Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A thought on GDS and Big Model

This post is really only for the people who know what I mean when I say "GDS" rather than "GNS." Which is to say, all three of you (Hi, Emily, John, and Elliot!)

I had a thought the other day about GDS -- I don't think that the classifications that it is making correspond to Big Model's Creative Agenda at all. Creative Agenda (GNS) is about goals for play, whereas it seems to me that GDS is more about the contents of play -- pretty much solidly rooted at the Exploration level.

As soon as I thought about that, I realized:

Gamist = Emphasis on System elements.
Dramatist = Emphasis on Situation elements.
Simulationist = Emphasis on Character, Setting, and Color elements.

Does that make sense to anyone else?


Blogger Elliot Wilen said...

Elliot, as in me Elliot?

I sort of know about GDS (i.e., The Threefold) since I was present at its birthing, but I may not be completely clear about all the permutations, all the ways that people tried to apply it, and all the arguments it caused, since I basically dropped out of the r.g.f.advocacy scene sometime in the mid-late 1990's.

My feeling is that GDS is fundamentally (dangerous word there) about the way that out-of-game-world factors interact with and influence in-game-world factors. Taking for granted the Simulationist bias of GDS, it could be seen as system for classifying whether "game world integrity is violated", and if so, what the motivation is for compromising said "integrity". That jibes reasonably well with the last sentence of your second paragraph.

The last section is a bit shakier but still reasonable. First you need to grapple with the definition of System in GNS (which has been the issue of a firestorm lately in blog-land). Certainly, Gamism has a lot more tolerance for abstract mechanics. While Sim measures the value of mechanics entirely on whether they represent the "reality" of the game world, Gam will look at criteria such as whether the mechanic provides an interesting tool for manipulation, whether it's "balanced", and whether it gives the player-character a fair shake. But broader elements of System (in Big Model terms) would be deployed just as much in any of the three "group contracts". In a sense, each of the three is itself a System paradigm for how decisions will be made: when to roll dice, when to overrule dice, when to freeform it, what criteria to use when freeforming.

Dramatism is probably best understood by looking at David Berkman's ideas through a Simulationist lens. Since he was always pushing a System which would allow the manipulation of causality in the service of Plots (though to be exceedingly fair, his concept of "plot" wasn't quite the same as "railroading")--yes, I'd say Dramatism emphasizes Situation: creating it, developing it, extending it, and resolving it. I'm not sure that it would correct to say that Character, Color, or even Setting would be deemphasized under Dramatism, though.

Since Sim would reject the conscious creation and manipulation of Plots, it would probably be reasonable to say that under Sim, Situation is likely to be a secondary phenomenon arising from Character & Setting, instead of being foregrounded. However, I think there was at least some interest among Simulationists in so-called "episodic" campaigns which IIRC might involve GM-framing of interesting Situations, to be developed and resolved via in-game cause. As for Color, I'd say it doesn't figure any more prominently in Simulationism than in Dramatism.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Elliot Wilen said...

Er, that was supposed to be preview, not a publish...oh, well, not too many typos.

Anyway, the other way that Situation could be foregrounded in Sim would be in "one shots" involving pregenerated characters.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Elliot as in you, Elliot, yes.

Hmm... I'm thinking in terms of how GDS was presented to me, which was a rather roundabout way. I was told that all play contains some of the three elements, but that emphasis would be placed on one or the other. Just as, in terms of the Big Model, all play contains all five elements of exploration.

So, in other words, if the focus of our play is on rules elements, it's Gamism. If the focus of our play is on situation elements, it's Dramatism (with, yes, some exceptions). If the focus of our play is on character and/or setting elements, it's Simulationism.

You're right to point out that Color is probably it's own little appendix.


4:49 PM  
Blogger jhkim said...

I don't think that's right from my FAQ version, at least. Gamism isn't necessarily focused on rules. For example, mystery/whodunnit focus and riddle/puzzle focus are both cited as examples of Gamism.

The Threefold is about how game decisions are made. i.e. A decision is called for in the game. What mental process do you go through to determine what happens? This includes the basis for rules. As such, within Ron's Big Model this may be at the level of Techniques.

