Game vs World

For many, many years I ran games as a way of expressing the worlds I had built.

I ran different campaigns, with different groups of people, all in different places or different times, but the vast majority were all on the same world and in my mind all connected. Not connected in plot, just connected because they were part of the same setting.

Even if I wasn’t running games, the world existed in my mind. I was constantly refining and revising it, though it would be more accurate to say I was exploring it, because as any serious world-builder will tell you it often feels more like you are discovering rather than creating. Just a trick of the brain? Probably.

But now I’ve noticed that I do the opposite. Now I run games, and if I need worlds to provide a context for those games I whip them up.

Game => world, not world => game.

As an experienced world-builder I can build a setting that feels detailed and fleshed out in a very short time so to a certain degree I can make the difference invisible to the players, but the root motivation is still entirely different.

For extra credit extend the concept: it’s not just the GM making the world and running the game, it’s also players and their characters. Is your character a tool to play the game, or is the game your vehicle to play the character you envision?

Naturally you’re asking: which one is the right way? That’s the wrong question. The right question is: what drives each? They may look the same on the surface, so much so that some people in the same gaming group may be doing one and some the other and never realize it, but I think they are intrinsically different activities. Understanding that difference can tell us a lot about why we game.

Which one are you doing?

    Ben Robbins | April 20th, 2008 | | hide comments
  1. #4 LordVreeg says:

    A good thread post.
    I’m still doing what you described first. I created 4 setting early in my gaming career, but then (after practice, it seems) at the end of High School, I started my current game setting.
    That was 1984.
    I know people and groups and GM’s do what they do for different reasons. Motivation comes from a great many places. But my setting is my Magnum Opus, a story that I wrote the prologues for decades ago, wove the storylines and conflicts, and all the playing has changed it and moved it a long.
    I currently see it as a long book, and each character and game is a chapter. And I do not see the game or the world as more important, but as necessary for the other.
    But a good, thought-provoking snippet.

  2. #3 The Stray says:

    I tried running a few games where Game => World, but we always seem to return to the D&D game where I put the most effort into the world first. I think this is because I find world-building to be the most fun aspect of the game-mastering process for myself. Naturally, part of this is taking character background elements and incorporating them into the world somewhere, which is an interesting challenge.

  3. #2 Ravenhawk says:

    I find when I game, I often play with the game as a tool to craft and develop my character. It is usually the individual characters, each with their own developed personalities, motivations and quirks that I take the greatest joy in.
    Awhile back in the tabletop game that I was currently playing, I found myself struggling. The game just didn’t seem fun and I couldn’t figure out why. After a couple sessions it occurred to me that my character had lost a focus: They had no personal motivation. While we still had a quest or two to take-on, we were playing a rather open-ended pirate campaign, so I really could send things where I liked, my character didn’t have enough personal motivation or goals of his own besides roboting along the GM’s little mini quests that we’d picked up.
    I talked things over with the GM and he said he’d noticed that problem not only with my character, but with some of the others. It was remedied by spending half of a session night on ‘character development.’ He wrote up a questionnaire with the kind of character development questions one normally answers on creation, plus a few specifically on our motivations and goals. We chatted, compared things, and brain-stormed. It was a pleasant experience for all the players and I think it helped us all to get to know our characters a bit better before we returned to gaming.

    I may be rambling a bit here, but the point is I agree. There are a few very different ways to approach gaming, that to the outsider look the same, but depending on the way the players likes to play, can lead to very different levels of enjoyment.

  4. #1 Reggie says:

    I was doing World => Game. I created a world for myself during High School. In this world took place stories and themes of my own imagination.
    When I came in touch with D&D I saw it as the perfect opportunity to share it with others and to expand it by having players go on adventures in my world. It worked quite well actually. Players went their way and according to their actions I got to expand (or explore) my world in more detail. Both sides enjoyed it. Me because I got to explore my mind and the players because they liked how colorful I put down the world because it was in fact, my world. The game became more of an interactive story than about the game mechanics.

    Recently however I quit the campaign because creating your own world costs alot of energy and I was done with that. The players now play a pre-made adventure where the world is laid out. A background or carpet for the game. Different style of play, right or wrong? Neither I think. I think the question should be: what are you into?

Leave a reply