Play Culture Two point Five: Emergent Play Extras

As I was watching the tenth minute of extra time in the first half of a Premier League match this weekend, it struck me that I have omitted one crucial feature of the original ‘Game Culture’ series from the two posts on Play Culture so far – and that is the emergent play that comes from making these changes. So, like some free DLC for a computer game that the designers made a whoopsie with, here are the ‘Emergent Play Extras’ for Principles One and Two. Enjoy!

Principle One: Do Your Homework

The emergent play from everyone prepping for a game is simple; it’s TIME.

Think about this in the same way that football (soccer) is reacting to the new time-wasting/extra-time rules this season? (And for anyone who has just rolled their eyes and thought ‘sportsball’, grow up). The equivalent of having the ball in play, is time at the table with everyone actually engaging in play. You have a finite amount of that – there’s no extra time when you’re playing in someone’s kitchen and people need to catch a bus. So the more time you waste watching someone have analysis paralysis over which 5th level Cleric spells to choose, or musing over whether to take an Edge as an advancement in Savage Worlds, or whatever, the less time everyone has collectively playing together.

Additionally, and this is a personal one, it signals to the GM that the game means something to the other players. I find it amazingly disheartening when I have taken my time to prep something special, and people turn up like a tabula rasa, unable to even remember what game we are playing, without dice, and seemingly unengaged with the game. Maybe I’m a little more committed than some – I’m writing a blog after all – but it matters to me.

Principle Two: Everyone Has Fun!

The emergent play effects of Principle Two are a little more subtle because a lot of this is dictated by the player becoming more self-aware and checking their own actions against the benefit to the group as a whole.

If you’re buying into a game that you want to play, and working with each other to ensure that everyone is aligned in their expectations from the get-go, you’re going to have less low-key annoyance and bitterness that can ferment and spoil a game. These little niggles can soon pile up until someone is suddenly thinking it might not be worth their while to attend, or to make the effort to prioritise the game over something else. And when that happens, games start to fall apart.

I think it also brings groups together, stronger. The collective memories that are had are better – it’s about the good times, the great stories and epic game moments – and not about the niggles and bitching and bad craic.

And if everyone is having fun, people are more likely to want to play, so it becomes a self-reinforcing positive spiral.

In the future…

I’ll make sure these things are built into the blog posts – until then, let me know in the socials whether you think I’m right or not? (@vodkashok on Twitter is the best place currently)

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