The curious thing to me is what level Creative Agenda is on. A CA isn't a personal goal -- i.e. you supposedly can engage in GNS Simulationism or GNS Narrativism for different real-world reasons. However, they are considered to be above the level of techniques. I still have trouble wrapping my head around this one.

3:17 AM  
Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

If it helps any, John, my current take on GNS is that they're three families of agendas, and those agendas can exist anywhere in the fuzzy space between personal preference and group contract. When I see somebody say, "That's Gamism" it's similar to somebody saying, "That's a mammal."

For what it's worth, Ben, I don't think the distinction between Setting and Situation is really worthwhile for your purposes here. In fact, the distinction between Character and Setting is kind of needless. The Setting/Character/Situation triumvirate would be better parsed up under GDS as the Content and the Juxtaposition of that content.

Dramatism wouldn't be so much about the Situation itself as the thematic structure of that Situation (the juxtaposition). In other words, it's not so much that John is berating Mary about Tom, but that there's an antagonist forcing a reaction from the protagonist. Dramatism has an emphasis on Situation only insofar as it has an emphasis on Situations that are juxtaposed in a particular way. Whereas Simulationism can have an emphasis on any Setting (and Character) -- its emphasis in on the Content, whever its internal relationships.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Ron Edwards said...

a) Ben and I had a good conversation about this in my car, a couple months ago.

b) John, Creative Agenda isn't a "level" in the Big Model at all, although it took me a couple essays finally to hash that out. It's an arrow that pierces the levels.

7:45 AM  
Blogger jhkim said...

Hi, Ron.

I know your metaphorical diagram which shows Creative Agenda as an arrow, but that doesn't make sense to me within my own library of concepts. When I referred to "level", I meant it in a more general sense rather than your particular diagram. In my mind, there are two common concepts. One is goals -- i.e. what are we really playing for? One is preferences -- i.e. how do we prefer to pursue those goals? But Creative Agenda doesn't seem to fit either of these.

I think Ben has similar issues, which he dealt with in his formulation by splitting things up into "Social Agenda", "Creative Agenda", and "Technical Agenda". I'd be curious how this compares with your view -- since I don't think these have appeared in your own writing.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Ron Edwards said...

Funny, Ben did indeed recently PM me about this and we had a nice discussion about it. What follows isn't a paraphrase, but our discussion does inform it.

As I see it, Creative Agenda may easily be assessed differently as it originates and "passes through" each level of the Big Model, doing no violence to the original concept at all.

As CA originates in Social Contract, it can be discussed as a realized goal or a demonstrated commitment, during play, both individually and in terms of group interactions. I actually don't see that as synonymous with Ben's "Social Agenda," although certainly they're related, or need to be consistent with one another.

As CA penetrates into and informs/forms Exploration, as a process, it is expressed purely in imagined terms, like "The Snow Weasel clan is wracked by feuds," or whatever. It's also especially expressed in terms of whatever System emerges during play. This is where the Lumpley Principle kicks in and "System Does Matter," and all the rest of the details of my three supportive essays.

Clearly, CA at the Explorative level immediately splits up or is parsed into distinct Techniques, or else there'd be no System at all.

Once we're talking about which Techniques are being employed, and in what specific "families" or combinations, now I suppose you can call this same arrow "Technical Agenda" for a given group. That's not a bad term at all, because the Techniques being chosen/used are certainly a refined and limited expression of the Creative Agenda.

That's not any different from anything I've already said, but apparently people have a terrible time understanding that group A may have a Narrativist CA, but refine and express it into extremely different Techniques group from group B, who also have a Narrativist CA but "do it" radically differently. If you want to call these variations/expressions different Technical Agendas for clarity, that works for me.

As I see it, Social and Technical Agendas are a great big version of "Say it Yourself," again, with no particular re-casting necessary. As Ben has repeatedly said, nothing he's presenting is alternative to or contradictory to the Big Model at all.

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My (functional) take on GDS is that it informs GM-technique for deciding what happens/pacing and player expectation about how that will happen (in addition to how game mechanics are interperted or preferred).

Gamism is then primarily concerned with fairness and balance of challenges in terms of GM action.

Simulationism is concerned with versimilitude and falsifiability.

Dramatism is concerned with the development of narrative structure and meaning.

I suspect that in Big Model terms these would be at the technique level but not divide the five-elements of exploration in any particular fashion.


5:05 AM  

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