Expected levels of engagement and interest

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Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
#71
Question: Would people rather have a player who aggressively micro-manages the other players, telling them how they should behave in both social and tactical situations... or one who pulls themselves out of the game and thus the spotlight to rein in those tendencies?

Because I do that.
I was actually going to bring this up as a potential pathology of being too involved, as I've seen the same thing. Its parallel to the "so distracted by doing other things you don't actually know what's going on" element that is a pathology of not being as firmly involved. I'm not even sure its less common. Even if someone doesn't actively tell other people how to play, I've also seen it breed overly obvious reactions to other people's play that's easily as disruptive as some of the worse from people who aren't engaged enough.
 

BlackSpike

Registered User
Validated User
#72
Question: Would people rather have a player who aggressively micro-manages the other players, telling them how they should behave in both social and tactical situations... or one who pulls themselves out of the game and thus the spotlight to rein in those tendencies?

Because I do that.
Constantly pulling out of the game, never taking the spotlight, "playing Candy Crush", with the excuse of "letting someone else take their deserved spotlight": no. Do not do this.
Being part of the game, allowing the spotlight to pass around between players, actively encouraging other to be involved: yes. Do this.

Constantly micro-managing other players, over-riding their choices with your own "obviously superior" opinion: no. Don't do this.
Keeping a track of what other players are up to, and occasionally offering advice, or making sure they are aware of some consequence that you have seen, and it looks like they haven't: Yes, do this,

"Too involved" players are just as much (if not more) of a problem than "not involved enough" players.

As always, moderation. Balance.
Not always easy to get the exact balance, and your table may vary.
 

inoshiro

Registered User
Validated User
#73
I skimmed the posts above, though I may have missed it if someone mentioned this before, but I feel like the Five Geek Social Fallacies may apply here:

http://www.plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html

... at least for those of us who are gamers from that generation when it really was a geeky hobby. Those five social fallacies, when you set them all in motion together, can certainly explain how you could end up with a group of people who agree to play, show up to play, but don't really want to be there, but aren't willing to quit (or be asked, "Do you really want to play? You don't have to if you're not having fun..."), and who would be averse to anyone being critical about prolonged disruptive behavior at the game table.

Personally, in the groups I've played beyond one month with? Typically people are focused on the game. They have their phones on hand, and check them occasionally but aren't constantly on them, and aside from a short bathroom/drink break in the middle, the only stuff that gets us away from the table for more than a few moments is an emergency.*

(*In groups with parents as players, if the other parent isn't around, any general kid stuff is an "emergency." Otherwise, it's stuff that literally can't wait another hour to be dealt with. We're grown-ups, we all have that kind of stuff, but not very often.)

One group I play with (online) is all dads, and we're pretty understanding when a dad has to be at the in-laws and can't play, or has the kids alone tonight because his wife is traveling for work or whatever, or is sick, or whatever. But hand-in-hand is the (mutually shared) assumption that when you do show up to play, you play. Do I see other players sometimes discreetly scanning their email or whatever when other people are taking their turns in a long combat? Sure, and I occasionally do it too, though we try to make things interesting by building up strategies and sort of spontaneously choreographing combat. But there's nobody who halfway pays attention for more than a few minutes at a time: that's just not how our group behaves, and there's good reason not to do it because the GM is constantly springing new surprises on us along the way, and part of the fun is enjoying other's crazy in-character decisions in the heat of combat.

Some people have said it might be the OP's GMing skills, but... well, it could also just be a bad fit. Maybe the OP's style of GMing isn't gelling perfectly with the players' preferred playstyle. Some players want all combat. Some players want more in-character politicking, or more exploratory and mystery stuff. Hell, some players want to be quiet and just sort of engage when they have ideas, and others want to constantly grandstand. (While I'd say one individual constantly grandstanding is obnoxious and bad RPing—because it's a collaborative game, not a one-man wank-show with a captive audience—some groups seem to be okay with someone like that, or to enjoy letting "that guy" hang his character with his own rope... and occasionally a little help.)

