Widen the Fun

Games don’t always work. A game might be too ambitious to really be feasible, or it might just be too much for the people involved. In the middle is the range of games that work, the successful game, the fun zone.

There are two ways you can widen the fun:

1) you can push the boundaries of gaming, going into dangerous territory and making new and exciting game techniques possible

2) you can lower the barrier to gaming, making it easier for people to play and have fun

These are really measures of what the players at the table at the time can handle (GM included). The successful gaming zone is different for every group, perhaps different for every single person at the table. If you invent a bold new roleplaying technique some people will find it fun and exciting, others will cringe in its cruel embrace. And if you lower barriers to make it easier to play, some people will leap for joy but others won’t even need that help (at least not most of the time — some days even the best gamers need a booster seat).

Despite the experimental stuff you may have read about in these very pages (dirty tricks like NormalVision or postcognition), I find a lot of my activity revolves around the second case, lowering the barriers. I write and publish adventures to (hopefully) make it as easy as humanly possible for a GM to mount the hot seat and run a game that lands squarely in the fun zone.

When I run games, I do all those clever things I talk about here to embrace players and draw out their best game. Of course I’m not made of pixie dust. There are days I’m a cranky, fed up, and ready to grind the players into chum if they won’t stop being so goddamned stupid. But that’s not what I’m shooting for. It’s not what I’ll call the _ideal_ case.

My ideal case is not to impress them with my GM craft, but to get them to play so well that afterwards they walk around thinking how awesome they were. That’s victory, me bucko.

This division is a pretty fundamental one, philosophically speaking. Forging ahead or lowering the bar, experimenting or inviting, etc. Whichever your inclination (if you have an inclination), recognize that both are good for gaming as a whole. Both.

The natural question is: are they mutually exclusive? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that yes, in a particular moment in time, something that promotes one is unlikely to simultaneously promote the other. Different facets of the game may do either, but a technique that does both, that pushes gaming into new territory _and_ makes it easier to play… well that’s the holy grail isn’t it?

    Ben Robbins | May 23rd, 2008 | game theory | show 4 comments