As part of my efforts to create a roleplaying model that makes sense to me, I've been reading a lot of other models. You know what? There's a lot of good stuff out there! I'd like to take a few minutes here to give some shout outs – not to models per se, but to broad features of those models that I feel are crucial to understanding roleplaying. I'm looking here at the structure of models in a very high-level, abstract sense. Here we go:
- I think it's important to recognize, first, that roleplaying is an activity that happens over time, and second, the current state of the game is therefore a snapshot of a ongoing process. From there, the next leap is to realize that multiple sub-processes may be occurring simultaneously. Naturally, no one covers this ground better than the Process Model. While these insights may seem stunningly obvious, they're sometimes overlooked, and the Process Model's forceful statements in this regard are pure genius. When the process nature of roleplaying isn't paid adequate attention, we often end up reifying a process into an object and confusing ourselves (e.g. System and Creative Agenda.) As another model that explicitly touches on the passage of time, the AGE Model deserves mention.
- Feedback loops
- Since the state of the game changes over time, it's apparently intuitively obvious to nearly everyone that the present state of the game influences what we do next, and what we do influences what the next state will be. A model without some sort of feedback loop would seem to ignore one or the other of these two aspects. See the Social-Play Model, the Interaction Model, or the Process Model for good examples of feedback. (Aside: In a certain sense, processes and feedback imply each other.)
- The Big Model and its derivative variants may be the only models I've seen with layers. This is a good idea – many other models try to model everything in a “two dimensional” way, and thus end up conflating different sorts of animals. Not to pick on it in particular, but the Process Model contains a clear example of this problem. It correctly picks out that there are “roleplaying processes” and “social processes,” and that these are somehow different without quite pinpointing the relationship. The model conceives of them as occurring side by side, without discerning that roleplaying processes are dependent on the social processes at work. The lumpley definition of System at the very least strongly implies this dependence, since System is conceptualized as the process by which participants agree, whether that agreement is generated by mechanics or not. This is just one example where a layer conception allows us to further specify the relationships for increased clarity.
- Wikipedia says “emergence refers to the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions.” I don't take this to the “definitive” definition (ha!), but it's good enough to get the point across. To my knowledge, the best use of this idea in a model of roleplaying comes from Mendel's PCon3, though the AGE Model also touches on emergence in its description of how “spaces” come into being. Notice though how well the notion of emergence complements the notion of levels or layers – emergence is a fantastic explanation for how layers come into existence. Both PCon3 and the AGE Model seem to ignore layers in favor of a flat structure, and both seem to suffer for it. Combining emergence and layers seems natural, and I feel that these two structures have a lot to offer each other when taken as a pair.