Author Topic: GNS theory  (Read 10141 times)

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Shoggoth

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GNS theory
« on: November 06, 2008, 07:38:44 PM »
I don't know how interested you guys would be in doing a show about it, but I would LOVE to hear a show about GNS theory.  It may be just a little too meta or esoteric, but as Gameologists I'd love to get your take on the merits/flaws/gaping holes/usefulness/pretensions of GNS and the theories it came out of (SSS? I think?).  You could talk about the Forge movement at the same time were you so inclined.  I'm pretty deeply interested in this stuff, but I don't know how much the general gaming public knows about it.

Personally, I think GNS is a VERY useful tool but not a complete theory at the present time.  But again, I'd love to get your take on it.
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TheChrisWaits

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2008, 12:55:47 AM »
I had to look this up. Interesting stuff. I think it would make a good analytical episode.

Wolfsbaine

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2008, 03:45:12 AM »
I read the GNS theory a few months ago when reading the game Sorcerer.  I started a discussion on this with my gaming friends and wow - what an argument came out from that!

One person was absolutely offended that he was being pigeon-holed into a specific gaming category.  Another person totally rejected the theory purely based on the names of the concepts ("gamist", "strategist", "narratist").  The rest of us had hours of good-quality discussions about what we like in a game, where we see ourselves in the GNS theory, etc.

At the end of it even though people didn't agree with the GNS theory our gaming group was better for having had a long and detailed discussion about our playing styles.

Elennsar

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2008, 03:46:53 AM »
It seems to me to be valid more in "some people like more of A, an average amount of B, and little or no C." versus some other arrangement rather than "you are a _____."

I want to simulate a world's "reality" and have a good story. Which am I? Both.

Seconding the call for a show. This needs a good and through discussion.
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TheChrisWaits

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2008, 04:32:38 AM »
I want to simulate a world's "reality" and have a good story. Which am I? Both.
As stated in the article I read (which appeared to be the initial introducing of the concept), it's not so much a description of a person, but of each individual action they take. In any given situation, though, there is usually a "dominant" factor.

Shoggoth

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2008, 04:38:31 AM »
I read the GNS theory a few months ago when reading the game Sorcerer.  I started a discussion on this with my gaming friends and wow - what an argument came out from that!

One person was absolutely offended that he was being pigeon-holed into a specific gaming category.  Another person totally rejected the theory purely based on the names of the concepts ("gamist", "strategist", "narratist").  The rest of us had hours of good-quality discussions about what we like in a game, where we see ourselves in the GNS theory, etc.

At the end of it even though people didn't agree with the GNS theory our gaming group was better for having had a long and detailed discussion about our playing styles.


Interestingly enough, every time GNS is brought up to new people, they immediately try to categorize the "kind" of gamer they are, as though it were a Meyers-Briggs personality test.  I did this too.

It's far more useful to use it as terminology to discuss in meaningful terms different gaming techniques, system designs, and play styles.  For that, it's fantastic.  It's particularly useful for diagnosing dysfunction in gaming groups (Tom is playing his character very gamist, but Fred want's something more narrativist out of the game.  The system is schizo, so how do we deal with this?).
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Josh

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2008, 06:44:11 AM »
Our next show touches on GNS. 

Basically GNS is an old and awkward taxonomy. 

It served the use of moving the gaming world away from the limitations of games like DnD.  But now it is showing its age.

So we talk about it in the next episode.
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Shoggoth

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2008, 04:49:12 AM »
Our next show touches on GNS. 

Basically GNS is an old and awkward taxonomy. 

It served the use of moving the gaming world away from the limitations of games like DnD.  But now it is showing its age.

So we talk about it in the next episode.

I agree that GNS is pretty awkward, particularly when Edwards tries and only partially succeeds in defining "Narrativism".  However, I'm curious as to whether you think there is a better alternative out there which as concise?

I look forward to hearing your comments in the next podcast!
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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2008, 06:09:35 AM »
We just finished recording this episode!  We ended up turning it into a 2 parter because it got so long but it gives Part 2 a lot more time to talk about GNS.  It will be released on November 24th.
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Judging Eagle

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2008, 09:20:29 PM »
GNS is bullshit, and makes the most useless people feel as if they are justified in making, running or playing shitty games.

If you're one of the three, you have a hard time being the other two. Yet if you are either of the other two, you can do all three. Well.


With a Gamist game, you can still Tell Stories and have the game Simulate the world you're trying to create.

With a Simulationist focus, you can have a balanced game and tell stories.

