Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Why the Forge sucks

It's probably no secret to anyone reading this that I spend a lot of time discussing games over at The Forge, a website devoted to the discussion of role-playing games and the creation of role-playing texts.

One part of the Forge's focus is the Ron Edward's Big Model theory, which lays out the basic structure of the role-playing game, at least as regards play. Part of this model, and its oldest part, is the GNS model, which classifies the play of role-playing games into three types: Gamist, which focuses play on challenge, strategy, and tactics; Narrativist, which focuses play on dramatic human issues and hard choices; and Simulationist, which focuses play on the act of creation itself.

A lot of people are not happy with these classifications, or this model. I'm not going to go into the reasons people aren't happy with them, because they are complicated and I don't mean to trivialize or dismiss people's problems. Many of these people are opposed to the very idea of having an RPG theory at all.

A lot of other people come to the model, read it quickly, misunderstand it or don't, and pick it up as their new gospel. Everything is about "The Model" and how it works. People who don't follow it, don't understand it, or even want to explore and change it are classified as the enemy, and promptly roasted.

Side note: Often, people of the first type are people who are drawn to "Simulationist" as a self-image label, rather than a play style. Often, people of the second type are drawn to "Narrativist" as a self-image label, rather than a play style. No bets on whether their play is actually Narrativist or Simulationist, mind you. These are people who just want to identify with the tag.

And, like most identity politics, there are great and nasty battles between them, which occupy a great deal of time on the otherwise productive bulletin boards at the Forge. And this sucks. But it sucks extra for an extra reason.

Enter me. I am someone who thinks that the Big Model theory is a great theory, and the closest anyone has come to seriously talking about what is actually going on during the play of an RPG game. However, I do have some caveats about how I see things, and how they are slightly different than portrayed in the model.

In one way, the political way, this is good. I can speak to both sides of the fence. In general, I am a fan of the model. This makes me okay by the pro-Model folks. But, yet, I have reservations about it, and can say that I don't think it is wholly accurate. This makes me okay by the anti-model, anti-theory folks. So, politically, I'm in an ideal situation.

Too bad I'm not in this business to play politics.

I want to talk about RPG theory. I want to talk about the subtle changes, or subtle definitions, I want to see in the big model. I want to talk about the possibility of a Humorous creative agenda, or about how Gamism is universally protagonizing, or about how all the explorative elements fundamentally interconnect into what the lumpley Principle defines as "system."

But I can't. Or, at least, I won't.

Because of the hostile environment in the forums, any new topic is seen as either ammunition pro- or anti- the Big Model. So, if I post something about how things might be different, that is an insult to the Model faithful, and the anti-Model league will come in and say "Yes, I agree, it is all wrong and should be burned" which is not what I'm saying at all. Wrestling people to the point where the serious theorists (who are usually not on either side of this argument) can talk about the issues just takes me too much effort, too much sweat, and too much time.

Which is, I guess, why I have this blog.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh lord yes. When the discussion is about "Who's right" instead of "What's right", or better yet, just "What is really going on"(minus the right/wrong shit), that's when we lose out.

Personally, I'm really interested in seeing how in detail the pieces of the model fit together.

4:39 AM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Some people in the Forge are very quick to help and provide a lot of good insight when you post. Others, well, I didn't ask a rules question in the Dogs forum to get my GMing and my players psychoanalyzed.

It's why I have a blog, why I post to 20x20, and why I spend more of my forum time on the Master's Council.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Chris -- yo.

Ginger -- Where is the link? Where is the link? I can express neither sympathy nor disdain without a link to see the experiences, and I don't know your Forge nick. Hope you can help me out.

My initial reaction is that your statement, withholding judgement on whether psychoanalysis of play is good or bad in a nonconsensual context, is tangential to my point, which is very specifically about the way new topics in (mostly) the GNS and RPG Theory forums are treated. Of course, I can't know this without the original thread to refer to.

So please, please, please post a link.


11:00 PM  

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