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More Than One Genre of Theory

January 18th, 2007 (02:23 pm)

current location: Enslavement
current mood: thoughtful
current song: MPR.org

So, I've been thinking.

After reading Brand Robins' GNS and Genre Theory, I felt a few profound thoughts coming on. Fortunately, I avoided that and all the pretentiousness that goes with it. But it left me feeling the beginnings of a few things.

1) I think it might be better to elevate the 'genre discussion' to the point where GNS is, in itself, a genre of gaming thought.

2) There was this other post I saw late last year (damned if I cannot find it), in it there was discussion about how there are mutually exclusive yet valid theories at work in the fields of (and I'm only vaguely remembering here) psychoanalysis and sociology. The idea is that there is this stuff (psychology / sociology / RPG theory), where they have these theories (neofreudianism / anomie / GNS), which don't work well with others of the same field (help me out here, I'm no expert).

Basically, let's say that GNS in only one genre of RPG theory. Let's also say we are looking at others. Now because of what Brand said, you can't really delineate a genre, but you can characterize it and give cardinal examples.

So I'd like to characterize GNS in an attempt to get a better perspective of other theories. For example, can we say that GNS is largely system focused? That perhaps it's best strength is examining gaming where a story (classically) subverts all other drives in gaming 'output?' Or should it be characterized as 'output stressing?'

I'm just getting started here, but I'm stuck. Any other ideas?



Posted by: Timothy Mark R. (infinidimincorp)
Posted at: January 22nd, 2007 11:20 am (UTC)

I don't know, Brand suggests that a genre is a social convention, and whilst I can see how G N and S can individually be defined by social convention, I don't really see how the idea of creative agendas as discrete entities is a transient social convention of roleplay. I'd be more tempted to conclude that the big model was a model of roleplay gaming, and that there may be other, incompatible and yet valid models of gaming out there.

Because the Big Model is a model, right?

It is a way to think about how games work. It allows us to communicate about roleplay, to think about how we design games, it gives us a framework to consider player behaviour.

Like any scientific model it's built to explain and explore the observable phenomena, it allows us to make predictions about the elements within the model. It allows me to reason, "Hmm, if I make these explicit changes in social contract, how can I expect my thursday Afraid game to play differently?" To the extent that the changes lead to the predicted differences in play, the model can be judged to be successful. To the extent that I am able to explain how these changes lead to differences in play, the model can be said to be successful. To the extent that all play can be considered and described, the model can be said to be successful.

But it's just a model. I don't think anyone is saying that everything that happens during the course of roleplay gaming is and is exactly described by the Big Model. There are simplifications, generalisations, abstractions within the Big Model. I don't think this is a failing of The Big Model, because I think that what happens during the enormity of roleplay would be impossible to describe fully and exactly.

And maybe I want to have a conversation about immersion, and I think that I'd rather use Mo's ideas about kenosis to discuss what's happening at the table. Kenosis isn't incompatible with the Big Model, but a discussion at this level isn't really what the Big Model is for, so we use something else instead.

It's rather like being an astronomer in the early days of the Copernican revolution. If I actually want to predict where I'll see the planets in the sky then I'm best off using a geocentric model, with the sun orbiting the earth, because that model was better for actually predicting and explaining observable events at the time. If I want to progress the field of astronomy, I need to think about using the heliocentric model, with the earth going round the sun, because that's the model that was going somewhere during that period. The two models are incompatible, but they are both useful in context.

And the revolution of the planets is a very simple thing compared with the complexity of the phenomena that is roleplay gaming. It's obvious that there will be greater diversity of thought, and a greater degree of abstraction and a greater number of useful but different models.

But are they genres? That I'm not so sure about.


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