With every Narrativist focused player, DM or system, you can't have a balanced game (not the focus to have balance, remember?), nor does your game even begin to simulate the square story that you've been trying to hammer into a round hole (since the rules are based on bullshit, not hard math).

Seriously, every Game-Balanced and Simulation-Focused game that I have run has had more credible, more outlandish and less hackneyed stories than and of the "Narrativist" stories that I've heard from anyone elses game.

Railroading "storytellers" can go drink hemlock tea for all I care. I find their games offensive, unbalanced and most importantly, the one thing that they are trying to do, tell stories results in the most unforgivable of crimes. They fail to tell good stories. Always. With such a great focus on a pre-set story, any deviation makes them uncomfortable and they do everything possible in order to bring the game back to their planned out storyline.

At the very least, gamist games tend to be balanced, and Simulationists games tend to help the players believe that they are in the world that their characters are in.

If I wanted that shit I'd play a Japanese "rpg."
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Shoggoth

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2008, 11:22:21 PM »
GNS is bullshit, and makes the most useless people feel as if they are justified in making, running or playing shitty games.

You're pretty angry about this!  Did GNS beat you up every day in middle school?

Quote
If you're one of the three, you have a hard time being the other two. Yet if you are either of the other two, you can do all three. Well.


With a Gamist game, you can still Tell Stories and have the game Simulate the world you're trying to create.

With a Simulationist focus, you can have a balanced game and tell stories.

With every Narrativist focused player, DM or system, you can't have a balanced game (not the focus to have balance, remember?), nor does your game even begin to simulate the square story that you've been trying to hammer into a round hole (since the rules are based on bullshit, not hard math).

Seriously, every Game-Balanced and Simulation-Focused game that I have run has had more credible, more outlandish and less hackneyed stories than and of the "Narrativist" stories that I've heard from anyone elses game.

Railroading "storytellers" can go drink hemlock tea for all I care. I find their games offensive, unbalanced and most importantly, the one thing that they are trying to do, tell stories results in the most unforgivable of crimes. They fail to tell good stories. Always. With such a great focus on a pre-set story, any deviation makes them uncomfortable and they do everything possible in order to bring the game back to their planned out storyline.

At the very least, gamist games tend to be balanced, and Simulationists games tend to help the players believe that they are in the world that their characters are in.

If I wanted that shit I'd play a Japanese "rpg."

OK, it's pretty clear to me that you've only sort of understood GNS, and also that you have run into people who are terrible GMs or players who MISUSE GNS theory to excuse really terrible play.  GNS is useful for analyzing the mechanics of a game system, and they're useful for analyzing group dynamics, but none of the three "types" requires the system to be terrible and the GM to be an asshole.

A Narrativist game is NOT a game where the GM gets to have unlimited GM fiat to tell the story, because "story" is all that matters.  Nor is it a game where the players get to dictate stuff just to screw YOU over, because them having CONTROL of the "story" is all that matters.  In fact, trying to run a Narrativist game using a system that is optimized for Gamist or Simulationist play (most of them!) is kind of tough.

And no, Narrativist games AREN'T balanced in the same way that Gamist games HAVE to be, because they aren't meant to play the same way.  D&D is focused on turn based combat - therefore, it needs to be balanced so that everybody at the table can feel like they aren't marginalized and can have a good time.  Manipulation of the system is the whole point.  In a game like Dogs in the Vineyard, the game is balanced completely differently because rather than addressing the question "What can the CHARACTER do this turn?" it addresses the question "How can the PLAYER have a stake in this challenge, and how far is he/she willing to go to get what they want?"  If the system is designed well, then it handles this stuff.  No need for railroading GMs.

Also, keep in mind that there is NO SUCH THING as a "pure" Narrativist game, or a "pure" Gamist game, if only because the players will bring their own agendas to the table regardless of system design.  The biggest mistake people make when they get into GNS theory is the misconception that you can apply a single label to what they're doing. 

Oh, and BTW, World of Darkness is NOT, and HAS NEVER BEEN a Narrativist system.  EVER.  In fact, it DISCOURAGES Narrativist play with the system.
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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2008, 11:27:44 PM »
Oh, and BTW, World of Darkness is NOT, and HAS NEVER BEEN a Narrativist system.  EVER.  In fact, it DISCOURAGES Narrativist play with the system.

Sorry about the huge snip, but how *would* you classify WoD by GNS? The rules are so shonky it can't be narrativist, and the fact that you can't kill someone by throwing them off a roof unless they bounce off some scaffolding suggests that it isn't simulationist. You insist it isn't narrativist...
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Shoggoth

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2008, 11:57:26 PM »
Oh, and BTW, World of Darkness is NOT, and HAS NEVER BEEN a Narrativist system.  EVER.  In fact, it DISCOURAGES Narrativist play with the system.

