March 15, 2010

20 Minutes of Fun in 4 hours of Play

Filed under: Games — Tags: , — bilbo @ 11:18 pm

At the Who’s Yer Con in Indianapolis, I played in a demo by Mike Noorman from the MU Skulls. In the group was a guy who made this statement crystallize and understandable to me. I had seen the elements for years before this but not put it together until that night. This guy was a “Serious” gamer. I have encountered this type before but never connected it to Dancey’s “20 minute” remark. He probably only had about 20 minutes of fun. Now, ask him and it would be a litany of reasons including but not limited to the system, the group not taking the game seriously, the guy who was drinking beer or having the designer sitting in. What it really happened was a mix of game styles, on a fundamental and incompatible level.

You see, he was there to play a game, a certain kind of game, and no other would matter. This could have been defined by system or setting or attitude of the group (are the laughing and cracking jokes about the A-Team or immersing themselves in their character roles) but in the end, it was like he was sitting at the table alone. That is not fun for anyone.

So how do we fix it? I mean, I have seen this problem many a time. I have seen the guy who just takes it all a bit too seriously or more to the point, more seriously than those around him. This can work if it is not too big a delta…or it can make for a guy who is terse, “a dick” or even gets up and leaves early. Unfortunately, the only thing I can thing of is to ask the guy to leave. This is not very practical in a demo game and can be hard to determine in time to make any difference. Unfortunately, by the very definition, it is almost impossible to set up the level of “serious” play that will satisfy the “serious” gamer and not alienate the rest of the group. There may be no solution to this one except for the “serious” gamer to find a group that engages in the same style of play but in the interim, a fair number of games may be destroyed by a bored player.


  1. It’s been my experience that those players don’t usually come back a second time.
    When they do, I try to have a word in private with them about why they think they are not having as much fun as everybody else. I try to get them to see that they are a distraction to the rest of the group, and that not everyone takes gaming as seriously as they do. If I can convince them that it’s preferable to game in a less than perfect group than to not game at all, then I gain a player that will work with me to help keep the party on task a little more than they might normally be.
    This has been hit and miss though, so I guess there is nothing to do but try to get everyone in the group to work together for the enjoyment of all.

    Comment by scott — March 16, 2010 @ 11:22 am

  2. You hit the nail on the head, Bill. Having demoed games for 15+ years, I’ve seen this many times – more than I care to see. I’d say that it’s pretty much a fifty-fifty thing with running a great con game; half the games the players just gel and it’s a wonderful experience all around. The other half we wish to, as gm’s, try to keep it together, but it’s like juggling eggs – and when one egg breaks it starts to make it a slippery mess, then it becomes a salvage job.

    People are people, so you will always have a variety of personalities. At our “home” tables we tend to forgive a lot of things we don’t like to have at a con table or we can weed out the “undesirables” so we don’t have to deal with them week after week – So there is a natural player homogenization that occurs and things run better in a home group where everyone knows their place and “role.” Then we jump to the con table – a place where most people don’t know each other and “pay to play.” For the most part, their expectation is that of a consumer. I’ve paid you, now deliver. But we tend to forget there are 5 to 7 other people who expect the GM to deliver something instantly that took weeks to develop at a home table – or they don’t have a home table and the con is their only rping outlet – either way, the stakes are raised. It’s sort of the “violence inherent in the system.”

    Comment by Mike Noorman — March 17, 2010 @ 10:31 am

  3. Yeah, you see it more at cons. It is more manageable in a campaign type setting. In con situations, by the time you realize what is going on you may well be through half of the adventure. So, yeah, you can weed them out at the home table but it is tough otherwise.

    Comment by bilbo — March 18, 2010 @ 9:31 am

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