|My favorite genre of game is the cooperative story improv game.
||[Feb. 16th, 2014|10:13 pm]
I've made the comment before that I don't actually like most board games, but I really like the kinds of people who like board games, so I play them in order to hang out with people I like. And I mean both ancient and modern board games when I say that: mancala, chess, backgammon, nine-men's-morris, Sorry, Monopoly, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Sentinels of the Multiverse -- my feelings toward the games themselves may be mildly positive to mildly bored, but I really like the other players. I have no particular desire to win when I play, but I want to play to the best of my ability in order to help provide a good gaming experience to everyone else (it's no fun to play against someone who isn't at least TRYING to do well). But I'm generally indifferent to the actual game. There ARE card games I genuinely like for themselves: gin, seven-card stud, spit, a couple versions of Solitaire, but, mostly, I play games as a way to hang out with friends and strangers.|
APPLES TO APPLES was a great boon to me. All of a sudden, there was a massively popular game (in terms of games, "massively popular" means that "there's an actual chance that a random person-on-the-street would have heard of it") that was based on social interaction and humor. Where the purpose of the game was to entertain the other players, rather than to use planning, knowledge of odds, and so forth to create optimal strategies toward victory.
I really ADMIRE the ability to win games with strategy and planning, and I do my best to do so when playing them, but it's not something I actually ENJOY. I think it's valuable; I think that it's good brain exercise, and that the habit of thinking several moves ahead is something that is just plain useful in life. But I don't enjoy it, per se.
All the games in the A2A genre are based on the "win by being the most entertaining" concept -- CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY being the best-known A2A, with SLASH and CLUSTER FIGHT being two more examples which currently exist in prototype form and are being rolled out in the next couple months.
So the A2A genre is my third favorite.
My second favorite is the cooperative/semi-cooperative improv story game: THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, ONCE UPON A TIME, FIASCO (pretty much my best-of-the-best of the category), NANOFICTIONARY (okay, that one's not cooperative, but I like it anyway), and FORSOOTH! -- a game we learned this past weekend at Boskone.
But it's harder to find people to play these games with. Heck, my cousin-in-law Erika Gold specifically lists this as a type of game that she simply CAN'T play, and I had to nag and puppy-dog-eyes Lis to get her to play FORSOOTH!, and, even though she enjoyed it, there were other things she could have been doing that she would have enjoyed more.
My favorite-favorite genre is the long-form story-based tabletop roleplaying game, with an ongoing campaign that's not too combat-heavy. Which fundamentally IS a cooperative improv story game -- I like things like FIASCO and FORSOOTH! because of their similarity to tabletop RPGs.
One of my friends was talking to Lis and he said that he wasn't really great at improv story games, but he liked playing them with me, because I was so entertaining with them. And I was thinking about it, and I guess I AM good at them. (I was commenting to Lis that I didn't think I'd been doing THAT well in the Shakespearian-style FORSOOTH!, because I had only MOSTLY managed to talk in iambic pentameter in my scenes, and I only twice managed to end them with rhyming couplets.)
I got to talking with a couple of game designers, including the designers of FORSOOTH! and Cluster Fight, about this. One of the other designers had been teaching people his Lovecraftian Horrors-doing-masked-Mexican-Wrestling game, and was commenting that there were a lot of players who WERE enjoying the game, but just playing it as a strategy fighting game, and not even trying to use the "extra points for entertaining people" mechanic. And he didn't get why -- he'd tried to create a game which would be enjoyable to strategy players and entertainment players, and had therefore created a way in which you got extra points for making people smile. There was never a penalty for trying and failing; strategically, attempting to be funny could only help, and never hurt. And yet MOST players didn't even try.
I thought about that, and told him what I thought it might be.
We human beings are social animals, and as such, one of our most fundamental fears is social rejection. Which means that one of the most unpleasant things that can happen to us is "being laughed at." In order to play one of these games, you have to convince yourself that "being laughed at" is a GOOD thing, rather than among the worst things that can happen to you.
It can be done, of course. But it's the same sort of thing that makes people hang-glide, parachute, bungee-jump, cliff-dive. All of those include taking the fundamental human fear of heights, and re-defining it in your own mind to being a good thing.
To enjoy cooperative improv story games, or even to use that sort of mechanic in another game, you need to go through the same process of redefining a "fear" as a "thrill". I have, and enjoy them, but it's not fair to expect everyone else to.