larp_musing (larp_musing) wrote,

rethinking GNS(I)

Last weekend I was at the larpwriter winter retreat. Following on from some discussions I had there (including my issue with the larpwriter summer school excluding the GNS model, and discussing how people play with an uneven mixture of creative agendas), I’ve been rethinking the model.
So, let’s suppose there are 4 creative agendas (GNS, plus I):
G = Gamist, playing to win (the ‘gamer’s bill of rights’ manifesto)
N = Narrativist, playing to create a strong narrative (‘the storyteller’s agenda’ manifesto)
S = Simulationist, playing to explore an internally consistent setting (some say, the Bristol manifesto*)
I = Immersionist, playing to experience a character. (the turku manifesto)
If we accept there are 4 (I do, even if S and I are close in conceptual space), this got me thinking that actually we should be able to express them on two distinct axis, rather than has four categories. (in the same way the classical 4 humour system as personality types can now be understood by a 2 axis model in psychology).
I came up with this:

                 Gam  |   Nar 
self          -----------------           world
               Imm   |   Sim
The vertical axis is from non-diegetic at the top, to diegetic at the bottom. (or in layman speak, from ‘player’ to ‘character’).
The horizontal axis is from ‘self’ on the left to ‘world’ on the right. (as an aside, this is comparable to introversion - extroversion in some respects)
Gamist is non-diegetic and first person. The player is trying to achieve a win-state they have defined. This agenda is external to the fiction itself.
Narrativist is non-diegetic and third person. The player is trying to create a good story for the players. This agenda is external to the fiction itself.
Immersion is diegetic and first person. The player is focusing on becoming the character, and living within the fiction.
Simulationism is diegetic and third person. The player is focusing on maintaining a consistent setting (including their character’s inner life), within the fiction for everyone.
One could argue (and indeed I have in the past, if not so explicitly) that immersionist is also ‘world’ orientated; by becoming the character and remaining true to them, you support the wider simulationism and the immersion of the other players by not breaking the illusion. To not do so disenfranchises the other players by ignoring their influence the actions of their characters had on yours (e.g. someone spends a lot of time and effort playing to persuade/pressure your character to do X, but you disregard it all because you decide doing Y is better for the story or more likely to result in a win). While this is true, it’s important to understand the axis here relate into thought processes (remember, these are ‘agendas’).  The immersionist’s thoughts are focused on becoming the characters and then thinking as the character (or, aspiring to this as a goal, even if it’s actually impossible to fully reach it), the simuliationist’s thoughts are focused on the wider setting.
There are also other creative agendas. In the past I’ve referred to a five pointed model with a ‘social’ agenda (such as, a player playing to spend time with their partner). In this model this would be non-diegetic might either be self based (e.g. playing for a personal agenda, such as networking or trading), or world based (e.g. someone playing to support a friend).  These agendas are distinct in they are grossly non-diegetic; the gamist non-diegeticly sets and plays for a win-state for the diegetic fiction, the social agenda plays for non-diegetic goals.
Complicating the model to include this agenda then, gives us:
               SocS  |   SocW                             (non-diegetic agendas)
                Gam  |   Nar                                (non-diegetic agendas to shape the diegesis)
  self       -----------------        world  
               Imm   |   Sim                               (diegetic agendas)

I feel we need some new terms for social-self and social-world agendas, but don’t have any in mind yet.
Remember that creative agenda can be both an expression of the play style(s) the scenario is intended to support (the intended use of GNS theory) and the agenda of a particular player. Also, bear in mind it can vary even moment by moment.  An immersionist may be playing a vampire larp, but when the player needs to use the toilet (since their character doesn’t), they suddenly switch to a social-self agenda briefly.
(*While it’s been referred to as a simulationist manifesto, the Bristol manifesto actually took the position that the players should immerse, the organiser should simulate the world, and story should be a natural emergent property of sufficiently interesting situations)

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