Memoirs of an old Gamer Part 3: It takes all kinds…
Every gamer is different as we all know and I am no exception. I like certain type of gamers involved in my game and others I can not handle. I don’t deal with confrontation well, especially when it deals with something we are supposed to be having fun with, but gaming is social and in our demographic, you are bound to run into people that are more socially awkward and maladjusted than others.
The groups that last a long time find a chemistry. Our group for 22 years found that chemistry while at the same time had new people go in and out regularly. Our core group of people maintained that chemistry for a long time. Since then, I have tried multiple groups with variety of personalities. Some worked well while others have not. But nothing has ever reached the chemistry with the core of that one group.
I think RPG groups mesh well because they like similar methods of storytelling, character development and general game play. Some people like heavy on the story, light on the rules and could care less about how their character develops as long as they have a part of a greater story. While others have to map out the character development via game stats and mechanics, and don’t care how they get there. To each his own. But each person has to adjust their preference from the group or the group won’t mesh.
Maturity level is another major factor, I have found. RP Gaming is a social activity and the group has to mesh well together socially. If one player displays a maturity out of sync with the rest of the group, it can become a problem. I have had problems with immature people not realizing just how immature they are. This lack of self awareness can create some pretty difficult and awkward situations. I have asked people to leave the group because of maturity issues.
Controlling one’s anger is another one that causes problems in groups. Socially awkward people can make these so awkward that it annoys others. How you deal with that annoyance is key to the gaming experience. And it is usually other socially awkward people that don’t deal with it well. It is not an easy situation to deal with.
Our group worked together so well because we all were there for the same reason. We wanted to jointly tell an epic story together. They respected me as the GM and my ability to weave the framework, and I respected them for their ability to contribute from their character’s perspective. I worked during the weeks between sessions (usually 1 or 2) developing an overall plot they would enjoy, while at the same time interweaved something personal for each and every one of them. They always gave me enough to work in every session, as did I to them. It was like a symbiosis.
I have yet to find this since 2010.
Some might say I don’t have time to spend on as much plot as I used to but I feel that I would make time if the characters inspired me. The symbiosis is not there as it was back then. Nothing against those that I have gamer with since then, I just have not found it again.
A gaming group is a symbiosis between the GM and the players. Each participant needs to seek similar things in the collective effort to tell their story while at the same time respect others in the group in their journey for the same thing. The hardest position obviously is the Game Master. He or she not only has to form the story, he has to fine tune each aspect of the story for each player and what they like. Some players like getting stuff – treasure, weapons, tech, magic items, whatever. Others like combat opportunities. Meanwhile, others may like the story aspect. The GM has to balance all the players needs and wants to collectively create a satisfying experience. This is why I always tell a GM – KNOW YOUR PLAYERS!
There have been plenty of social studies and theories formulated by gaming professionals about the dynamics of a gaming group. I highly recommend looking into those. One of the more popular is Ron Edwards GNS Theory. Many of expanded of that since he first posted it, but it’s a good start.