Gamethink

Monday, May 17, 2004

Emotional Involvement

posted by Geoff

The other day in a conversation, Bruce commented that he has this theory that roleplaying campaigns are more fondly remembered by those involved if there are a couple of really excellent sessions and some mediocre sesssions than if the game is just consisently good.

Over the past six months or so, I've been lucky enough to be part of two really excellent chatroom based games. I'm playing in one (The Defence League, an MURPG game run by Blue) and GMing one (Capstone Cabin, a D20 Call of Cthulhu game). Both of them have had the sort of gaming that I have been looking for for years, but haven't managed to really find in a face-to-face game (although an Unknown Armies game I played in a few years ago was pretty damn close).

Bruce's comments got me thinking about what it is about these two games that hooks me in so much and why they have been so memorable for me. The conclusion that I came to is that both games require a high degree of emotional involvement on the part of both the player and the GM. There is a lot of in-character dialogue, some of it becoming quite heated at times. As soon as this happens, the emotion level of the participants goes up quite dramatically, becoming quite intense. Because of this, both games are looked on fondly by those involved (to the point where my CoC players are reminding me that they're still keen to resume as soon as circumstances permit).

The more I think about this idea, the more it seems to fit the idea that games that have a couple of really excellent sessions are the ones that are the most fondly remembered. In the really excellent sessions, I would suspect that the emotion levels on the part of the people involved is quite high, either because of in-character drama or arguments or because of the way the dice have fallen which has made a successful outcome of the session impossible to predict until the last minute. The weaker sessions would simply be forgotten about because of the lack of emotional involvement in comparison to the good sessions.

I also suspect that games that somehow consistently encourage an increased emotion level on the part of the players — I'm particularly thinking of games such as Feng Shui, Exalted and Adventure here — are the ones that people will tend to rave about more. They are also likely to be the games that are remembered by the players simply because the sessions are simply more intense.

Of course, this is just a theory on my part, and I can't really think of a decent way of testing the hypothesis. Still, perhaps it's a jumping off point for discussion, and perhaps something that people might be able to use to their advantage when working on new material.