Moving on from "GNS"

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Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #45 on: October 19, 2015, 01:30:31 PM »
Haha Jesus F, Vincent! Why did you let me waste yours and everyone's time with the above interrogation when it was here all along: http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/466

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #46 on: October 21, 2015, 03:53:13 PM »
That's a great link on the whole authority/assent issue. I'm firmly with Vincent, and have always been, I think.

Oddly enough, I'm only now realizing that my own understanding of "GNS" has never been exactly canonical (the slightly twisted understanding I've been using in my own thinking is closer to Vincent's view here than the Big Model view, it seems).

In any case, these are worthy conversations to be having.

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #47 on: November 13, 2016, 05:01:25 PM »
Vincent,

I have a follow-up question on this topic - which I hope will somehow come to your attention.

You have said that the Big Model was, ultimately, held back by its use of taxonomies, which might have limited thought about the underlying process which each of its taxonomies was pointing to.

However, for a long time, you thought that was not the case with GNS (Creative Agenda modes); that was a true taxonomy. (Or something of the sort; I'm not trying to put words in your mouth.)

A. Why is it that you felt Creative Agenda modes were not a "false" taxonomy like the others, but somehow more fundamental or tangible or irreducible? Where does that assertion come from, and why was it convincing to you?

B. What, ultimately, changed your mind on this issue?

Thanks! There's been lots of good discussion about this, and I appreciate that very much.

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lumpley

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Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #48 on: November 14, 2016, 08:40:09 AM »
Oh man, Paul. I can't agree. There hasn't been any good discussion about this yet. I don't imagine that there ever will be.

These are demanding questions and answering them seems fruitless to me: what on earth difference does it make to you, me, or anybody why I thought it and what changed my mind? For whose benefit are you asking?

-Vincent

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #49 on: November 14, 2016, 02:10:41 PM »
Sure, I can answer that.

For myself, personally, this has been an interesting line of discussion, because I *always* interpreted GNS as another taxonomy - certainly useful sometimes, but not necessarily *fundamental* or *atomic*. I took it as a simplification for a model - like the other taxonomies - and assumed blurred lines at the edges.

So, I was quite surprised to see - because of this very conversation we have had here - that my understanding wasn't "kosher", according to the Big Model.

However, there are still some (many?) smart and experienced players and designers whom I respect who hold that view: that there is something fundamentally different about Creative Agenda modes. You're the only person I know who has apparently been "on both sides" of this question at one time or another, and so I believe you may have some special insight. I've often found that you are able to "cut through" matters of theory in an interesting way, and your posts about the Big Model and GNS way back when were very useful to me.

I think that a lot of people will be curious to explore this further and to make up their own mind about this. You certainly don't owe anyone an answer - as always! - but I'm also sure I'm not the only one who is curious to hear more.

In short, I follow most of your theory-talk and theory-think, and it makes sense to me. But, when you say that you considered GNS to be fundamentally different from other taxonomies in the Big Model, I have no idea what you mean by that or where you are (or were) coming from. That's interesting!

Thanks for the quick reply; I appreciate that you're still keeping an eye on this, even if it's something you're hesitant to discuss.

(Also, if you think I'm alone in having an interest in this, and hesitant to get into a big old discussion in an online forum about Apocalypse World, I'd be happy to chat with you privately, instead. Just let me know!)


Bringing it back to GNS (was: Moving on from "GNS")
« Reply #50 on: November 14, 2016, 04:13:41 PM »
I would say that the GNS criteria are still worth observing, if not a be-all, end-all.

One problem with the model has been a confusion over what "simulation" vs. "narrative" means. Are we simulating a story, or are we narrating a story?

For example, many OSR games had a morale mechanic -- when 25%, 50% or more of the bad guys get taken out, there's a random roll to see if the bad guys flee. Fair enough. But the question is, is this morale rule a SIMULATION (that people who take heavy losses would be inclined to run away) or a NARRATIVE (that it makes sense in the story that Bulk & Skull would run away once it's clear they're out-matched).

