How Do You Like Your Gamism?

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I think a major problem with this article is it wasn’t written by a gamist, and it didn’t provoke any discussion among gamists to refine it. Instead, RPG discourse seems focused mostly on GDS-style gamism or on other styles indirectly (such as OSR-style play focused on player skill) where proponents of that style may not recognize it as gamist due to hostility and assumptions inculcated towards gamism.
These articles were the result of a lot of discussion.
 

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Pedantic

Legend
I dislike the GDS and GNS definitions of gamism. I think the GDS definition is actually problematic in that it’s clearly set up as a containment policy for gamists. GNS at least recognizes that problem, but I’m still not fond of the definition it provides. I don’t like the axes of competition and challenge (or the other commentary regarding performance). For me, gamism is about your skill as a player and overcoming the challenges you set. Those challenges need not necessarily be fair either because “fair” in the RPG space usually comes with an expectation the players should win, and a rigged game is not much of a game.

Circling back to the actual question in the OP, I describe my homebrew system and my campaign as “gamist”. There is an attrition and resource model you have to manage. If you aren’t careful and smart with your play, you will be worn down. That can eventually necessitate a retreat, but it takes time to recover, and the world continues on regardless (with structures and procedures for handling that sort of thing). The problems the player face are not necessarily tuned to their capabilities.

Last session, the party ended up having to deal with a bulette. It’s 9th level while they’re only 5th. It will kill most PCs of their level in one round, though the barbarian is a bit sturdier and should be able to survive the first to die in the second. They’ve been able to lure it away a few times, but eventually they needed to take it out. That required working with allies (because it was too risky doing it on their own), which came with its own costs (because the vampire friend they asked for help wanted more from them after they got a mixed Success on a negotiation skill check).

I guess that’s #1 on the above list, but the description after the enumeration would also suggest #1 and #2. I don’t like how mushy and imprecise that is. It doesn’t really resonate with me at all. I think a major problem with this article is it wasn’t written by a gamist, and it didn’t provoke any discussion among gamists to refine it. Instead, RPG discourse seems focused mostly on GDS-style gamism or on other styles indirectly (such as OSR-style play focused on player skill) where proponents of that style may not recognize it as gamist due to hostility and assumptions inculcated towards gamism.
I've also been pretty disappointed with Edward's take, for two reasons.

First, It's so focused on social hierarchy and reward structures, which I think can be a function of games, but is not the only or even the primary one. I play a lot of no-randomness, quite heavy board games, ranging from con-sims to 18XX to assorted euros. I mostly play with the same people, and we have a pretty solid understanding at this point of our win percentages, which don't really vary that much from game to game, and follow similar patterns. E tends to win in early plays, I tend to win once when I find a previously unexpected strategy and exploit it, N and C tend to win more often the longer we play the same game.

The reason we'd give for playing would involve describing novel board states, and/or "interesting decisions." Competition isn't a goal, it's a means to produce the thing that's actually engaging. Games essentially serve to magnify the impact of decision making. You submit to a system that limits your choices, proscribing what actions can and cannot be performed, and you agree to a victory condition (usually mandated by the game itself, but sometimes by personal or mutual agreement) against which your choices can be evaluated, and by doing so you ensure that each decision you make will have a greater impact than most decisions we make in or normal lives, and that the impact of that decision will be understood in a knowable way and the consequences felt in a reasonable timeframe.

The point isn't to win, it's to chew on those decisions. In order to ensure they can be evaluated, you agree to trying to win as a condition to play at all. The appeal of TTRPGs in this space is that they provide a clear, sensible mechanism to link what would otherwise have to be multiple games into a contiguous experience, and have the potential to provide a much wider set of action declarations than most games can really handle.

Secondly, I think it's a mistake to lump the thrill of gambling in with gaming. Those are two things that I think can happen at the same time, but are not intrinsically connected or even necessarily related in the way Edwards proposes. Risks are interesting in games, but only when they're knowable, and are subject to analysis. Picking between risks, deciding when it's more advantageous to put more at risk in exchange for husbanding resources and so. In discussing a game after the fact, one might point to a risk and either defend it as the best choice given the information, or concede that given the downside that emerged, a different choice would have made more sense. The actual thrill of reveal, of giving up control and finding out whether or not things worked out as you wanted, isn't compelling on the same axis. It's a totally different kind of enjoyment that one doesn't need the rest of games to enjoy.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
These articles were the result of a lot of discussion.
My point was about subsequent development. There has been considerable discourse regarding Story Now but comparatively little about Step On Up. At the very least, I’d want to align the terminology with that used in other gaming (such as PvE in place of “Step On Up” and PvP in place of “Challenge”).
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
My point was about subsequent development. There has been considerable discourse regarding Story Now but comparatively little about Step On Up. At the very least, I’d want to align the terminology with that used in other gaming (such as PvE in place of “Step On Up” and PvP in place of “Challenge”).

I think your first post was accurate.

It's been well-documented that the "G" in GDS was an afterthought.

Arguably, the "GS" in GNS is relatively non-existent for those who enjoy those playstyles; I have often thought that "GNS" is best viewed as a critique of prevailing play culture in an attempt to put forward a better foundation for "N" than it is a real attempt at explaining or understanding the other aspects of play.

That said, there has always been very little focus on the "game" aspects of RPGs. Especially in comparison to other fields (boardgames, videogames).
 

Pedantic

Legend
Oh, I also found Edward's thesis that there is some special kind of Gamism related appeal that's unique to TTRPGs and not other games quite weak. I don't necessarily disagree that there is such a unique appeal, but I don't think he actually makes a case for it and doesn't do any real work toward explicating how and why such a thing might exist uniquely in the TTRPG space.

To be honest, I'm generally frustrated that TTRPGs are so willing to dilute gameplay in favor of their other concerns. I don't think a purely "Gamist" game should start with a classic TTRPG basis, rather it should begin with a study of board games and then trying to grasp how they might be expanded and enhanced by bringing in RPG elements. If you were striving for a strictly Gamist creation, it should first and foremost be a game, to which RPG elements would need to justify how they enhance (or at least don't harm) the core gameplay loop.

I find myself arguing for or defending things that get called Simulation priorities regularly, not so much because they are important in and of themselves, but instead because they often seem necessary to have a consistent, playable board state.
 
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payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I agree with many objections stated so far. If I had to choose, id go with #4 as my default. Though, I let system, group, and campaign style dictate. That also means that any level can go up or down variably during play.
 

I like my narrativism to be "enjoying a roleplaying game because of the story it generates"
I like my simualtionism to be "enjoying a roleplaying game because I enjoy seeing events play out in a realistic fashion"
I like my gamism to "enjoying a roleplaying game because it challenges me to use the rules in creative ways"

The forge model is old, and we've moved on; assuming that a "game" MUST be about competition is a bit old-fashioned and does not reflect a lot of people's enjoyment of crunchy systems and complex rulesets. Nothing about the statements in the article quoted seem relevant to my strong enjoyment of D&D 4E, for example.
 



They should use "come at me bro!"
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