I don't find it puzzling at all, and I find it puzzling that you do
in one of our earliest encounters on this site, you identified yourself as a "Forgite" (or something similar, Forgist maybe?). Surely you meant to imply something more significant with that than you have participated in their forums, yes? I am fairly confident, given the context, that you meant to imply that you accept the general conclusions of the GNS theories, etc. and not that you adhere/advocate the principles you outline above.
I would have used it as a shorthand label, yes. It certainly doesn't mean I have participated in their forums (I haven't, because I prefer to post pseudonymously); it means I find their general approach helpful.
But that approach is (roughly) the approach of sincerity and clarity I mentioned above: I could add to the stress on honest actual play reports, analytic clarity. But GNS isn't the only contribution of the site to analytic clarity, and is not the one that I most use. I think the analysis of authority over various elements of the fiction - backstory, situation, plot, moment-by-moment colour - which is (as far as I know) not found in any of the essays but able to be pieced together from various posts by Edwards, Paul Czege and others (plus posts by Vincent Baker on his own site) - is the most valuable contribution from The Forge. And - like GNS itself - it is not an advocacy for any particular type of play, but a tool for analytic clarity.
the site does (IMO) a very poor job distinguishing its presentation of the theories as distinct from the other portions of its mission.Take a look at the "Story Now" essay page. Is there a disclaimer anywhere that these views don't represent the views of the Forge, or that they only represent the views of the author? If there is, it doesn't show on my browser.
Here is the opening part of the essay
Acknowledgments are due to Mike Holmes, Ralph Mazza, Christopher Kubasik, Jesse Burneko, Paul Czege, Clinton R. Nixon, Vincent Baker, Seth Ben-Ezra, M. J. Young, Chris Chinn, Pete Darby, Gordon C. Landis, Walt Freitag, and Matt Snyder for comments on the first draft of this essay. All mistakes or misattributions should be considered my responsibility.
This is the third of three essays building upon the topics addressed in "GNS and other matters of role-playing theory" . . .
In the first two essays, I began presenting an overall model of role-playing, but piecemeal and in stumbling verbal form. As of this writing, I've finished that model, and it is included here as well.
The (fairly standard) remark about "mistakes and misattributions", plus the repeated use of "I", have always been sufficient indication to me that I'm reading Edwards' work. The content of the essays has always to me been clearly an attempt at ideal-type analysis of RPG techniques and RPG play. There is also the stuff - less important, in my view - about only one mode of play being possible at a time, but that rests on a psychological premise about the capabilities of human aesthetic striving about which I personally am doubtful. I think that simulationism - insofar as it eschews metagame - is incompatible with gamism or narrativism pretty much as a matter of logic, but I think gamism and narrativism are not necessarily incompatible, or rather that "stepping on up", which brings with it notions of ego and courage, can fairly easily bleed into "thematic protagonism", which can also be about ego and courage. (Edwards in the Story Now essay even grades various narrativist systems by how much they demand of their participants in thematic and emotional terms - were 4e to be graded it would be somewhere towards the bottom! - and in the earlier "Step on Up" essay describes narrativism and gamism as using similar techniques to different aesthetic ends.)
I'll admit that the line between analysis and principles or advocacy is not always clear cut, but my interest in The Forge is in the power of its analysis. (For instance, Edwards called the exact mechanical division lines of the 3E/4e split back in his Step on Up essay - it is precisely over those mechanical techniques that gamism and narrativism, but not process simulationism, can share.) The fact that the intellectual leaders of The Forge would regard my own game as shallow and derivative has never bothered me: I am not looking to roleplay with them, just to benefit from their insight. (There are in fact reasons to be sceptical of aspects of Frege's analysis of language and logic, but his political beliefs aren't among them. Mutatis mutandis, I view Edwards and The Forge in the same way.)
It may because I am used to drawing some of these distinctions in my day job (I am an academic lawyer and philosopher) that I don't find it hard to do so with The Forge - for instance, there are plenty of theorists in the fields in which I work whose analysis I find very powerful although I do not share their views of what would be desirable in human affairs, and whom I know would equally disagree with my own evaluative conclusions.
Do you figure that a person going to that page to discover what you or I mean by Narrativism is going to take the time to explore the rather large forums and discover that games are developed there that do not adhere to the GNS theory?
I don't reallly know what it would mean for a game to adhere to GNS theory. (Or to not adhere to it, for that matter.) GNS theory is a theory about the possible forms of aesthetic payoff from RPGing, and how certain techniques might help contribute to, or get in the way of, that payoff. Whereas a particular RPG is a set of rules and techniques for enabling multiple participants to construct and evolve fictional situations, with at least some of the participants having special responsibility for some of the persons within those fictional situations (that's the "role playing" bit). It makes sense to analyse
a RPG in GNS terms (eg Can we explain what sort of payoff it is hoping to deliver? Do we expect the rules and techniques it deploys to actually do this?), but I don't know what it means for the game to "adhere" to it: we can use chemistry to help understand how a recipe works, whether (for instance) it's really the best way to produce some desired texture or flavour (is the vinegar we've always put in there actually helping, or does the thing turn out OK in spite of the vinegar?), but it's not as if recipes adhere, or not, to chemical theory. They're just recipes.
Presumably, from the point of view of an RPG designer, there is a point or rationale for constructing and evolving the fictional situations with which the game deals - even if it's just an implicit "it's fun to pretend". I would expect any
RPG designer to think about thise issue, and to think about how the particular rules and techiques s/he is putting into his/her game will contribute to the overall endeavour. GNS theory may or may not help with this - just as some contemporary chefs use chemistry, but many don't; and just as some artists, perhaps, self-consciously draw upon the theories of critics but many (probably most) don't.
However exactly a designer thinks about the point of their game, and how their rules contribute to that point, I wouldn't particularly expect their game to make it clear how they framed their thinking. I don't particularly want the rules to be a design diary in any literal sense. I want them to tell me how the designer thinks I can best put their system to work! - but that's independent of any GNS analysis.