madunkieg: The Fool from the tarot deck (Default)
I want to write about genres, but I've encountered a problem with writing about the genre of story games. This doesn't refer to story games which include all role-playing games and other games. I'm referring to a style of game that is usually talked about in threads like, "Story game-ifying (insert name of RPG here)."

This definitely points to the existence of a genre. The threads are based on how different The Forge's style of rules are from the traditional ways of building RPGs. What they fail to get is that the experience is different because the players and GM are treated differently. Yes, the rules matter, but it's not just the rules. It appears in the how-to-run and how-to-play advice that accompanies the rules. Sometimes there are rules governing the creation of the setting. Instead of leaving it up to a GM, story games give that power of creation to everyone.

What makes this so difficult to write about is that these threads usually don't mention games in them, only rules from games. Of course, if you're familiar with enough story games, you can probably guess which game they took inspiration from, but those are only guesses.

Of course, there are other threads which call for lists of games that possess a certain rule, such as lists of GM-less games, but counting games from those threads assumes that all story games are gm-less, which is far from true. As I mentioned in my previous post, that sort of turns the concept of genre on its head anyways.

I'll have to think about this to determine what, if any, method could be used to build my research sample.
madunkieg: The Fool from the tarot deck (Default)
I had already come to the conclusion that role-playing gaming genres like narrativism consist of more than just rules, but what if the rules aren't a part of the genre at all?

That proposal is pretty bold. Of course the rules will be part of the genre, but which type of rule is different for each game. What they all share, however, is that they put the player at the centre of the story.

I'd like to differentiate players from gamemasters (GMs), because narrativist games tend to either disempower the GM or place the responsibilities of GMs in the hands of the players. In contrast, traditional RPGs tend to treat the rules as a weapon for the GM to use.

But what does this mean for a community of designers that supports the idea that the rules matter? The key is to think of the designer's voice being the rules. Choosing a particular narrativist game is similar to proposing the topic of a conversation. The players are then encouraged to give their own viewpoints on that topic. Those viewpoints are then run by the GM, or whoever holds that responsibility at that moment, who interprets it for the rules.

And viola, you get the narrativist genre, where rules matter, but it doesn't rely on any specific rule. That's why it's so hard to explain narrativism to a die hard fan of Dungeons & Dragons. Narrativism is about exploring different viewpoints.

If that's true for narrativism, how do I apply these principles to the other role-playing game genres?
madunkieg: The Fool from the tarot deck (Default)
The concept of genres has many definitions, but I prefer this one:

A genre is a repeatable but open pattern of communication which is shaped by a combination of expectations held by many people and which may be catered to by others. A communication may simultaneously conform to many genres or different types of genres, such as thematic or functional.

Unfortunately, I can come up with genres that threaten even that definition. The term board games, for instance, is spoken of as a genre, but there's a difference. Board games are dominated by one material characteristic, the board. That differentiates them from card games, war games, and even role-playing games.

Is there such a thing as a material genre, or is this just another example of a functional genre? I've always assumed that a functional genre referred to the rules, but if pictures are interpretable as rhetoric (I'm using the academic interpretation of that word, not the common understanding), then it reasons that a board would be even easier to interpret as such.
madunkieg: The Fool from the tarot deck (Default)
The online game design community I planned to study was originally based around The Forge. They established a series of role-playing game (RPG) subgenres, initially called: gamist, narrativist and simulationist (GNS). I developed a working definition of what a genre is, but I had no idea how to study genres. I've had to discover how to do that by reading the work of others.

Despite GNS being an important feature of my proposal, I actually failed to define how each subgenre differed from one another. For example, a narrativist RPG incorporates an open-ended question into both its play and its rules. Gamist RPGs were competitive, but they may or may not incorporate winners and losers. Simulationist RPGs were, well, they were complicated, so I'll leave that explanation for a future post.

Instead, I wanted to explore all the special types of rules which became commonplace within The Forge community and its diaspora, such as scenes or fruitful void. The exact definition of those terms varies a bit from designer to designer, giving me more topics for future posts.

Yes, I still plan to study these features, but I believe that the GNS subgenres caused certain rules to become more commonplace, while minimizing or eliminating other rules. Now that I'm no longer involved in the PhD program, I can also study the OSR genre, despite its origins being in another community.

More posts will follow as I figure out new things about this topic.

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madunkieg: The Fool from the tarot deck (Default)
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