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The Seer Vitz

Serious Gaming or Lighthearted Enjoyment (Part I)

We must first take into account that an RPG is a game. By default, games are usually played to have fun. Yet, does that mean that there should be no serious matters in the game? Does it mean that it is perfectly all right for players to joke around while playing (out of character, that is)?

I decided to answer these questions in two separate articles, so that it does not get too confusing, and so that it may spark more conversation in the newsgroups <s>. This week I will concentrate on the external matters, the ones that deal with "player mentality". Next time, I will discuss what issues are appropriate, and whether or not there are inappropriate matters. (I.e. Discuss whether all is "free game")

I am going to do it again, I am sure. I am almost positive that some of you will disagree with my assessment. But honestly, that could never stop me! (In fact, some might say that it is my main goal) Here it goes: there are two types of player mentalities. They are highly incompatible with each other. I like to consider them as the serious gamer and the lighthearted player.

The serious gamer thinks that there is no place for out of character humor or remarks. They believe that a player should stay in character and act seriously. To them, role-playing is more for enjoyment than entertainment. They think that the best game is one in which everyone is deeply in character and enjoying their character, than one in which the players are entertaining each other.

The lighthearted player on the other hand is just playing to have a good time. As long as everyone is laughing and having a good time, then that is a successful game. Whether comments are made in character or out of character make little difference. "It is only a game" is his/her mentality. This type of player makes remarks to the GM that aren’t always meant to be taken for face value. When he says that he attacks the dragon, he is usually joking.

The serious gamer cannot understand how the lighthearted player can be so ridiculous and out of character; the lighthearted player cannot understand how the serious gamer can take everything so seriously. When you try to put them together, one will usually aggravate the other so much to the point that neither has a good time. And if the GM is of either characteristic, then if the players are not the same, the game usually does not run smoothly.

I do not mean to say that (after all that) there is no "in-between" character type. Of course there is. Not everyone is extremely serious or overly lighthearted. It is just that those are the two predominate player traits that are most often seen. They are incompatible yet, can make for an interesting gaming session.

Do you think I am mistaken? Are those two types the exception rather than the rule? Respond; let me know what you think. Till next time!

James A. Vitz
RPG Columnist