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.


  1. Anonymous5:31 AM

    hey Jeff, Evil DM here.
    wow. sorry to hear you dropped out of the writitng gig. I was generally excited for you and I planned to follow your progress. you asked for an honest opinion so i'll give it to you. underneath all that "enabler -disabler" stuff, it just sounds like you didnt like the project that was given to you and wanted out, and you took about three paragraphs to say it. all that geek stuff you complained about only affects you if you buy into it. you have to want to be a geek of that magnitude-we all know the type- kind of a drone in day to day life, not too many social prospects, smart but doesnt "apply himself", hangs out at the game store in a black trenchcoat waay too much acting all pretentious with glib sarcasm about anything related to gaming or comics. it's almost like he hates and loves the hobby at the same time. he's the same guy at the cons and
    in-store game days. nice new black heavy metal tshirt, but he hasnt had a bath in four days, he hangs around talking smack about everyone at the D&D table but never plays a game the whole time he's there.
    as far as the owning all the supplements etc. there is one thing that a lot of the folks on the game boards fail to understand -the guys at the game companies may have started as fellow friday night gamer geeks, but once they invest thier money or borrow $5000.00 from mom and dad to start a game company, they become business people. and in order to stay in business they have to come up with product and get that product out the door so they turn to a marketing person who sells the hype and shows them different strategies to make the most buck for thier effort. i was never a TSR basher (even in their darkest days)and i never played the betrayed gamer, cause I always realized that they were a company with employees to pay.
    well wish you luck in figuring all this out. it's 3:00 AM and i'm finally sleepy again so it's back to bed. adios Jeff, I'll be reading!

  2. Thanks for your take on the matter. "We weren't playing any of the games we were working on products for and that sucks" seemed like to short of a blog entry, so I had to pad it out! But seriously, if I hadn't of naively rushed in at the first opportunity and really thought about the matter I probably couldv'e come to the conclusion that being in the business just isn't my thing. Back when I was a kid I thought published game designers were geek gods that walked the earth. I let myself get carried away as a result. I should have been questioning my own motives every step of the process. Maybe I'll publish some gaming material in the future, but it will strictly be freebie fan material culled from games I am actually playing. Like if this Mekton game gets off the ground I'll put the stats of the mechs I've built up on the web. I still desire to write a dungeon module from start to finish, maybe for Castles & Crusades, but I don't want to be part of the gaming industry.

  3. I'd like to remind you that Tuchulka does walk the earth, and blocks line of sight. And I haven't worn a trenchcoat in almost a year.

    Frankly, I came along because you were in. I don't think this is GSF 1, or even 4. This didn't work out, so move on. Nothing to see here folks. I'm just as guilty (loaded term) as you in overthinking things, but I never made Chinese amnesia froglegs again after the first disasterous experiment. I personally couldn't adjust to Dave the guy, and Dave the boss. Thats points I give to Loren, for taki
    ng orders from Tony, and still going out drinking with him.
    I applauded the socialism of each to what they can do, but
    as layout/emergency art generator, I could sit on my ass til
    time stoppped. I come in at the end, justify the type, take 5% home. Maybe because I came in as Friend of a Friend, maybe because I started with a take it or leave it attitude,
    I don't feel any loss now that the gedankenexperiment is over. I don't expect Dave is going to blame any of us for pulling out. I don't expect to face the 500 pt. Ninja this weds. I know you're prepping for the manifesto, but I get bugged by this Enabler/Disaber jazz. If I don't want to play Traveller, will SeaOrg's RPGA branch come for me?
    I could have totally leveled up my Disgaea party yesterday or gone over to George's to paradrop some tanks and blow up tiny, electronic buildings, but I went over to dave's 3-man birthday party. I haven't performed a ceremony in over a year, does this mean I've no interest in L337 magickqz?

    I don't think any soul searching, or debriefing or 40-pouring is required. Trying this on for size doesn't make you any less Ideologically sound. Hell, you put up with me coming over to shoot the shite, and half the time we don't even break out the card games. I know you prefer to express your thought process through writing, so I understand why the talking point, but don't doubt yourself or feel the need
    to be hardcore about gaming. You're still in the hobby past the point where folks can pull off "D&D? I did that once in college. An Elf ate my Orc Interior Decorator so I quit."
    So you might as well be in for the long haul.

  4. I totally dig what you are saying man. I did come off as trying to sound hardcore, which was not the point of the operation at all. And the more I read about the enabler/disabler thing the more my brain reminds me how much I hate stupid jargon. So I'll take a stab at a manifesto another day. On with life.