Many early games were obsessed over "realism." If you read D&D 2e, there's long screeds in it about what the Olympic weightlifters could lift, therefore we made our encumbrance rules this way ... or once somebody survived falling 17,000 feet, therefore our falling damage rules make sense, etc. Many game design decisions were justified about how they were supposed to simulate reality.

Reality-simulation didn't last very long. The World of Darkness games preferred narrative over everything, with players encouraged to make their own backstories, motivations, and histories, going above and beyond any numbers. D&D3 introduced "extra-ordinary" feats -- abilities blatantly labeled as not even remotely realistic. D&D4-5 don't even bother labeling them as such.

For what it's worth, video games also wandered from realism. Grand Theft Auto characters regularly take 20 bullets to the face, get hit by a car, and then wander off to a hot-dog cart to regenerate all their HP. Richard Hillman of EA used the term authenticity instead of realism, to describe the simulation that he thought the users would be expecting, not the simulation that was realistic.* You see this often in video games: of course you just shove another clip in there. Of course, these guns make these precise sounds, whether they're the correct ones or not. Of course rolling on the ground briefly makes you invincible to all harm, etc.

When it comes to authenticity, then are we talking about something that is authentic to a fun GAME, or something that's authentic to a fun SIMULATION? Or are we talking about something that's true to the kinds of stories we would tell... something authentic to the NARRATIVE? Yowsa.

So let's back up a bit. What if we use GNS to refer to how do you resolve a situation in the game. Do you:
  • Use a gamble, double-blind, or some other formal mechanic that has risks, reward, and strategy? If you are, then it's a Gamist solution
  • Have a meta-solution that resolves everything, using fiat, editorial considerations, and anything else because you want it to go that way? That's a Narrative solution.
  • Look at what's already been going on, and use a detailed analysis of the world's fiction to decide what happens next? That's a Simulationist solution

A discussion of GNS is better if there's some definitions of what GNS is not.
  • If it doesn't have some kind of strategy, wager, or random element, then it's not a gaming solution. (For example, if you convince your MC that since it's foggy today, your opponent can't see you, that's a simulationist decision. If you spend a hold or story-point to suddenly say it's foggy when nothing in the fiction had said it foggy before, that's a strategic use of a resource, and now it's gamist.)
  • If there's no story going on, it's not narrative. (For example, if you have a generic mob of NPCs show up because someone failed a roll to sneak around, that's a gaming thing. If you go through a precise set of calculations to determine how many gang members can show up based on shifts, transport, and other logistics, that simulation. If you have a mob of NPCs who are here because they've been tracking you and they're angry that you stole their last spark plug, and the MC thinks this is the right time to have them show, that's narrativist.)

Naturally, there's some wiggle room here. For example, using story points to change the environment or to produce new elements could be said to be "high-gamist, low-narrative.".

The GNS model is very much keeping in mind when writing PbtA games. PbtA games tend to be gamist first, narrative second, and simulationist last.
  • Pbta games are high in gamist qualities. Moves can be described with barely any information, entitling players to actions because they rolled high. ("on 10+, you find an escape route"). Story factors are opened by high rolling. PbtA games are renowned for being "fail forward" -- that is,  you're going to do it anyway, we're just rolling to see what price you have to pay to do it. Relationships between characters will be formally tracked, they will rise and fall based on strategic decisions and random die rolls, and (in many games) they're the major way to increase your character's power, moreso than life experience, better gear, etc.
  • PbtA games are medium in narrative qualities. The players make all rolls -- the MC never rolls anything in secret. If the MC wants to have some bad event show up, everyone's aware that it's either the MC's fiat or the result of a bad (gamist) roll ... never the result of some wandering-encounter table or other (simulationist) random event. For a game about a horrid landscape of grim survival, Apocalypse World will let players declare some NPCs to be immune to any badness what-so-ever, no matter what -- a narrative immunity, beyond any dice, tactics, or simulation.
  • PbtA games are low in simulation. In Apocalypse World, the actual disaster isn't specified -- players are encouraged to "barf forth" whatever apocalyptica they think is appropriate to the narrative, and not to worry about simulating nuclear strikes, viral plagues, or Hadron colliders. Hunger, thirst, and other resources are abstract game decisions, when they show up at all. (AW2 encourages players to ignore gasoline evaporation, because having gas is more fun.)
Vincent's post on design theory** follows this model. If a player has an ability, they should be allowed to use it, in this moment. What's going on right now, the decisions the player wants to make (the game) is considered top priority, moreso than a long, drawn-out discussion over whether it's better for how the history of events would permit this (the narrative) or how something might actually be possible given our logistics (the simulation).

