Role playing games are full of mystery. But this blog post isn’t about that.
I didn’t watch it very often but every time I found it on television I enjoyed it. In fact, once the idea to use this as a topic came to me, I looked it up on YouTube and listened to one of the episodes on my way back from an event this evening. I laughed quite a bit. Probably too much.
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is a ridiculous show where the viewer finds themselves watching a B movie of some sort from the vantage point of being in a movie theater behind the silhouettes of a man and two Bizarre looking puppets. As the movie goes on they engage in incessant banter, commenting on the movie. As most of these movies are just plain awful, you can imagine the kind of comments they make.
What the heck is this have to do with role playing games? How does this reflect the positive intention of RPGaDAY? Has Ivan gone mad? I’m glad you asked.
Very often we end up having several different experiences simultaneously while at the table. We can be engaged with the fiction. We might be seeing things from the perspective of the character, maybe even having an experience as the character. We might be engaged in strategic concerns, or we might be very engaged in trying to create compelling and dramatic moments. We might be having an emotional reaction to what is going on in the fiction, or things may be very tense or charged for the characters.
At the same time, we are having an experience as players, as friends sitting around the table watching this all take place. And sometimes, quite out of character, we comment to each other about it. Now of course this can go overboard and it is a sad cliché about gamers who can ruin the experience by engaging in ceaseless chatter and commentary, never taking the game seriously. ~ However, it has been my experience that a group of mature individuals can remain quite immersed while engaging in occasional commentary . We can laugh at what is happening in the fiction or at the unfortunate rolls of the dice. We can express disbelief at the events of the fiction. We can congratulate each other for doing something particularly awesome, or even say “I can’t believe you just did that … what were you thinking?”. Sometimes this commentary or levity is a way to break the tension when things get particularly tense or dire in the game.
It has been my experience that this is a powerful method of bonding as a group. In particular, I have found this to be very useful in play by post or play by email games where we use a separate out of character thread or chat to comment about the game, keeping our in character and out of character conversation separate. Very often the commentary we make isn’t that much different than mystery science theater. But as long as it is all in fun, and as long as it is done judiciously & in moderation it can be a very enjoyable part of the RPG experience. It can be… Fun.
Role playing games might not all be about fun but we can have a little fun, right?