The threefold (GDS) model was developed in rgfa in 1997, and is not to be confused with the more recent GNS model and Big model. A good source is the website of John H. Kim.

According to Kim's website the threefold model classifies decision making processes (contrary to GNS/Big model, where creative agenda classifies the psychological reward the group gets from playing). In particular, the threefold gamism, according to Kim's site, is defined as follows:

Gamism is the style which values setting up a fair challenge for the players (as opposed to the PCs). The challenges may be tactical combat, intellectual mysteries, politics, or anything else. The players will try to solve the problems they are presented with, and in turn the GM will make these challenges solvable if they act intelligently within the contract.

I recall that Brian Gleichman, a participant in the rgfa discussions, has some criticism of threefold gamism as presented by Kim. What is the criticism?

I think this is an interesting question to ask, because GDS had a reputation of being dismissive towards its gamism (much as GNS has a similar reputation about its sim). Gleichman was, as far as I remember, one defending or giving positive interpretation of GDS gamism.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast There is a link to the threefold FAQ, which discusses that model. The GNS is mentioned just so that people who have heard of it do not confuse them. I doubt this question is of much interest to people who do not know of either term. If you are interested in them, asking for what they are would be a fitting question for the site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tommi
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 19:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I decided to just Google the terms and found these relevant Wikipedia pages on each model/theory: GDS/Threefold Model and GNS theory. In short: GDS = "Game / Drama / Simulationism", and GNS = "Gamism / Narrativism / Simulationism". \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 21:31

1 Answer 1


Gleichman's critiques can be found at this website: http://whitehall-paraindustries.com/Theory/Threefold/rgfa.htm

The relevant parts are under the heading "Awful definition of Gamist (very major)".


The seemly innocent cause of the problem is the Gamist definition using the words: “is the style which values setting up a fair challenge for the players”.

Here are the subheadings:

Fair isn’t always a Gamist Concern.

Challenge isn’t always a Gamist Concern

Winning isn't always a Gamist concern

And Gleichman's suggestion for a proper definition of gamism is the style which

…values the application of objective player skill in order to resolve situations defined as important to the group. These situations may be based upon combat, mysteries, puzzles or anything else where skilled play may make a difference in outcome although that difference doesn't always need to be as simple as obvious victory/defeat.

Gleichman's main concerns are that the present definition paints gamists as munchkins, as it implies that winning is a key concern, and that the notion of "fair challenge" does not suit all of gamist play. An example is a sandbox world where the gameplay is strategic; having challenges of highly varying difficulty levels is necessary to make strategic play interesting.


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