Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Bricolage and Sim

So I wrote this, and for some reason that crystallized something in my head that I've been trying to figure out.

As far as I can tell, Bricolage is an intrinsic part of roleplay. In the Big Model, to me, it hovers right under Social Contract (once you have your contract, you can begin to Bricole).

However, the notion that Bricolage is the process of Sim, in the same way that addressing Premise is the process of Nar, resonates very powerfully with me. I feel like that's right, basically. But I don't know if I can square that feeling with my equally powerful feeling that Bricolage is intrinsic to all roleplay.

One thought is that Bricolage in Sim is "Bricolage on purpose", much like addressing Premise is "story on purpose." I'm not sure if that squares up true, though. More pondering to ensue.


I think it might be more accurate to typify Simulationism as "bricolage for bricolage's sake". Other CAs use bricolage (heck, all creative endeavor uses bricolage), but it's in Sim when the bricolage is the point.
I'm unsure of the bricoalge = sim thought. Like la ludisto said; all CAs use bricolage. But I'm not too sure I agree that bricolage is the point of Sim.

This may be due to an incomplete understanding of Sim on my part. I feel like I understand it well, but I have trouble articulating it. And as I have trouble articulating it, I fear that my understanding may be incomplete.

So, if I may eat up some of your blog, I'll take a moment to say what I think of simulationism. And I promise not to be shocked if no one agrees with me.

Simulationism, expressed as a moment in time during a game, is the desire to adhere the game to some form or model or ideal. That ideal is often hard to describe to one another as one source can provide different ideals to different people. One can say that you're modeling your game after Star Wars and mean lightsabres + kewl force effects or you might mean a deeper struggle between the forces of good and evil. The important bit is, at that moment in time, you have an idea in your head of what the game should be like and your choices will adhere to that ideal.

Building on that, a sim game would then be one where either an ideal is supported through system or system lures you to support your own ideal. Most games tend to the former. Sword + Skull = Death in the mechanisms is a form of Sim. Tony's new endeavour Misery Bubblegum is modeling dysfunctional relationships. Therefore that particular aspect of the game is sim.

So, that's how I identify with Sim.

What you seem to be referring to, and I hope I'm not putting words in your mouth, is exploration. As the players assemble different pieces of setting we explore the setting. In other words, as we bricolage the setting we are exploring the setting.

If our group chooses to play a Star Wars game and we each come to the table with opposing models and ideals of the Star Wars universe, does our shuffling of those ideals indicate bricolage? If so, then I agree that sim could have bricolage.

On the other hand, under the assumption that it's possible for each of us to come to the table with the same ideals in mind, I also find it possible that sim exists without bricolage.

I think your definition of Sim is a little narrow, in that it seems to restrict Sim play to emulation and derivation, without anything truly created -- just aped. Simulation can be very creative, drawing from many different sources, and some of the interest in Sim is seeing how disparate sources can interact to create something new. In that case, you are 'Simulating' that interaction and juxtaposition, not any specific genre or topic.
Ok. I'm not 100% sure of that possibility coming under the heading of sim. But, for the sake of argument, I accept it.

So, if that definition of sim is only one possibility of sim, dosen't that mean that Sim <> brilocage is the point?
Sim's pretty damn tricky. For a full discussion, I don't really feel qualified to lay out the general consensus about what Sim "is" (ask Vincent or Ben (links to the left)).

But, in general, I agree with Ludisto that it has to be more than emulation. Some have proposed "celebrationism" as the goal or process of Sim - that is, you're celebrating the source material, rather than copying or emulating it.

The more I think about it, the more appealing I find the concept of "bricolage on purpose". That is, an instance of Sim is one where the group is intentionally trying to create something entirely new and original out of all the bits and peices of their source material, whether it be thematic (the struggle between good and evil), setting or character specific (jedi knights and cool powers), or even based in another media (playing through the Star Wars trilogy as Rebel soldiers, or something). The point of Sim, as with all roleplay, is the collaborative creation of something. When you're bricoling on purpose, you're mindfully incorporating your source, as well as whatever else, into your game.

I fear that that doesn't much help, but one can hope...

Doesn't that leave Sim with still a negative definition, in the sense that Sim is then defined as mindful bricolage, without an address of Premise or a Step On Up component?

'Cause you're saying that some Sim (where sim=bricolage on purpose) could explore thematic elements (good vs. evil), but that has the propensity to fall into Narrativism. Jedi Knights with cool powers could fall into Gamism easily if the players are a person-to-person competitive lot.

So, in my mind, until a fully functional, positive definition of Sim that's qualitatively equal to those of Nar and Gam comes along - I'm firmly in the camp of saying GNS doesn't fully cut it as a comprehensive taxonomy.

I much prefer John Kim's 3D-Model of Roleplaying.

He postulates a 3x3 matrix of types of play. One axis is Theme --> Immersion --> Challenge. The other is Centralized --> Guided --> Decentralized. So what GNS classically defines as SIM, John Kim's model would describe as Centralized Theme or Immersion and Guided Immersion.

In this case Centralized refers to a single point of authority, the GM. Guided play is with a GM, but with more shrared credibility among all the players. Theme and Immersion ought to be self-explanatory.


"Oh, it's you...
Back on this horse (damn 4th of July, so busy when you do pyrotechnics...)

Jason sez "Doesn't that leave Sim with still a negative definition, in the sense that Sim is then defined as mindful bricolage, without an address of Premise or a Step On Up component?"

Eh. Maybe. I mean, isn't Nar about addressing Premise on purpose, and isn't Gam about Stepping on Up on purpose, and isn't Sim about Bricoling on purpose? I mean, it's all found in all three CAs, but whats important is which one is mindful.

That said, I dig the 3x3 model as well.
It's very much an open question whether the leading theorists of the GNS school consider Nar to require the address of Premise on purpose (mindfully). Some of what I've read seems to say that you can play Nar without deliberately addressing Premise, as long as Premise is visible to you (or conceivably to an outside observer, I'm not sure). Or suppose you deliberately create a Premise-ful situation, but in the course of subsequent play you do nothing to deliberately reinforce the Premise, instead treating it only as a situational constraint. Depending on the definition of "instance of play", it's far from clear to me if the bulk of the game would be defined as Simulationist or "vanilla Narrativism".

I have some hope for the 3D model but I find that some of the definitions for whatever might go in the Sim box are too restrictive (such as immersion or "internal cause"). The "celebration" vocabulary does nothing for me. Bricolage as I understand it (and particularly as espoused by Silmenume over at the Forge) works quite well. How do I understand it? As the manipulation of meaning structures (breaking them down and recombining them, or just combining larger structures)--for fun. Neel K. compared Sim elsewhere to language construction (for fun) which is also apt.
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