So I wouldn't take it too personally as the GM: teaching multiple sections of the same course in a university, one quickly discovers how much of what makes a class wonderful or terrible is the way the students behave in class and interact with the instructor, one another, and the subject material. A semester with a terrible class full of students who act like resentful zombies in class (and treat having to take the course as some kind of painful drudgery from day one) can leave you wondering whether you're a good teacher at all... except why are your other classes all having fun, engaged, and writing you emails a year later thanking you for being the first great, truly dedicated professor they ever had? Honestly, there's only so much an instructor can do when a group of students is dead set on not really enjoying themselves, not learning, on recalcitrantly not doing the very thing they signed up to do... and the same goes for GMs.

Also, I have to say: most people are mediocre at most things, aren't they? Lots of people just are kind of mediocre in their engagement with the hobby, at least at the table. Not their emotional engagement with the hobby, mind you: they love the hobby, identify themselves as RPGers, spend lots of their disposable income on RPG products, but they're not willing or able to invest the energy and time necessary to become great roleplayers or GMs. It's like guitar-playing: most guitarists in the world are mediocre, too, and are fine with that because playing guitar is about jamming with buddies. I'm not about to crap on people who have their fun that way, but I'm also not about to say, "That's great guitar-playing." I mean... actually becoming great takes work, and risk-taking, and a huge amount of time and energy and focus and dedication. One could benefit from improv classes, and from acting experience, and from carefully studying the ruleset being used, and watching other good RPGers in action (and bad ones, for that matter). But in the end it's a game. Most people aren't going to see a point in becoming an excellent, engaged, thoughtful, and focused board gamers. Most people in a nightclub are mediocre dancers. Most home cooks never become great. Why would we expect the RPG hobby to be any different?

Which is not to bash those people: some folks are capable of multitasking to some degree, and do so because they feel the need to; some don't show when they're having fun as overtly as others; some have too much else on their minds to focus, or have a condition that makes it hard for them, but they try. Some people never become outstanding, but they do a good job of it, week after week, and really, they're the backbone of the hobby, even if nobody would ever tune in to watch them on Twitch. I think most of them could become great, if they wanted to, if their priorities were arranged that way. But they have other fish to fry, and "good enough" really is good enough for them, and we can't fault them for it.

But some other people really would rather be doing something else after years of gaming but cannot admit it to themselves; or just agreed to play because they didn't know what they were agreeing to (and feel they can't just quit, but also don't want to get into it, or even feel the need to subtly sabotage things because they feel uncomfortable); or—and this is the crucial point, given that this is a voluntary game-playing situation—some people just don't really have a sense of fun that is compatible with the GM or other players. Sometimes you even get a whole group like that, and you're the odd one our in terms of how "having fun" is defined, and that's even worse when you're the GM and you're the odd one out. (And that's not even to get into how hard it is for some people to communicate what's fun for them to the group and the GM.)

In my personal experience as a GM, if you've tried your best to figure this stuff out, and have asked players explicitly (say, in post-game analysis or chat) what would make the game more fun for them, and find that they're not saying anything helpful, and you've tried being flexible with your GMing, it may be it's just a case of a bad fit. I think that in a case like that, I prefer to pull the plug: I think it's kinder to everyone and results in a better quality of aggregate experiences, even if one has to bide one's time sometimes while putting together a group that does meet one's expectations a little better. Of course, you need to have realistic and flexible expectations, too: the trick is being picky enough to ensure you're mostly happy with the group, without being so picky you end up completely alone.

(Good dating advice and good RPG advice at the same time. How rare is that?)

A good rule of thumb a friend of mine has for GMing is that you shouldn't play with someone you wouldn't otherwise want to be spending time with... or, as he shorthands it, you should play with someone you couldn't sit down with for a coffee or a pint of beer. (Indeed, he meets new players one-on-one before introducing them to his group to see if they're a good fit by doing thing.) After all, as others have said, it's a social activity, right?
 

Kadejapan

Registered User
Validated User
#74
I play in a regular 3 hour weekly game on Thursday nights, this game is with old friends and usually has serious attention issues. Two of the players are even known to play chess against each other on their phones during the sessions. My other game is a monthly 6 hour weekend game with people that are less close friend-wise. I’ve found that this game has less issues with paying attention.
I wonder if the comfort level of the weekly game allows the players to feel more relaxed about the game and not worried about offending the GM or other players when they’re not fully engaged? Also the weekly game, the players know more about each other’s lives outside the table. So, conversations about family, work, going to the movies, etc. just happen.
 

