NearbyGamers

The Big Model

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NearbyGamers General
2007-04-25 16:38:14

Is anyone familiar with this model and the related gaming theory developed at the Forge?

Check them both out:

The Big Model and Narativism: Story Now

I have included my personal tastes for game design using terminology like simulationist, gamist, narativist in my profile. Perhaps others could benefit from this as well. These descriptions can be just as useful as calling out specific titles of games.

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rawr
2007-04-27 13:51:22

For those of you that are as lazy as I am, and won't go to a website unless it is linked: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Model
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/narr_essay.html

I read through both entries, and I'll be honest... I came out with a 'meh' response. There doesn't seem to be anything revolutionary in the concept, and there doesn't seem to be anything of particular interest for the average gamer. It seems too broad of a model for most GMs to even think about.

Now, I will admit that I have no experience actually developing a new role-playing system. Maybe people with a background in that can make a more targeted critique.

-Aeryn

2007-04-27 22:23:02

I agree its not revolutionary nor is it provocative. I don't think its intended to be either of those things, rather its describing our hobby in terms that we can adopt to understand each other and what we are looking for as individuals when searching for a game.

The problem with talking to each other about what to expect from a game is people tend to say things like "I like to role play rather than roll play" or "I prefer story over system". As the essay points out these kind of statements - while I'm sure they are sincere and spoken with best intent - don't really *say* anything.

One thing I would recommend to the "I prefer story over system" crowd... read the essay Narativism: Story Now before you state you are a naratavist. Nine out of ten of you are actually simulationists. And that last bit was intended to be provocative ;-).

2007-05-17 18:46:29

For those interested in and familiar with GNS Theory I have added the tags:

Gamist, Narativist, and Simulationist

If you buy into the theory this is a real easy way to locate other gamers who want the same things from a "good game" that you do apart from specific titles.

RPG player
2007-05-18 03:23:42

Good GOD! Okay... look... I'm 36, I have a high tested IQ, I took philosophy in High School, where I trudged through Herodotus, and that might have been less painful than the first of those game theory essays. I think I'd be hard pressed to make a more obfuscated piece of writing.

The first article, on Simulationism starts off by NOT defining GNS, and only seems to get harder to comprehend as it goes along. I sat through a LOT of IT meetings where it seemed the sole purpose was to shell-game people into thinking you knew what the heck you were talking about by BSing a verbal maze so intricate no one could follow you, making them all have to either nod as if they followed you, look wise and say nothing, or stop the person and say "Why don't you just say something straight out?" and look like an idiot, when in fact you're not.

I felt like I was reading a paper, required to be 5000 words for a psych class or something.

Seriously. Could I just get the Cliff's Notes version?

Maybe it's just that I'm tired, and cranky. Or, maybe this author (and presumably the people he's been debating with on whatever boards) are overly long-winded, and are overly analyzing something that to me seems pretty straight forward.

Maybe when i'm more well-rested, and willing to wade through theory of practicum of hypothesis of quantified algorythm of pseudo-simulated double-decaf paradigms, I'll make it through.

Maybe if the author just did it like math papers, present your findings and apend your proofs, then it wouldn't have seemed so painful.

This post probably isn't helpful, but hey, it oughta generate some responses. :)

ADDENDUM: Right. So, having woken up after a few hours useful sleep, I tried plowing through the first essay again, and again abandoned it for the much more concise Wiki article covering the subjects of GNS and the Big Theory (linked above. thanks!)

Suppose you are playing a character that is a military strategist. Part of the character's work is what would be called 'Gamist' in the GNS model, but you are exploring the character in a Simulationist game. The GNS model seems to fail to understand the possibility of such a situation, stating rather that these are mutually exclusive and that players with different agendas will wreck each other's game, as if only one agenda is clear in any given game. Further, every game, in my opinion, should pose moral delemas (what seems to be the idea of Narrativist style games). So, let's say you are playing a ship captain in the Birtish navy in 1813, faced with hunting down a personal friend of yours that has defected to the American navy. Is this a Gamist (since you must use naval strategies to attempt to stop him, in theory), a Simulationist (since you are immersed in the role of a specific class of person, in a particular time and place, theoretically trying to imagine yourslef living that person's life), or a Narrativist (because you are exploring the themes of betrayal, friendship, patriotism, and possibly the rights of the common sailor) game?

Now that I have an understanding of the terms, I have to say I don't solidly fit any of the categories, nor do the games I run. I suppose I lean toward Simulationist, but often fit the other two categories as well.

2007-05-18 12:11:46

So, let's say you are playing a ship captain in the Birtish navy in 1813, faced with hunting down a personal friend of yours that has defected to the American navy. Is this a Gamist (since you must use naval strategies to attempt to stop him, in theory), a Simulationist (since you are immersed in the role of a specific class of person, in a particular time and place, theoretically trying to imagine yourslef living that person's life), or a Narrativist (because you are exploring the themes of betrayal, friendship, patriotism, and possibly the rights of the common sailor) game?

The GNS Theory is not suggesting different elements can't exist in a single game rather it suggests games are "more fun" if they unapologetically focus on one.

In your example all three modes are clearly present, the big question is when you try to implement your example how well does it work? Does everyone have fun or merely tolerate those portions of play that don't focus on what they like best.

For example, have you ever noticed the player who excels at the naval strategy portions of the game pouting while a different player explores the relationship between enemy combatants? How about the player who really digs how realistically the the tactical rules appear on paper? Does that player fume in righteous indignation when the first player pulls of a risky cinematic feat supported by the rules but on closer examination it seems highly improbable it should have succeeded? Is the result of the clash between player one and player two a never ending stream of house rules to settle the situation - see calvinballist -? If you have seen these behaviors then you have seen evidence that supports GNS theory.

What I take away is not a dogma that insists that different modes of play are mutually exclusive. Instead, I see a declaration that up-ends the traditionalist notions sold to us by TSR and WOTC for decades... that a good game is one that balances all three elements, the more players in a game the better, there is one agreed upon way to play role playing games, if there is a question create a rule, etc.

One of the things you said that I found interesting - I paraphrase - is that Edwards is longwinded and basically stating the obvious. The question everyone should ask themselves is "Is what I like about RPGs what everyone else likes?" I know that when I GM I'm guilty of running a game the way I would like to play it... the players haven't always agreed. Now if you are one of the few fortunate ones who have played for years with the same people since highschool or college... well frankly, I'm jelous and you won't find very useful information in GNS theory because you have moderated your expectations in the interest of friendship. But for the rest of us gamers out there trying to cobble together games with aquantences, or people from work, or people from Nearby Gamers some guidance on "how to make it work" is a breath of fresh air. "Just do it" sort of falls flat.

PS - I would agree the essays are a bit heavy at times. I had to read and re-read several sections of all three essays. I also think its fair to say that as compositions the essays lack focus and many of the examples are too obscure; however, I found them very educational and worth the effort to understand their themes.

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