Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

It\’s All About Pen, Paper and People.

Much Gnashing Of Teeth

Posted by Nathan P. on September 6, 2006

or When Politics Attack: The Return of Darth Vader

or When a Fairly Reasoned Post Turns Rantastic

So, there’s a lot of misunderstanding of GNS out on the internet.

This should come as a surprise to no one.

It’s really starting to get to me, though. Now, I’m not a big GNS-head. I don’t talk about it much, and I don’t use the terms in my games, but I accept it on it’s merits and agree with many of its underlying principles and it’s framework for conceptualizing the elements of game play. But, when I see comments that demonstrate either a misunderstanding or a perversion of the theory, I feel like I’m being misrepresented. Like, GNS is heavily identified with the Forge, and I identify with the Forge, and just want to correct the errors when I see them.

But, I DON’T want to be a GNS evangelist, especially outside of the bailiwick of the Forge. Once you start spouting GNS talk, it’s easy for those who don’t buy in to it or who have some axe to grind with the Forge to dismiss you out of hand. This, I don’t want.

So I feel frustrated. I’ve written many a post, only to delete it and move on, as I don’t want to waste my time with the flames that I always see in my minds eye.

I dunno if anyone else feels the same way. How can we gently, but firmly, try to correct people when they say things that are just wrong without offending them or going down in flames? Is it possible? Is it worth the effort?


Here’s the two things I see most often (I’m sure someone reading this wants to see some examples, I know I would):

– GNS is crap because it doesn’t like D&D/GNS doesn’t account for the popularity of D&D:

The first is obviously dumb, but it’s the dumb way of saying the second. GNS has fuckall to do with how many people buy and play a game. The RPG market has been subject to a number of bizarre forces in its short history. The popularity of a given system has had almost nothing to do with its design focus until recently. Look to things like the distribution system and, like, media focus and the surrounded pop culture and crap to see why games that are popular (re: sell a lot of copies) are that way.

– Bob is a gamist/GNS divides people into only three categories of gamer:

The first is just blatent ignorance of the essays. People are not gamist, simulationist or narrativist. People can have those as Creative Agendas, but they are not identities. The second is a misreading of the theory as being far more restrictive than it actually is. GNS is all about preferance – you, or your group, can have a gamist agenda for an instance of play, and the game you’re playing can support that or not, but that doesn’t mean that you, as a person, play with only that agenda ever and never break out of it OMG.

So there’s my big two. Unless you’re Ron or Vincent or Mike, I’m not interested in debating these or defending these, FYI.

I think that satisfies my annual GNS-related post quota. I hope to get back to the RPG Design Handbook stuff soon, actually. And, like, write some games.


5 Responses to “Much Gnashing Of Teeth”

  1. I think the best idea is to just make games, powered by whatever theory works for you, and not to worry about debating minutae online. I feel like the most meaningful form for game theory to take is designed / played games.

  2. Mark Nau said

    People are hardwired to be irrationally defensive when their “Tribe” is being “attacked.” It was a survival advantage long ago. Nowadays, on the internet, it’s just a source of potentially infinite annoyance.

    So the answer is to studiously avoid doing anything that will be misinterpreted as an attack on another “tribe.” In this case, don’t debate. Just make great games. You’ll get more done AND be happier.

  3. […] Nathan Paoletta addresses a couple of the most common misunderstandings of Forge theory. […]

  4. Thanks for the logic, guys. I appreciate your reponses.

    (To address the trackback’d article – yes, I’m aware that CA is not the be-all end-all of the Big Model. And thats all I’m going to say about that.)

  5. […] I had a little discussion with my friend Kevin a while back on Livejournal about the place that “challenge” has in role-playing games, story games, and the like. It’s a discussion that comes up a fair amount, and Nathan took a good stab at it. I’d like to make some parallel coments. […]

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