There are a variety of approaches to thinking about role-playing games.
The threefold model divides decision-making into
- Game: responding to challenges
- Drama: artistic qualities
- Simulation: resolution of in-game factors
GNS theory posits a division of goals into
This theory comes out of the Forge, an Indie RPG site. The Threefold model and GNS are forebears of this approach. The Big Model emphasizes a unity of play style. The Big Model tends to describe gaming in meta terms.
- Immersionism is about being inside a world or character. Loosely speaking, immersion is concerned with identifying with the reality of the game, rather than meta decision-making.
- Cheetohism is a slang term for a pragmatic, socially oriented approach to gaming. Differences in approach are minimized, and action and successful interaction are maximized. This approach is related to the beer-and-pretzels genre of play.