People often use different words for the same (or highly similar) concepts, or the same word for radically different concepts. Academia in particular has driven home for me the mismatch of jargon and meaning across silos, but the same thing happens in nontechnical discussions. The confusion around creative agenda modes shows an example within discussion about tabletop RPGs. In general, I suspect actual communication happens far less often than people assume, in any domain. In this post I will highlight a few more terms that scenes seem to use in different ways, specifically simulation and exploration.
Forge-speak simulationism seems close to what OSR/etc gamers (myself included, I suppose) mean when we speak of exploration. When a big model theorist discusses simulationism it has almost nothing to do with whether, for example, sailing rules in a game accurately capture wind dynamics as might be modeled by a physicist. Recall that the subtitle of the original Edwards essay on simulationism is The Right to Dream. And Forge-speak uses exploration to denote a completely different concept, as should be superficially obvious when you look at the diagram/logo for the big model wiki, something more like engaged play. Here is a big model explanation of Exploration:
What’s Exploration? Exploration is playing the game. If you are imagining stuff, rolling dice, talking in character, or paying attention to someone else’s scene in the game- you’re playing and you’re Exploring. If you’re busy playing videogames on your DS and not paying attention, if you’re on your cell phone, reading comics, or otherwise in any common sense way not playing the game, you’re not Exploring.
And here is Ben on OSR/classic exploration:
The lack of knowledge is thus a source of peril and uncertainty. It is both an obstacle to be overcome and a hazard to be dared. There is also a thrill of discovery, of uncovering things that are hidden. If the game is being played well, what is uncovered are not boring things. Every dungeon is initially a mystery, every artifact a hidden wonder, every faction an unknown quantity. To explore a dungeon is to unravel the mystery of the place.
A pair of Dark Souls analogies may help further illustrate this distinction. OSR exploration has to do with the feeling you get when you hear the new area sound, which has been burned into my mind as the sound of a new vista opening up:
This feeling is tied heavily to interaction with the fictional context as a coherent and meaningful place rather than as game mechanisms or story progressions. (Tangentially, I would also add that this is more about imagined possibility than it is about immersion in the method acting or narrative transportation sense.) In contrast, big model exploration would be closer to what is going on when the player learns and exploits the pattern of an enemy’s move set:
This is more like a structural fitting in of the player’s voluntary actions with the mechanisms and interfaces that the game presents. You could get the first kind of exploration without engaging many of the Dark Souls game mechanisms at all. And you could get the second kind of exploration in a wireframe test arena totally disconnected from the stages or levels of the game (which would be the campaign setting or shared imaginary space in tabletop roleplaying).