Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Expectations as a Player
by Tobie Abad
While I do not often play in games (I really deep down prefer running games), I've come to realize what expectations I have as a player when I choose to play. While my article on this topic is neither a "this is what players should get" nor "this is the correct way for players to be treated," I do hope that those who read this find some new insight (or if not insight, at least confirmation) on what a player might be hoping to find when he takes part in a session.
1) I want my moments in the spotlight
I understand that there are different kinds of games, with some favoring drama, others favoring realism, and while we can spend hours debating on game theory, at the end of the day if I ever play in a game, I want to have my moment in the spotlight. This doesn't mean I expect to be proclaimed the hero in the story, or be showered salutations in a scene. This does, however, mean I will have that shining moment when a scene might focus on me for a few turns and I get to do something cool.
And that directly slides to my second entry.
2) I want to be cool in something I am supposed to be cool at.
Yes, sometimes the dice can be wicked. Sometimes we just don't have the dice rolling in our favor. Or sometimes, the game feels better having that realistic touch where no one really has a "safe from dying" clause. However, as a player, I expect to matter in a field which I had my character be in. If I am playing a doctor, I expect to have a scene where my character's medical expertise would matter. If I was playing an occultist, I expect that I get to roll in relation to the stats that I have that are higher than others.
And that leads swiftly to the third entry.
3) I expect to matter.
Every role-playing game is a story that involves a number of characters and typically the players are the "unfortunate souls" that have been pulled by circumstances to deal with the matter. And so, I expect to matter. I hate games where my character's successes and failures are insignificant. While I know some games might embrace such a theme (such as Call of Cthulhu or games set in major wars), while I might not change the entire course of the events, I would like to at least matter in the battle I was involved in. Maybe my solider-formerly-a-math-teacher failures to save Europe from Hilter. But at least my soldier valiantly dies to save that family of three hiding in the farm.
In return, I have expectations of myself as well which I always remind myself to fulfill.
1) I expect to be engaged in the game.
While I usually have a laptop in front of me (since even in games which I don't run, I tend to be the sound engineer who plays music to add to the scene), I don't spend the game time surfing on facebook or chatting with other people. I might be online googling more information or trivia I'd love to add into the game. Or reading up on the game books to further get familiar with the game setting. But I do show my game masters that I am engaged in the session and interested in how the story unfolds.
2) I expect to find my way to be engaged with the story.
While I might have the freedom to explore the setting the way sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto do, there will always eventually come that point when the game master starts to guide the narrative and support key instances that build up into a greater story. Maybe what starts as a free-form plot starts taking shape as the game master throws hints that the house helper ins't quite what she seems to be. As a player, I know I am expected to be engaged, whether or not as a character I would normally hang around to find out what is going on. So I, as a player, will have to do my part in keeping the game fun - whether it means actively choosing to investigate on the matter, or actively reaching out to find someone who can since my character doesn't feel he is in the best position to do so.
But I don't just go "I leave, I want nothing to do with this." Because that is a total lack of willingness to be engaged in the story. And to be frank, that's a dick move that says, "Find another player."
3) I expect to make it fun for my co-players and gm.
Role-playing games are cathartic, yes, but if one uses the game to just frak up other people, then one plain and simple is doing it wrong. Usually I am of the mindset that there is no "right way to play" a game. But I will admit that there is a wrong way to play any game, and that is to play it in a way that intentionally destroys the fun that other people in the game are enjoying.
Even competitive games are less about fraking up the other players, and more about challenging each other to see who can win. There's a huge difference between the two.
Do you have your own list of expectations?
I'd love to hear what they are.