Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Gaming Evangelists Part two – The Roleplaying. Make: Believe...

Gaming Evangelists Part two – The Roleplaying.   Make: Believe...

Yesterday I had a bit of a stream of consciousness about getting people into playing games, board games to be precise, and I said that it’s usually easy to get people into playing those sorts of things because most of them have played a board game at some point in their lives and so have some idea of the premise...

Now the turn of roleplaying...

And I know what everyone’s saying, everyone’s done this at some point in their lives, whether they were soldiers when they were kids, running around with potato guns (No Nerf when I was a kid), or as they’ve grown older, as they’ve been told to roleplay through things when they’re going for an interview or to consider what they would do in some fictional scenario.

Everyone’s done this before.

So why would that make it so hard to get people into the game?

Because most people have only had to do it at (figurative) gunpoint, and then with something they really didn’t want to play as, so some idiot trainer could assess how they’d react in some manner.  So the only memory they’ve got, just like the boardgames, is of something that they did because they had to that was dull and irritating.

How to get around this...?

Ask the question, when you describe roleplaying games, how do you do it?  Do you tell them that it’s a game where you get to be someone else, a brave hero or a bold adventurer, do you tell them that it’s a chance to behave how you really want to behave and a way to let the cares of the world go by?

I don’t...

I ask them if they’ve ever seen a film when the main character did something stupid...

They have...

I ask them if they’d have done something different...

They would...

Got them...

And from there it’s just a matter of getting them into the idea that they’re not themselves for now, and it’s easier for those who’ve been given the film line, because they’re already looking at it from the point of view that they’re that character, rather than themselves. It’s a lot easier for people to jump into characters that they already have some familiarity with than asking them to go for something completely new and then telling them to make it up as they go along.  Kids do well with making it up as they go along, most adults have to be eased back into the idea of letting go of this world, if only for a short while.

The problem is that for a lot of conventions, you don’t get real newbies into the scene, you get people who are curious, but haven’t taken all the steps to get there, so again you’re already starting from a good position because they took the first step and came to you.  With people like this, you do the ground work, you find out what they’re interested in, you start them on a game that’s not four hours long, because they’re going to have problems being in character for more than half an hour at a time, and you don’t include anything that needs heavy thought in the game.  A lot of systems are now learning that the one hour taster sessions are amongst the best ways to get people interested in things without costing them time and money to do so.  A lot of conventions (particularly those who have very few newbies) have yet to cotton on to this, but it is this that will be the future for getting people into games.

How can I be so sure?

The analogy that most people have tried before is that you’d give up four hours to go see a film, half an hour travel there and back, ten minutes parking, ten minutes queuing, twenty minutes trailers, two hours film.  So theoretically that’s no different than the normal four hour thing that you’re asking them to sit down to now is it?

It is actually...

The point behind the cinema trip is that it’s not one thing done for four hours, it’s five different things, each one of which can be done while you’re talking to someone else or driving or doing something other than having to have your concentration fixed on one thing and one thing alone.  When you’re in a game, you’re in a game, and you can’t break from that to do other things or you’ll miss something about the game, and that in itself will lessen your enjoyment of the game. 

So the solution?

Shorter games...

Hold the cries of Heresy for a second, there is always time and space for those long games, when you can put the whole weekend in to play the game and have a good time with all those people who’ve been playing for years alongside you.  But a beginner won’t give you that commitment, they need convincing, in the same way that the board gamers do, that this is a good investment of the time that they could have spent doing something more important, like making tea or checking facebook or something else...

One hour I say, give me one hour, if you don’t like it, come back to me, I’ll buy you a drink and a snack to make up for the disappointment...

And I mean that...

Because in all the time that I’ve been doing demo’s for people, I’ve yet to have to pay up on that, and a part of it is because I know enough to know when the system isn’t required and when I need to play fast and loose, I can see when they’re getting involved and I know then which way to go to keep them interested.

But that’s a skill I took years to learn and I still practise it most weeks in one way or another, there’s quite a few of us out there who’ve been there from the beginning, but most of us don’t want to play with newbies anymore, we want to get out there with our old war buddies and fight the good fight, we’ve done our time in the trenches and we want the rewards that we were promised when we started this.

But the fight’s not done yet, the war never ended, it’s us against boredom and apathy, and the enemy keeps on getting more recruits, more things that don’t take your brains to do them, more games where pretty colours and simple puzzles will keep you engaged doing nothing more than using up the time you have left.  So the call is still out there, and while a lot of us have given up and gone home, we lay down those tools years ago, we let the others get on with it...

To be fair, I went to a session with some much younger players a short while ago, and I found that I was having problems with the way that they were playing things, it wasn’t any different to what I’d done all those years ago, but I have to stress...

All those years ago...

And I believe that just as I had older gamers to show me where all the real fun was.  They showed me that the best times where those when you really got into your characters and you were involved and not just looking for the next critical hit. So the gamers of today that are still just getting in to it and still looking at how to minmax their characters to be the best there is and damn the rest of the game, still need that involvement from the rest of us, to see that there’s another level to the game and that it’s not all about the number of kills your character has to their name.

And that brings me back to why do I do this?

In the board games, it’s because it makes the world a little easier once in a while, in the roleplaying games, it’s more of a calling.  I’m confident, in a way that most people aren’t, ask anyone who knows me, I spent a long time getting this way from what I was, and a lot of it I did through roleplaying, through understanding that I could be more than I thought I might be.  Roleplaying is now accepted as a good method of training, so you can show people how to react to different situations, you can work through it with them and have them be at least slightly ready for it when it happens in real life, so it is for me and roleplaying in games.  Most people bring something of themselves to any game they play, the usual joke is that your character is you, but turned up to 11...

I used to be like that, now my characters are me with the volume turned down, I’d be hard pressed to tell you which is the better of the two options...

But I got a lot from roleplaying through the years and just as anyone who’s been given something that was useful...

I just want to give something back...


Showing others how to play is my way of doing that...

Discuss...?

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