Sunday, May 7, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: How Mech Piloting Became the Norm

Over at Aeoli Pera's blog, he has a post on why Austists are big on rules, by way of an anecdote about recruits in boot camp being so hidebound:

“You see,” a drill instructor explained to me, “a recruit’s in a place he doesn’t understand at all, and nothing ever works for him. Back home, he knows the rules. Maybe he’s a big dude on the block, got it made. Not here. Everybody’s yelling at him and he can’t ever do anything right.

“So he figures he’ll do exactly what he’s told. It’s his way of protecting himself. If something goes wrong, he thinks at least it’s not his fault. This is what a drill instructor’s got to learn — nothing’s too crazy for a recruit to do if he thinks it’s what you told him. And you really got to think about it. Otherwise you can get him hurt.

Folks, you just read the psychology behind the rise of Mech Piloting in tabletop gaming.

Let me transfer this to the gaming context. Someone prone to this sort of thinking is accustomed to thinking of games as being defined--and therefore bound--by their rules as it is, and cannot readily cope with the concept of the tabletop RPG as a virtual life simulator, a sandbox bound by natural language and the feedback loop I mentioned previously here. They really get bothered by the amount of control that the Game Master has, so one or two bad GMs can turn such a thinker sour right quick and push them solidly into Mech Pilot thinking.


Because the rules are what they can count upon, and they begin to insist upon their adherence above all else as a means to protect themselves from a chaotic situation that doesn't make sense and cannot be trusted. Once this took on critical mass, which about the time when my generation hit adolescence in the mid-to-late 80s, it began feeding back into the business of gaming.

This would lead through the 90s towards the new (and now established) generation of talent going this way in professional publishing. The increasing draw upon videogames for inspiration in creating rule systems now makes sense; they're drawing from proven models to bring order to what they deem a medium that otherwise is naught but horrific chaos.

TL/DR: Because they never learned the rules of ordinary interaction, they turned a medium built upon it into a weak knockoff of another medium that has such rule-bound logic as an innate quality. They should have gone into videogames. (For some, they did, to everyone's betterment.)

The way to counter this, going forward, is to check to ensure that participants (folks you don't already know) aren't left in that state of existential terror described above. Shun those that haven't yet learn the rules of ordinary everyday interaction; you're not there to teach them, and everyone is NOT entitled to sit at the table. Leave the rehabilitation to professionals.

1 comment:

  1. I have no greater joy than watching these sorts of people roll 3d6-in-order and then get left in a kobold pit trap by their peers after about thirty minutes of play. That's just inherently good gaming.


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