Friday, January 07, 2005

The Play's The Thing

[Dude, what happened to the first half of this post?!? Ah well, back to the drawing board.]

Theoretical approaches to gaming are all fine and dandy. I like to hang out at the Forge and pretend to be hip and cutting-edge just as much as anyone else. If you really want to refer to the GM as the Storyteller, well, good luck with that. But sometimes we gamers worry too much about how we are gaming. Funk dat. Just do it. Carpe diem.

For me, personally, IMHO, YMMV, etc., etc., Gaming is all about enabling Actual Play. Actual play being defined as human beings sitting around a table investigating a shared imaginative experience and having a good time participating in that endeavor. Anything that gets you to that table with those people rolling those dice and drinking that soda is a Game Enabler. Anything that undermines this goal is a Game Disabler. Good gaming is achieved by emphasizing Enablers and shunning Disablers.

Does owning all the books make a positive impact at the session? Then it's an Enabler. Does a good working knowledge of GNS theory result in a better managed game? If so, then GNS is an Enabler for you. If either the books or the theory is not working out for you, stop using them. Is the metaplot you're trying to follow actually hurting your attempt to run an enjoyable campaign? Ditch the damn thing, it's a Game Disabler. Is somebody being a boor despite the fact that you have repeatedly mentioned their behavior is disrupting play? That player is a Game Disabler. Do what you gotta do given out-of-play issues, but if the game is your primary concern then kick the jerk out.

This last issue (the disruptive player) is key, I think, because tapletop gaming (the only kind that concerns me) is a first and foremost a social experience. You need other players to pull it off. In this hobby we sometimes fall prey to the Five Geek Social Fallacies, due in no small part to the fact that so many of us were marginalized misfits in high school. I know I was one of the geeks. I was a slightly-smarter-than-average fatass who had exactly one date before I got to college. Maybe I still haven't completely gotten over my loathing for jocks, but that doesn't mean I should let my emotional damage dictate my behavior towards other people at the game table. Understand that I am not advocating heartlessly ejecting Timmy the Turdboy at the first sign of unpleasantness, but to allow people like Mike from SomethingPositive to continue to screw up people's game helps neither the Mikes of the world nor the folks around them. Sometimes you gotta call people on their crap.

How does this all fit into Shared Lobotomy? Writing for games is not gaming. Therefore, if it is to have a place in my life as a gamer Shared Lobotomy needs to be a Game Enabler. Clearly it was not. By taking on the writing gig for Foe File, I thought I was expanding my horizons of participation in my hobby. In fact, what I was doing was taking on a second hobby only tangentially related to my first one. I only have room in my life for one hobby and that hobby is and probably always will be tabletop gaming.

This blog entry is only a first try at outlining my personal philosophy of gaming. Of all the blog entries I have written over the last year, this is the one I most desparately need feedback on. Tell me I'm full of crap if that's what you think. Just tell me something.