When designing your own PbtA game, it's a good idea to remember this priority list of "game first, narrative second, simulation third". The purpose of GNS is to give vocabulary to these decisions, and to guide you in the right direction ... not as a precise taxonomy or a check-list. If we can keep in mind how GNS applies to design theory, then it's still very useful.

* http://famousaspect.com/what-is-game-design-with-rich-hilleman-part-1/
** http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/466

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #51 on: November 14, 2016, 07:04:58 PM »
Rafferty,

I really don't want to derail this discussion with a "GNS" analysis of AW or its hacks (especially since Vincent is no longer advocating the model; I'm sure he's not interested in that).

(It doesn't help that, as far as I can see, your analysis is using the "Threefold" theory, which predates the Big Model. The Big Model dealt with game theory in a very different way - in many ways entirely contradictory to the way you're looking at things in your post, above.)

I can't authoritatively speak for Vincent, of course, but I'm pretty sure that this is precisely the kind of discussion he doesn't want to be having (and perhaps a strong argument in favour of his position).

I still like chatting about the Big Model, of course, so if you'd like to discuss further, contact me elsewhere (or in private)!


« Last Edit: November 14, 2016, 07:09:45 PM by Paul T. »

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lumpley

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Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #52 on: November 16, 2016, 11:29:15 AM »
... I *always* interpreted GNS as another taxonomy - certainly useful sometimes, but not necessarily *fundamental* or *atomic*. I took it as a simplification for a model - like the other taxonomies - and assumed blurred lines at the edges.

So, I was quite surprised to see - because of this very conversation we have had here - that my understanding wasn't "kosher", according to the Big Model.

Yep. Over the years, a lot of people have been pretty surprised - and sometimes annoyed and resistant - to learn that they don't understand what the Big Model says after all. When I try to explain why I consider it obsolete, the main obstacle I face is that first I have to explain what the Big Model even says.

So, on your question (A), how much of your own research are you willing to do?

-Vincent

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lumpley

  • 1291
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #53 on: November 16, 2016, 12:02:09 PM »
Paul, as for your question B, here goes:

1. Every game text has to communicate the game's creative agenda - taken to mean G, N or S, here - to its audience, without relying on its audience's knowledge of other games or of the Big Model.

2. This is super easy, a matter of just a couple few sentences. The game texts that do it aren't special or accomplished; the game texts that fail to do it are poor.

3. The game texts that do it, do it by summarizing the game's color, the formal creative relationships between its players, and the workings of its highest-level repeating systems.

4. Anybody who understands the Big Model can see immediately why this must be so.

5. Then, what happens when we compare those particular descriptive texts - and the structures they describe - directly, instead of categorizing them?

As this approach bore more and more fruit for me, the categories gave place. At some point I recognized this as the same thing that happened with DFK, IIEE, and FitM/FatE.

That's my answer!

But like I say, only a few people can make that leap in step 4. Those who can't, what on earth difference does it make to them whether the Big Model is obsolete now, or ever wasn't? They didn't know what it was for in the first place. I'm at a loss.

-Vincent
« Last Edit: November 16, 2016, 12:10:47 PM by lumpley »

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #54 on: November 16, 2016, 03:50:38 PM »
Vincent,

That's a great answer, thanks!

I think I'm finding this difficult because I *always assumed* the Big Model worked like your answer to my question B). So it's a bit of a surprise to me to see that this is not/was not a common understanding.