Sorry about the huge snip, but how *would* you classify WoD by GNS? The rules are so shonky it can't be narrativist, and the fact that you can't kill someone by throwing them off a roof unless they bounce off some scaffolding suggests that it isn't simulationist. You insist it isn't narrativist...

WoD is an incoherent system, which isn't really surprising seeing as how it was written way back in the day.  It was an attempt to create a Narrativist game, but it was still mired in the simulationist styles of the times, so they just worked in a whole bunch of GM fiat and scaled back the "excessive" ruleset that would make the game "seem" game-y.  Hence, rather than having a bunch of stats with numbers and sub-stats and whatnot, you just do 5 dots for each thing.  Rather than have some complex combat system, make it a rules-lite combat system which is just an application of the skill system.  Unfortunately, they didn't ADD the ruleset needed to really deal with Narrativist goals, they just stripped down the standard Simulationist ruleset (making it difficult to play in that way), made it really easy to break for maximum "character control" (making it difficult to play Gamist) and put in all that text about "The Storyteller is always right" to make the "Story" thing work.  Oh, and they added a whole game-world to play around in, which is the only thing they ever did right.
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Shoggoth

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2008, 12:02:56 AM »
I just went researching to find a term for my last reply, and I discovered that Ron Edwards has moved away from GNS and towards something he calls "The Big Model".  I'm gonna have to look into that.

Also, I suspect that this thread is in the wrong place now.   :(
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Talen Lee

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2008, 12:46:24 AM »
You know, it's probably not a good thing that after reading your opening post, the first thing I had to do was crack open Wikipedia.

Judging Eagle

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2008, 02:51:37 AM »
You know, it's probably not a good thing that after reading your opening post, the first thing I had to do was crack open Wikipedia.

No, it's actually a lot better than you think.

The Forge wasn't exactly a good place, just a place to push this pet theory//model of one of The Forge's Higher Ups. I only encountered GNS when on an other web forum myself.

Personally, I tend to find that I want mechanically balanced games that are set in a place that is believable (and the rules make it believable). The "story" in my games is the result of the first two being good.
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Talen Lee

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2008, 04:08:39 AM »
I still have no idea what the hell you're talking about. No big deal, though, it just means that I'm barred from contributing to a discussion you're having about games and gameology.

Shoggoth

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2008, 06:38:25 AM »
You know, it's probably not a good thing that after reading your opening post, the first thing I had to do was crack open Wikipedia.

No, it's actually a lot better than you think.

The Forge wasn't exactly a good place, just a place to push this pet theory//model of one of The Forge's Higher Ups. I only encountered GNS when on an other web forum myself.

Personally, I tend to find that I want mechanically balanced games that are set in a place that is believable (and the rules make it believable). The "story" in my games is the result of the first two being good.

Say what you will of GNS theory and Ron Edwards, but the Forge has been a place for some really amazing game designers to discuss and hone their ideas.  Games like My Life With Master, Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, Misspent Youth, Polaris, Shock, and a ton of others have come from the designers who get together and discuss gaming theory on that board.

From your comments you sound like someone who likes one style of play and really dislikes some others.  That's cool, but it doesn't make those other styles crap like you think it does.
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Josh

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2008, 06:47:04 AM »
I wouldn't worry about learning the intricacies of GNS.  

What you might like to know is that it was one of the major attempts to classify games in such a way that better games could be devised from principals rather than random ideas.  

A similar taxonomy is the Alpha-beta-gamma concept of social dynamics.  Alphas are leaders, betas are followers and gammas are loners.  This allows you to see that there are principals behind social dynamics.  And this model starts to evaporate when you look at it very closely, just like GNS.

So what did GNS show?

1 People like games that do different things
2 Games are capable of being different from one another
3 People like different games at different times
4 Different games address different needs

Seems obvious when you just say it, but it is a huge innovation.  

This now aging idea is not understood by most game designers. Unfortunately there is a sense of arrogance because the people in the know are a sort of clique.  
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Josh

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Re: GNS theory
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2008, 06:53:13 AM »

Say what you will of GNS theory and Ron Edwards, but the Forge has been a place for some really amazing game designers to discuss and hone their ideas.  Games like My Life With Master, Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, Misspent Youth, Polaris, Shock, and a ton of others have come from the designers who get together and discuss gaming theory on that board.

The most important thing is not that they came up with GNS.

Rather they just tried to figure out the truth.
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