Thursday, November 14, 2013
Rant: I Hate Simulation
I hate simulation.
Like my great hate for balance, my hate for simulation arose from the crazy vague way the term is used. If you had asked me a couple weeks ago if I hated simulation, I would have snorted derisively at you. Certainly, I don't hate the kind of simulation *I* do.
But annoying forum threads have made it clear that there are many different definitions of "simulation" going around. I don't agree with many. And some definitions flat out are the opposite of simulation... and yet, people are bandying the term about, as if they knew what it meant.
The trigger event was a discussion about balance vs. simulation. See, every time new schoolers and old schoolers fight, they start arguing about balance... and the new schoolers have come to the conclusion that the old schoolers prioritize simulation over balance. That might not be that far off, but the way I've seen this described and discussed, it's pretty clear that no one is clear on what that statement means.
For one, I saw a 4venger lump the Pathfinder people in with the "prioritizes simulation over balance". Isn't Pathfinder just 3e in disguise? From my viewpoint, the 3e crowd is just as concerned with balance as the 4e crowd, just maybe not the exact same kinds of balance. And maybe they're a little too fond of some loopholes.
Another thing soon became clear: some people were talking about the dreaded "realism", even though they used the term "simulation". And so, up popped the old cliche of "verisimilitude". Look, it's nice if some people like verisimilitude. And if you squint your eyes at it, it is a sort of simulation. But in most cases, that's certainly not what I mean by "simulation" I wish you people would go back to ranting about realism...
And a third thing... no, let's bitch about the first thing again, in a different way. One of the clever debaters tried to separate "simulation" from "balance" with an example of setting point costs based on difficulty of learning a talent vs. setting costs based on usefulness to the character. I'm sorry, but any time you talk about "point costs", you are talking about balance. There may be some emulation aspect going on, but definitely both examples deal with balance.
And then there's the whole "enforcing genre expectations". For reasons I won't go into until my follow-up post, I don't consider any kind of "enforcement" to be simulation. Genre expectations are (Ta ta-ta DA!) genre expectations. Surprisingly, they already have a name. They are part of a play group's ground rules, like "keep it clean" and "no player-vs.-player". Are either of those "simulating" something? NO.
So I've come to the conclusion that just about anything anyone else describes as "simulation" is stuff I don't like. Well, OK, I have no great abiding hate for genre emulation, but it's not a major or even secondary interest, for me. But although I use the real world as a guide for imagining stuff, I hate getting bogged down in the numeric details of the real world. I'm not about to do force calculations based on mass as part of my gaming, and "Realistic [falling damage | economics | weather patterns | environmental effects]" are going to turn me off when I see them.
And I've already told people where they can stick point-buy schemes. That applies no matter what you are basing your point costs on.