I know a number of highly intelligent and well-informed people (including you, Vincent, circa however many but not SO many years ago) who hold CA modes not just as a useful taxonomy, but something fundamental and/or atomic, however.

So I was quite struck by your comment that you also had held CA modes as a different "kind" of taxonomy than the others in the Model, whereas most of your design efforts seemed to be heading towards this current understanding for quite some time. The only good explanation I've heard of the more strict or "dogmatic" position so far relies on assuming psychological modes (such as the innate drive for competition, for instance) pre-empt aesthetic concerns (like Colour), and therefore are a more solid starting point for finding common ground in a game.

(Presumably the argument here is that two players trying to find a Gamist reward in play - but disagreeing on content, Techniques, or Colour - will have an easier time appreciating each other's efforts, and thereby providing social reinforcement and finding a functional mode of play, than two players who agree on content, Technique and Colour but are looking for different creative payoffs, like one being interested in competing whereas the other one is not.)

Like I said, you're the only person I know who seems to have been on both sides of this debate and is well-informed about the issues, so I'm very curious to hear your answer to my question A). I'd go to someone else, if I knew who that was, and leave you to your design work! :)

In answer to your question, I'm willing to do my own research within reason - I'd happily reread your articles on this topic, or the Forge articles. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to find a cogent and up-to-date articulation of many of these concepts. Sorting through the entire Forget Theory archives, for example, is entirely beyond me.

I feel that I have a pretty good grasp of the Big Model, but with gaps - I wasn't around the Forge for the entirety of its existence, so many historical applications of the theory would be foreign to me. I suspect that precisely the part I'm asking about might be in one of those gaps - how did people come to feel so certain about the existence of CA modes and the various coherency claims?

I'd always assumed it was just armchair speculation (i.e. Ron laid out a model, and those who agreed stayed to chat about it), but it sounds like there was some more serious background there, perhaps based in Actual Play analysis as well as after lengthy theory debates at the early Forge (which I missed).
« Last Edit: November 16, 2016, 03:55:38 PM by Paul T. »

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lumpley

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Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #55 on: November 16, 2016, 05:14:09 PM »
It's a party trick. Given any instance of play, you can sort it into G, N, or S. You can learn to do it yourself. I did it a lot. It's easy(ish), reliable, and satisfying.

I don't reject GNS because it fails. There aren't any "blurred lines at the edges." There isn't CA-mixing or an unknown fourth agenda or any such counterexample. Nobody's ever brought forward any instance of play that disproves GNS in any way.

My friends who are still into GNS are still into it because it works. It used to work, and nothing's changed about roleplaying or about it. Of course it still works.

-Vincent



Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #56 on: November 16, 2016, 06:49:04 PM »
That makes sense, too. Believe something strongly enough and you can spot it anywhere you look.

But that's why I wanted to ask you - not "why is this right or wrong?" - but, quite specifically, what made you think it was *different* from other taxonomies? Is there something about the nature of Creative Agenda (other than, in your view, its questionable utility) which made it seem different to you? That's the part which is mysterious to me. It may have something to do with the application of the "party trick", the particular ways people went about it, perhaps, but I can only speculate at best since, apparently, I never shared this view.

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lumpley

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Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #57 on: November 16, 2016, 07:02:51 PM »
That makes sense, too. Believe something strongly enough and you can spot it anywhere you look.

This is absolutely not what I'm saying.

-Vincent

Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #58 on: November 16, 2016, 08:29:01 PM »
Ah! Sorry. I'm not sure what you mean by "party trick", then. I may have been reading into the phrase!

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lumpley

  • 1291
Re: Moving on from "GNS"
« Reply #59 on: November 17, 2016, 06:57:48 AM »
I'll restate!

G, N, and S are real. You can take any instance of play and sort it into one of them. You can take any playable game text and sort it into one of them. GNS never failed, never will.

Nobody's ever brought forward an instance of play or a rpg that has contradicted GNS. The people who've thought they have, really honestly haven't.

That's why it was convincing.

-Vincent