hobby - to make great strides, both in design and in conversation, from where those thingss we were fifteen years ago.

How do we move forward, if we are to discard so much potentially useful jargon?

And is that, indeed, something you are recommending?

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lumpley

  • 1291
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2015, 08:50:55 AM »
We're already moving forward. We have been for years! There's no "next step" but to keep playing, making, and talking about games.

What I'd say is that the Big Model busted some designers (including me) out of some bad conventional thinking, in approx 2002-2007, and then spent approx 2007-2012 bumping up against its own limits. When the Forge closed in 2012, the Big Model was declining in energy and relevance and had been for a few years.

So it's up to Big Model theorists to catch up with what's happened since, if they care to.

The old jargon won't help them do it!

-Vincent

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2015, 08:32:33 PM »
Thanks, Vincent.

I think a lot of us find some of the ways of thinking (and related vocabulary) from the Forge discussion very useful. Where do we go looking for new ways of thinking and new vocabulary?

I'm not particularly aware of any, with, perhaps, the exception of some of your "lumpley" discussions on game objects and so forth. Is there anyone else out there you think is worth checking out?

Also, how did the Big Model's proponents end up "butting up against its limitations"? Can you see some design features which you see as being symptoms of that problem? How did those designers move past those limitations?


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lumpley

  • 1291
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2015, 10:57:33 PM »
Right now the best thinking on RPGs is happening in the OSR and in the PbtA design movement. You might not recognize it as RPG theory, though. It doesn't look like the Big Model at all. Few essays, little wrangling, no glossaries. Mostly design and play, play and design.

If you're looking for a new Big Model, you won't find one any time soon. We're in an expansive phase, with a bunch of individuals and small groups developing in a bunch of different directions. We'll compare notes and learn from each other as we go, but my guess is that it'll be comparing notes, not model- or vocabulary building, for at least another 5-10 years. Conceivably, forever more.

-Vincent

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lumpley

  • 1291
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2015, 10:20:04 AM »
Oh and the freeformers, American- and otherwise. They're kicking our butts pretty well right now.

-Vincent

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2015, 08:51:51 PM »
Well, now, that all makes a great deal of sense. I understand where you're coming from, now. Thanks!

Are you interested in having the more detailed, technical discussion (as you hinted at Story Games)? I'm curious about that, as well, but I'm not sure what questions precisely to ask.

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2015, 06:08:05 PM »
Right now the best thinking on RPGs is happening in the OSR and in the PbtA design movement. You might not recognize it as RPG theory, though. It doesn't look like the Big Model at all. Few essays, little wrangling, no glossaries. Mostly design and play, play and design.

Any instance of play is seen by only a tiny fraction of the community; any instance of design maybe a larger fraction. Is there value in having a common glossary to refer to, which includes summaries of the discoveries which came from those plays and designs?

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lumpley

  • 1291
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2015, 11:41:49 AM »
Any instance of play is seen by only a tiny fraction of the community; any instance of design maybe a larger fraction. Is there value in having a common glossary to refer to, which includes summaries of the discoveries which came from those plays and designs?
I doubt it!

My guess is, any glossary that you or I could make or contribute to would be seen by a smaller fraction of the community than a good game design would.

Way better than a glossary, I think, if someone's looking for theory work to do, would be a series of theory-minded game reviews.

-Vincent

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2015, 02:30:54 PM »
That's an excellent suggestion.

Vincent, what about my question, re: the more technical discussion? That's still interesting to me, but I don't want to twist your arm.

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lumpley

  • 1291
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2015, 03:53:07 PM »
Oh, sorry! Sure thing, if you want, but I don't know what questions you might like to ask either.

When I talked about this on G+, I found myself working harder to explain the Big Model than to explain why I think it's obsolete, and that was funny but not much fun, so don't ask me to do that if you can help it.

-Vincent

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2015, 08:27:05 PM »
No problem!

I don't think a rehash of the Big Model is necessary here at all. (And if someone's reading and needs a refresher, please ask elsewhere.)

You've already described how you think a lot of Big Model terms were placeholders, and simplifications of more complex issues.

In what ways do you feel the Model might actually be incorrect or misleading? Or some parts of the Model actually likely to lead people down the wrong road? (Either as players or as designers.)


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lumpley

  • 1291
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2015, 11:35:20 AM »
So, right. Narrativism, Story Now, is the core principle and rallying cry of a pretty cool design movement, and I have no complaint about that at all. It's the design movement that Apocalypse World comes out of, for instance, as well as all of my games before it, back to Dogs in the Vineyard. It's lost a lot of momentum, but new and interesting games come out of it every year. GNS' obsolescence as a taxonomy of play doesn't diminish Narrativism's value as an inspiration for design. You can still create great games by democratizing story creation at the table.

As it happens, there is a part of the Big Model that I think is terrible, though, which is its placement of authority at the core of the act of roleplaying. This is an appalling inversion of the reality, which is that agreement is at the core of the act of roleplaying, and authority is just one way of many to negotiate agreement. I blame this bad idea for all of the Narrativist design movement's lost momentum.

-Vincent

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Munin

  • 408
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2015, 04:49:29 PM »
All of it? Really? Couldn't some of it be that much of the "novelty" of the Narrativist idea has worn off? And by "novelty" I mean only this - when you are designing a game that uses certain elements central to the Narrativist idea, you sometimes come up against the idea of "OK, but this has been done by this other system over here, so why am I re-inventing the wheel?" And so, by "worn off" I mean only that many ideas there were "new" have now already been explored in some depth by games that have come out in the last decade or so.

In some sense, I think it's why there are so many hacks of AW - that game does a really good job of mechanically capturing so many of the interesting elements of Narrative play. So absent some "new" aspect of Narrativism to explore, why go through the effort of changing the central mechanics that already give you so much of what you want? Make thematic changes around the edges, sure, but the central ideas end up being very similar. Why fix what ain't broke?

Also, I don't think about "authority" AT ALL when it comes to thinking about game design. I think about shared responsibility. The two are very different. But at some level, there are only so many things going on in an RPG for which responsibility needs to be doled out and/or shared. You could get all sorts of crazy and push the envelope on any subset of them, but in many cases the results feel kind of contrived. Like novelty for novelty's sake. "Look at my new system, where the character you play is completely created by the other people at the table and your motivations are randomly determined!" OK, cool, whatever, but does completely abdicating a player's responsibility for character creation/motivation actually add anything to the game? It might be interesting as an improv acting exercise, but is it fun for the players? Does it result in cool stories? Meh.

Is this making sense?