Describe how your play has evolved.
After the brief light & fluffy respite that the weekend’s questions brought, week three opens up with a deep one. (No, not those Deep Ones). At least it’s a complex one for me. So strap in & hang on.
Despite starting gaming in 1981, my experience does not represent 37 years of continuous play. I wish it did. But, my experiences are my experiences. So, first up in looking at my evolution is my choice of games. ~ If you’re late to the party, despite other games being around when I started the hobby, no one I knew was playing them. We were lucky if we got together to play AD&D or Basic, so I simply didn’t have exposure to other systems. I knew they existed, but the people in my circles weren’t playing them.
In the past few years, I have been trying out new games & new systems. I’ve been reading a ton more. A lot of the games include systems, procedures, or mechanics which are quite novel or downright odd. Some of them sound neat, and some I’m not so sure about. ~ Part of this evolution isn’t just about trying new games, but rather about discovering how these different systems shape & inform the game experience. This has been quite fascinating.
That ushers in the next facet of my evolution. ~ Over time, my approach to gaming has become far more analytical. When I was young there was very little analysis involved except for the occasional attempts at “realism”. These were met with mixed success. ~ When I returned to the hobby in 2010, I indulged my analytical nature with deconstruction of mechanics & probabilities. Something that I still do now. I like to know how the moving parts work. However, as time has gone on, this penchant for analysis has spread to include an interest in the bigger picture. What does this game do? How well does it do it? What does it not do, or not do well? Does it really create the experience that it advertises? What kind of feel does the game produce? How? How competent are the characters?
But, as I frequently discuss, this bigger picture includes an interest not only in the games themselves, but in our own intentions for play. Some people resist the idea of categorizing people or where they might lie on a particular spectrum. I’m not one of them. It’s not a value judgment. People are just different in some areas. Making sense of this diversity and recognizing when our intentions align or conflict has helped a great deal in my understanding & appreciation of the complex nature of the RPG hobby. Coming to understand that subtle (or drastic) differences in intention or expectations can lead to friction, & that we can avoid or alleviate these conflicts when we are mindful of these variances.
And that leads me to the next area in which I can finally talk about how my actual play has evolved.
In the beginning, it was all about the adventure. Getting things done. Overcoming challenges. Completing the next mission. Characters, real characters, characters with personalities & drives & flaws showed up from time to time, but they weren’t the actual focus of play. Except.. they were enjoyable. Somehow the sessions felt more satisfying when we felt like our characters were real people and the world was a real place. Like the situations were real & that they mattered.
Part of my evolution was simply noticing that this was the common denominator in games which felt enjoyable, and when it was missing the game just felt unsatisfying and hollow. I love getting together and rolling dice with friends in a lighthearted manner every once in a while, but I started to realize that this wasn’t enough. Likewise, I started to notice when various system elements & areas of focus were enhancing or detracting from my experience. I even paid attention to how the behavior of the other people at the table affected my experience.
That insight eventually led to me deciding to “play on purpose”. I wish I made that phrase up, but I had to steal it. While I’m still actively trying other forms of play & games that I have various levels of interest or misgivings about, I also have a much better idea of what my intention for an RPG experience is. As such, I can choose what game I want to play, with whom, and in what manner. ~ I know that I like an experience as the character, with other “real” characters interacting as free agents in a dynamic world. Sometimes I want this to be over the top cinematic pulp, & other times I want it to be much more grounded & realistic, but whatever I am after, I am much more focused on actively pursuing it rather than leaving it up to chance. (We’ll let the dice determine the particulars).