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Jun 02 2014

Introductions to Words from Chris

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess I’m not an atypical gamer. I like playing D&D just as much as I like playing Dungeon World. I’m into everything about Pathfinder except Pathfinder itself. I think Savage Worlds is one of the most GM dependent games in existence. That mean’s I’d rather GM it than be a player. I dig games like Marvel Dice Masters but I don’t like Magic the Gathering. I love Puerto Rico and Alhambra but not Power Grid. I think Munchkin is cute about twice but really like Cut Throat Caverns. I like match three games like Marvel Puzzle Quest but I’m not so into farmcrushquest or whatever that game is on face book that people are playing at the moment. I equate a lot of games, from video to table top, to storytelling experiences when really the story isn’t even there until we finish the game. I find words we use to describe things in games meaningless because everyone thinks they have a meaning when in reality none of us can agree on a definition. I wish the gaming norm was collaborative when everyone seems pretty content with the dictatorship of the GM. I’m just kinda weird and I’m letting you know. You might agree with me. I’m going to guess you won’t. I have things on my mind that I want to say, like, to quote myself,

“I wish the gaming norm was collaborative when everyone seems pretty content with the dictatorship of the GM.”

Next time I’ll talk about why I wish gaming was normally collaborative. See you then.

Chris

5 comments

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  1. Alex Swingle

    You lost me when you compared your limited body of observation with a nation whose smallest state is the average size of a country. That last sentence was in regards to speaking generally about the Principality Of America. For the glory of Zeon, master race will prevail. (Gundam reference, cha!)

    Write on, writer.

  2. Chris Sniezak

    Generating content can be hard. I agree. Americans are Lazy. I think that’s true of the average American and maybe it’s not Lazy as much as it’s task oriented. Do a task and get rewarded. Work hard and get a pay off but that Lazy can also lead to usually the most creative person at the table, the GM, dominating the game, and I think the average game table ends up functioning like a dictatorship. In fact I had a conversation – this is anecdotal but I’ve had this conversation more than once and heard its been had by many people – just recently where a player in a game was interested in other games but the GM of their group, which the group is tight and been together for a long time, has a GM who GMs 90% of the time and likes it that way so they play the game he wants to play. The game is good and they’re all having fun, but there’s not a lot of room for change since the game is at the GMs place. Pushing and playing different things would be change and change is hard, so a passive dictatorship the players have let themselves fall into because American’s get complacent (lazy) has occurred. Granted the players are letting themselves be there and they could not play but the GM is dictating the game.

    Maybe what I’m really talking about her is gaming apathy. We want to hang with our friends and play a game and while we might want to do different things we just let those things fall by the wayside because we don’t see the opportunity or, as you said Tim, are lazy and aren’t willing to put the work forth to make them happen.

    1. Tim Hannon

      Yeah, I’m gonna fight you on this. :) Calling something a dictatorship implies a lot. It’s a loaded term. It’s not like jackbooted thugs are coming round to your place, kicking in the door, and forcing you to play “Cyborg Commando” or they’re going to shoot you in the face. Instead, it’s mere apathy. It’s asking, “Hey, what should we play next?”, or, “Would anyone else like a shot at running?”, and getting back, “Meh. Whatever you want to run, I guess.”

      What I think that means is that the actual game activity is secondary in importance to the player. As long as there’s something to do on the night in question, most players would be perfectly happy to play ANYTHING, under ANYBODY. I think this especially becomes important for old fogies like me, who just want to get out of the house. :) Note, I’ve also had players “check out” when a session wasn’t what they wanted, either overtly or in a passive-aggressive manner, but this is rare. It’s usually the players who only want to play RPGs and would prefer not to play a board game, for instance.

      I’ve also been in groups where there were a lot of active, engaged players, who were great GMs in their own right. We instituted a rotating system, where one player would take the helm for a campaign (4-6 weeks or months), then the next GM would take over. We got to play a lot of great games that way. The problem isn’t “forcing” the players to only play the one thing, it’s convincing them to take a turn. And if they’re not comfortable with that, how is that “worse” than what you propose?

      1. Christopher M Sniezak

        I think the next post clears up what I was talking about concerning dictatorship but Tim, I think what you propose is fine. Rotate campaigns every four to six months sounds awesome but I’m pretty sure that’s not the norm and most of the ideology I’ve encountered slides into the GM is king of the mountain and everyone else needs to follow or get off the boat. Even when that’s not true it ends up that way because of the table cultural which has existed over the years. Heck, I’ve heard Shawn Merwin, on the MM Podcast, come right out and say players want to be led by the hand, they want to be spoon fed the material, and this is at conventions, playing with strangers. I said it might be Apathy but Apathy can be just as much of a controlling factor as using jackbooted thugs if it keeps all the power in one spot. Even when that authority is challenged, and I mean the authority of the game table, the other players can create the outsider feel for the player who tried to challenge it and since the culture is so solidified at what I would describe as the average game table, that the player either conforms or leaves, neither of which I believe is healthy behavior for gamers in general or the hobby as a whole.

  3. Tim Hannon

    I don’t think any of that makes you “atypical” at all. In my opinion, one of the prevailing myths of the gaming hobby is that players gravitate to one and only one type of game: a D&D player would never play FATE, a Warhammer player would never try Warmachine, etc. In reality, all of the data suggests that the majority of gamers “play D&D” (in which I include f20 and variants), as well as other games as the mood takes them. So liking one type of game more than another doesn’t make you different, it makes you the norm.

    That’s the great thing about this time in the hobby: if you don’t like one game, it’s easy to find a different game that you will like better. There’s lots and lots of choices out there, and it’s not hard to get details about any of them.

    As far as your second point, I think you go too far when you refer to the traditional GM/Player model as a “dictatorship”. If anything, it’s closer to a democracy. One participant is elected to be a leader either by campaigning for the right or by consensual group decision. The remainder of the group agrees to follow along with that leader’s decisions, but is free to question that leader or propose alternatives. If the leader proves faithless and goes against the will of the group, he can be replaced either by additional group consensus, or the player can abandon the group. It’s about as far from a dictatorship as I can imagine.

    However, I do think that players are less likely to take an active part in generating content for a given RPG. Two factors come into play:

    1. Generating content is HARD.
    2. Americans (of which I include myself) are LAZY. :)

    It takes work, and not a little amount of time, for a person to generate campaign content. For most players, they prefer to take an observation role rather than a more active one. I think this has a lot to do with the popularity of f20 games in the marketplace: you don’t have to “do” a lot, you just have to show up and roll dice. If you want to take a more active role, you can, but you don’t have to. With story games or most indie games, the participants have to take an active stance or there is no game. That is not to everyone’s tastes or experiences, it’s simply too much “work”.

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