Whitehall ParaIndustries: Flaws of GNS- Part I: The Appeal

ArcologyBrian Gleichman has written a series of critical blog articles on GNS/”Big Model” game theory, the first of which is here: Whitehall ParaIndustries: Flaws of GNS- Part I: The Appeal. Some of the commentary is both instructive and amusing as well.

I have to admit, a few years ago I was very interested in GNS. Over time, I tired of the elitism and almost religious fervor that emerged with regard to Ron Edwards (the author) of said theories. I still find game design that focuses on one of the GNS triangle corners to be an interesting idea, but firmly reject that this is the only way or even the best way of categorizing games or game-play.


Gamer Preferences Quiz

I recently took M. J. Young’s Gamer’s Preferences Quiz. The Quiz is an assessment tool for a gamer’s preferences across the GNS (Gamism/Narrativism/Simulationism) and DFK (Drama/Fortune/Karma) paradigms. I was a little (although not entirely) surpised by the results. I expected Gamism to come in dead last, but there it is popping in at second. I guess you can never take the D&D out of the boy…

I do think it is important to mention that I view GNS as I view any classification tool…as just that, a tool. I do not view it (or anything at the FORGE or elsewhere) as the last word on game theory, but it can be useful (or at least interesting).

Adaen of Bridgewater–

Thank you for your interest in the Gamers Preferences Quiz. I’m afraid it is a bit out of date–that is, behind the theory somewhat. You will find a much better explanation of gamism, narrativism, and simulationism in particular at Places to Go People to Be, in the article http://ptgptb.org/0028/theory101-03.html Theory 101: Creative Agenda, third in a series on game theory.

The results of this quiz are still interesting and worth comparing, so I’ll post them for you here.

You expected to score relatively high in everything, with strong preferences in narrativism as an agenda and fortune as a mechanic, but to show preferences in the others as well.

You scored 15 in Gamism, showing the expected preference. Your answers here were somewhat erratic–top 4’s given to viewing setbacks as challenges and considering setting and story events as challenges, some preference (3) for wanting to face the top villain in a final conflict, neutral (2) on viewing role playing games as competitive, and slightly antithetical (1) toward using game mechanics tactically or always having a chance to save your character.

Narrativism showed very strong at 20, with 4’s in distinguishing plot exposition from game play, enjoying character interaction and development, and viewing setting elements as plot devices. You also gave 3’s to streamlining mechanics during combat for the sake of story flow and viewing the game as interactive story creation, the weakest aspect here a neutral 2 on the matter of whether it would be irksome for a long story to end in an abrupt climax.

Your interest in simulation registers 12, smack in the middle and thus suggesting indifference. There is, however, balance in your answers–a strong 4 for the expectation of detail against a 0 for applying rules where the player had no choice, a moderately favorable 3 view of the setting as the reality of the story against a moderately unfavorable 1 expectation that game events be realistic within the world of the game, and neutral 2s in expecting mechanics to produce a true and fair outcome, and of using the game to recreate a known story.

Turning to mechanics, you showed a strong 20 preference for drama resolution, in which decisions are made by the people involved. There was no aspect of this that you did not favor, giving 3s to expecting the referee to control events, allowing democratic resolution of events, relying on being creative articulate and convincing, and letting referees base decisions on player arguments, and pushed it to 4 for letting game events be impacted by player concerns and using metagame mechanics which give players the power to alter plots.

You expected high preference for fortune mechanics but turned out with a 10, the lowest score still considered indifferent. The only point you liked, and that only moderately, was wanting an element of chance in combat. You were moderately unfavorable toward forgiving the dice either for an unrealistically good outcome or an unexpectedly bad outcome, and for thinking there is always a chance of failure. You were neutral in the matter of letting fortune derail an undesired plot event and to systems in which chance can give the victory to the underdog.

Karma mechanics also scored indifferent, at 12. Here you had slight preferences for character ability allowing unrealistic events and for direct comparison of scores to determine outcomes, but you were still somewhat negative toward the fight always being to the strong or the weak always being the ones who die before the strong in adverse conditions. You were neutral on the importance of strategy and tactics and on being able to determine whether or not you will succeed at something before you attempt it.

I include a few caveats with the scores.

First, the questions mix strong and weak aspects of all six models of gaming. Few people are completely in favor of extreme concepts of any of these or completely against mild concepts. Consequently moderate and even low scores may reflect favoring a mild form of a particular concept and a rejection of extreme applications.

Second, each model has been represented by six distinct concepts within it. A player who strongly favors one concept might score very poorly on the model even though in one sense he prefers games within that model. For example, in the drama mechanic, only question 2F addresses “Referee Fiat”, the basic tool of drama in which the referee controls all outcomes. A player who prefers a game in which all outcomes are so determined might rate low on all other drama tools–real life affecting game events, democratic resolution, plot cards, creative expression, player argument for success. Such a player wants a drama-based game, but will score poorly here because his interest is very narrowly in one aspect of drama.

Third, the first question poses a problem which will skew results between goals and mechanics. A player who finds the situation presented unacceptable will score higher on goals and lower on mechanics; a player who finds that situation positive will score lower on goals and higher on mechanics overall. At this point it is thought that this is a valuable aspect of the question, as it helps distinguish whether mechanics or goals are more important to the player’s ideal of gaming.

Again, the understanding of exactly what “GNS” means and how these things work has grown significantly in the years since this quiz first appeared. While the quiz may still show much about your personal attitudes toward gaming, it does not do that good a job of reflecting what these “creative agenda” really are, as it approaches methods not motives, and motives are much more important in that matter.

I hope this helps. Thanks again for your note.

–M. J. Young
Books by the author: http://www.mjyoung.net/publish/

It is available in several formats including one with personal commentary from MJY himself (which is the one that I chose to complete). All in all, a pretty decent quiz I have to say. Nice work MJY.