Archive for January, 2010

Consent of the Gamers

January 26th, 2010 6 comments

Let’s talk about responsibility.

There are very few things in life we have to do, and they mostly include automatic responses from our nervous system. That being said, there are things we should do, and we largely lump these things together in a category of things we call “being responsible”. These involve getting a job, paying your taxes, treating other humans with respect and courtesy, and generally being a productive member of society. Responsibility is sometimes given a bad break, because it’s tedious, and mostly doesn’t make us feel great. While the end result is sometimes a positive feeling, or even pride at having accomplished something important, the tasks we undertake while being responsible are arduous, time consuming, and most often, and this is the important part kids, not fun. Which often means things we consider to be fun should be devoid of responsibility.

This however, is not the case. It shouldn’t be. There are some great examples of a lot of fun to be had, particularly fun with other people, that need to be pursued responsibly. Driving is one. You don’t drive a car without a seat belt and without regard for your passengers’ safety and the other drivers on the road, even if you’re going really fast. Especially if you’re going really fast. Same thing with sex: you work out with your partner ahead of time what is acceptable behavior, and you stick to it. You don’t deviate outside of the guidelines you’ve set up without a lot of unacceptable risk. Amusement rides are full of safety precautions that you have to meet before you can enjoy responsibly. Speaking of enjoying responsibly, did anyone mention alcohol? In essence, responsibility when it comes to having fun is about meeting the demands of everyone, and creating the most happiness for those involved. It also means, perhaps explicitly, not raining down on someone else’s parade.

Thus, our responsibility while having fun is clear. There are plenty of good examples of what are bad ideas, and when not to do them. Gaming should be no different. Much like sex however, what is acceptable differs from person to person, and group to group. There are perhaps a few commonly accepted rules, which I believe can be addressed as common fare, but given the large scopes of kinds of gamers as I addressed in my last post, what is understood as necessary by one group may be totally superfluous for another. Let’s start with the basics then.

1. People should be ready to game. This means that, whoever you should be, you should be wherever you need to be, whenever you need to be there, with whatever you need to game. I wanted to fit however into this, but why ever for?

In essence, be punctual and prepared. This doesn’t mean that you have to be in someone’s face about them showing up 5 to 10 minutes late, but let’s not waste people’s time here. When you’re going to be 15, 20, 30 minutes late, that’s definitely when you should be telling people, at the very least. Have whatever you need with you too: dice, character sheets, books, laptop… whatever you need to be ready to throw down and kick some goblin’s ass. In line with being prepared with the mechanical pieces of the game, be prepared by knowing the mechanical essence of the game.

2.Know the system. This doesn’t necessarily mean game the system, or abuse it (and it’s important for DMs to know when the system is being abused), but know what you need to know for the game you’re in, and your character in particular. If you’re playing a combative character, be prepared to be able to throw down some dice and say what you hit with. If you’ve got to know how to cast a spell, or do some occult research, know your pools.

This is important for DMs and MMO gamers as well. DMs need to be even more well versed than players with the mechanics of the game, but by the same token, don’t abuse it and make the game unfair for your players. You have to be aware of what they’re capable of, as well as what the obstacles that lie in their way are. Tangentially, if you’re playing a MMO like WoW, know what your role is (Tank, Healer, Damage) and be prepared to know the mechanics of it. If you’re playing a Feral Druid for example, you should know that contemporary theory says that because you should be crit immune, you should stack Stamina and shouldn’t pick up a lick of defense gear.

Most importantly comes the synthesis of rules 1 and 2.

3.Don’t be a dick. I hate to steal Wheaton’s Law, but its elegance is amazing, and works into the discussion like this: Don’t do anything that ruins someone’s enjoyment of a game. Whether that’s being 45 minutes to an hour late and wasting people’s time and energy, or harping on someone’s choice of mechanics without a grounded reason. Most importantly, don’t be cruel about it. Someone can make a decision for a lot of reasons, and if you’re a dick about it, you’re only going to agitate and disturb what should be a fun activity.

What this all means is that you should, when you game, lay down certain ground rules about what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Players gonna miss a few games? That might be okay, or it might not fly. Prot Warrior’s thinking of respeccing to a slightly different build? Make sure that the raid leader and Warrior Class Lead (if such a person exists) know about it, and do what they need to do about it. Or just let him go wily-nilly. If people in your group are deviating from what others in the group think they should, it’s important to correct the small deviations before they grow into large ones, and make what was once something awesome into something resembling a burden. Playing well together’s important, but the fun’s the thing.

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Apologies to the Bard

January 22nd, 2010 5 comments

This is a blog written by a gamer. This is a blog designed to be read by gamers, and to be contributed to by gamers. I want gamers to connect over this, and maybe get some enjoyment and some thoughtful discussion going about this blog. That’s my hope.

But what is a gamer? Would that which we call a gamer by any other name would have as much fun?

I was going to do a little research on the term gamer, etymologically speaking. Where did the word come from? Where was it first used? What is our shared history as gamers, so to speak, but I’m not quite sure that it matters, for reasons I’ll get to shortly.

A gamer is someone who plays games as a primary form of enjoyment. They may deeply analyze the rules and structure of the game, or they may be new to the game they’re experiencing. They might participate over a wide variety of games (tabletop, console, card, computer), or they may devote themselves to one game, and believe that it is superior to others that try to emulate it. Despite all these different kings of gamers, they all share the same aim: to get enjoyment from playing a game, and devote some amount of time to it above their other interests.

Thinking that this is a reasonable definition, I submit the argument before you, dear reader, that anyone who wants to claim the mantle of Gamer is free to do so. Hell, they should be encouraged to do so. More people at the gaming table means more fun to go around. Exclusivity should never be our aim, as we’re too often misunderstood anyway.

In a very excellent article, Jeffrey Michael Grubb notes that gamers tend to instantly leap upon accusations of impropriety, defending their passion with a furor that may scare “normal’ people. He writes, “…if we are going to be more concerned about protecting the reputation of a video game than about fighting international sexual tourism, people are going to continue to look at gamers as an unbalanced people with twisted priorities.”

So when people want to call themselves gamers, embrace them as gamers, and invite them to play. Don’t question their title, or where they fit into the hardcore vs. casual debate, just accept that they are a gamer, and want what you want. They want to have a good time playing a game, just like you.

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