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From your article, it seems that the way to approach game design is to first stereotype all gamers, slotting them into two groups—which I imagine is so much easier than three or four, right? You write:
Jim [Getz] first suggested that gamers are either literalists and process oriented, or abstractionists and results oriented, in their expectations of a game design.
But that isn’t all. The reason gamers like or dislike games has nothing to do with the actual designs. Game design is all about those two stereotypes—the gamers themselves and what they want. You write:
It isn’t anything intrinsic in the game design that leads to rejection of most rule designs, or even claims about whether they are impossible to play, but, rather, it is the gamers’ themselves!
Whew. It’s all about personalities, not the games. That resolves so many design issues. It’s all on the gamers. From past experience, there is no question about which group Bandit and I have been consigned to by you. All of your responses to us seem to be viewed through this bipolar filter. I hear the chant in the background. “There’s them and there’s Us. There’s Them and there’s Us.” It does make you wonder how it is that I played Piquet, it’s variants and so many other ‘results oriented’ narrative games for so many years right up to today while being such a blind and hardened Literalist.
So you then analyze game design by gamer type:
[Process gamers] want the game rules to break down each action into discrete steps that are each considered and overtly resolved, without equivocation or the “fog of war.”
This, alone, defeats the narrative games designs appeal to those who just want to be told what to do. Narrative games usually have a “puzzle” aspect to figuring out the interaction of the various rules systems for best effect. Process designs are explicit in their demands, while Results/Narrative designs are implicit.
While sounding so astute, there is so much air in this analysis, the real, practical game design issues are completely lost.
- Process games have no ‘puzzle’ aspect where gamers figure out the interaction of various rules systems. Really? Have you ever read anything on the Empire lists?
- Narrative games don’t have discrete steps? They are games, aren’t they?
- Process games never have ‘fog of war’ aspects to them?
- Narrative players aren’t ‘told’ what to do and how to play with the rules?
- Narrative games don’t have explicit game mechanics while Process games have no implicit understandings?
I don’t think so…
How much is missed with this kind of design analysis by ‘gamer stereotype’ is evident in this observation:
Process oriented gamers simply feel that they don’t have enough information, or control, in a narrative game. It is too abstract in it’s weighing of variables, too unpredictable. They often refuse to play because the game makes no sense to them. When I first introduced Piquet many years ago, I remember Pat Condray deeming the design “Zen Wargaming” because it didn’t supply him with the, until then, “Normal” construct of facts, process, and accreted results that he had known for his entire gaming career.
You neatly boxed Pat’s comments and completely missed why Pat deemed Piquet “Zen Wargaming.” It wasn’t because Picquet failed to be ‘normal’, or failed to supply him with control, or even that it was too abstract, though it was. The issue was that such things as Impetus points, buying Opportunity Points, giving up Impetus with routed units, having your army do nothing for several turns etc. etc. etc. had no connections to any known historical activities. No one knew what the mechanics ‘abstracted’ of battle. The mechanics ‘just existed’ as something the player did. Zen. I can remember years ago on your Picquet list how many posters would spend inordinate amounts of time guessing what those things *could* represent on the battlefield without any satisfactory resolution. Zen. It is no surprise that most all of those mystery abstractions were eliminated with Field of Battle. A lot less procedure heavy too.
The same failure to understand can be seen with Sam Mustafa’s TMP post a few years ago. He described putting together a WWII multiple plane combat process involving several die rolls. Play-testers accepted the processes without comment. He then found that he could get the same range of results by replacing the involved set of processes with just one die roll. The same playtesters then complained that the results didn’t ‘feel’ right, were unrealistic, even though they were the same range of results as before. Sam’s conclusion: It all had to do with players’ personalities. And guess which slot of Bob’s two types he consigned them to?
Sadly, that wasn’t the issue at all. What was missing for Pat C., the Piquet posters and Sam’s playtesters was:
They all simply didn’t know what the story was about. As you do note:
They often refuse to play because the game makes no sense to them.
That is a failure in the story-telling narrative.