SuperG

Active member
Validated User
#75
Constantly pulling out of the game, never taking the spotlight, "playing Candy Crush", with the excuse of "letting someone else take their deserved spotlight": no. Do not do this.
Being part of the game, allowing the spotlight to pass around between players, actively encouraging other to be involved: yes. Do this.

Constantly micro-managing other players, over-riding their choices with your own "obviously superior" opinion: no. Don't do this.
Keeping a track of what other players are up to, and occasionally offering advice, or making sure they are aware of some consequence that you have seen, and it looks like they haven't: Yes, do this,

"Too involved" players are just as much (if not more) of a problem than "not involved enough" players.

As always, moderation. Balance.
Not always easy to get the exact balance, and your table may vary.
Not quite answering the question I asked.

I'll try to be clearer.


If it's someone else's scene and spotlight I'll actively divert my attention away from the game to make sure I shut up and and don't say anything.

Like, the rogues are taking point on an infiltration job? I'll intentionally distract myself away from the game (maybe browsing the rulebook for anything that might come up later, maybe checking something on my phone) to make sure I don't jump in and try to take over.


The balance I can strike between "too involved" and "not involved enough" is to toggle between the modes.
 

hyphz

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#76
I'm not actually the GM currently.

Actually, what kicked off these thoughts was a youtube video by RPGPundit where he commented that Critical Role exaggerated the excitement and engagement of the players compared to real roleplaying. Which made me wonder, exaggerated compared to what? What is the baseline level he was comparing to, to identify exaggeration?

But it is weird that people are so cagey about this type of thing. Like saying you can participate in any hobby by just standing in the location where it is taking place and playing on your phone. While it'd be hilarious to say I participate in weightlifting because I was in the gym corridor when I played a round of Holedown, I don't think that's sensible.
 

Noclue

Registered User
Validated User
#78
In fact the general attitude in these groups is that this is the realistic limit of the RPG experience;
Yeah, I'll call BS. I play with quite a number of folks and we're engaged in the games we play. We try to pay attention to what other people are doing and we don't mess around on our phones or do other distracting things when our character isn't in a scene because we actually enjoy playing the game and we respect and care about the people we're playing with.

the system can never matter compared to the GM
Ah the System Doesn't Matter argument. Also BS. System matters, it may not be the only thing that matters, but it certainly matters. Try an experiment. Run Inspectres one day, then run Gray Ranks the next. See if you get the same game.

a single GM can't keep all players involved all the time
So the GM is the most important thing, except the GM can't do the job? Also BS, the GM can't keep all the players involved if they refuse to put down their damn phones.

and a party-based plot can't exist if all PCs act independently,
I'm not quite sure what a "party-based plot" is but, if it can't exist then don't try to have one? Is it mandatory?

and combat is mechanistic in many systems.
I guess I'll give them this one. In many systems, combat is mechanistic. Okay. So?

Especially for online games, it's well known that people will drop out at the drop of a hat, or disengage in the middle, or even actively plan side activities during a session.
All the online games I play are with people I know IRL and play face to face games with, so I'm not the right person to respond.
 

Wulfgar22

Registered User
Validated User
#79
You can certainly make an argument. But there's still a lot of nuance present; if I'm sitting there for ten minutes waiting for the game to get back to me, most of the time does it matter if I'm paying attention to what is going on when it will have no bearing on anything I do when it does get back to me? Obviously if I have to be caught up or are slow responding when it does, that's on me, but I've seen plenty of enough games where my attention or not to large portions would literally make no difference, and its hard for me to see how that's rude.
Sure. But then that really wouldn't be to the detriment of the group activity. It would be rude if your not paying attention meant that the group activity suffered or stalled.

As for the phone thing...I completely get how for many people phones and laptops are integral. And that's fine. The focus is still on the game and people are still engaged.
 
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Wulfgar22

Registered User
Validated User
#80
You could have, for example, a group of extremely casual players for whom playing the RPG is just an excuse to get together and hang out away from [family/real life/obligations/whatever] and the game itself is really a comparatively low priority.

Someone could join that group from outside and be really unhappy, but the group isn't being rude per se; there's just a mismatch of expectations about what the point of the get-together is.
Fair point. Managing expectations is pretty important in any group activity.
 
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