For a few weeks now I have been in the process of doing short clips (no, really!) on my YouTube channel which are intended to serve as an introduction to a style of play which I feel was more common in the past than it is now. Although badly or misleadingly named (and I apologize for bowing to convenience in using it myself), games which lean toward simulation can be very powerful experiences and I think the approach is worth sharing. Each clip (10-minute or shorter run times, I swear!) touches on one aspect of how to envision, pitch, and run a game in this style. The series is not yet complete, and it needs further support here on Casting Shadows, but it is well-enough underway – with enough supporting material here on the blog already – for me to share.
What is meant by simulationist?
If you are interested in a more complete explanation of the simulation aspect of play styles, then I recommend that you explore the following links:
There are of course more, but these are long and exhaustive and old enough for their core concepts to have been circulated in one form or another through a broad swath of gamers. It should be said up-front that I found these terms long after I had come to terms with what my preferred play style was, and thankfully was oblivious to all the keyboard wars which surged around this and other theories of gaming. It is important to note also that much of the gaming theory community has moved on from this simple three mode idea of gaming.
I use the term simulation recognizing its initial intent in relation to gaming and its actual meaning and that is about as far as my own partisanship goes. If my simulation is not your simulation, let’s agree to disagree on what it is, and whenever I use the word in my posts, feel free to replace it with a different word in your own mind (Rosebud…?). Once the next paragraph is complete, I do not want to waste any more of your time or my time defining simulation. (I get the feeling I will repeat that sentiment when Immersion raises its head.)
Ok… what do you mean by simulationist?
For me, it is simple – particularly in comparison to the articles on the Forge. Simulationism is the adoption of a play style which allows the story to develop from the plausible interaction of its design elements as though the game world were real. The story develops on its own in play. The player and non-player characters are portrayed as though their drives and the results of their actions have consequences, as though there were a tomorrow and a day after tomorrow. Decisions are made from a plausible rooting in an internally consistent character, in an internally consistent world, and the GM-controlled aspects spawned by those decisions are determined according to those rules, not by the constraints, traditions, or impulses of fiction. For more on this idea, please read Let the beats fall where they may.
What does immersion have to do with this?
Again, simply put, I feel that simulation lends itself very well to the natural development of an immersive play style, and makes it easy for those who prefer immersion to achieve it consistently over the long haul. It is also hard to talk about the one without referencing the other, so why fight it?
Immersion is as prone to varied meanings as simulation and a very good article concerning it can be found on Mxyzplk’s Geek Related blog: On Immersion. I have written a number on the idea myself, but we can look at those later.
Before you ask, my usage of the term immersion will relate to the concepts mentioned above of treating the character being played as though it were a real person facing real consequence for actions, and to the idea of choosing to deeply explore a character that is not just an extension of your own personality. It is not acting, the best word I can find is exploration. Acting is concerned with externalizing the inner life of the character and producing a performance which the audience can connect with and understand. Immersive gaming is not concerned with portraying that inner life any more than a person is in real life. It is about producing a recognizable and consistent portrayal of someone who is not you, and interacting with the game world in the first person. This brief explanation may cause confusion or contention, but as above – let’s agree to disagree for now just so that we can pass through the perilous forest of naming conventions and out onto the great plains of shared understanding.
Why are you pushing this?
I am not pushing it, I am describing it so that others who might enjoy it, but who may not have been exposed to it, can get a more practical, less academically obfuscated, and hopefully more objective introduction. I do love this style of gaming, but it is my preferred style, not my exclusive style.
The playlist [Click Here] will continue to expand until the series is complete. The list is still being added to regularly at the time of writing. The basic format is an overview of linked concepts in short clips followed by real world examples in short follow-up clips. Concepts from the clips will be transcribed into posts here along with important items from the YouTube comments section for deeper discussion in a format of more convenience: text.
Darken others' doors: