If You Have To Ask….

“If you have to ask, you’re not having enough fun.” I hear that a lot in my line of work, but yesterday, as an explanation of why yesterday’s riff about character ownership is a bad thing to write, got my attention.

I see these kinds of responses a lot when running around the parts of the Internet where heavy-meta people like me congregate. Why are you looking so much into the meaning of these things? It’s just a story. It’s just a game. Clearly you’re not having enough fun. Go have fun! Quit bugging us with these ownership theories and these explorations of what the meta-message of the story or game may come across as. Just… have fun, and it’ll all stop mattering. But whether it matters or not, and it usually does one way or another, I find it a kind of fun I can have on top of the ‘enough’ fun I’m hopefully getting from the original medium. What’s it do?

In part, I look at this sort of thing because the looking itself interests me. Ownership is a really vague concept on the internet, particularly when you get into contracts and collaborative efforts and who knows what all else. For instance, most of the things I do for Internet consumption right now aren’t really mine in any legal sense. In my company, I usually implement projects that other people are taking lead on. Because of a contractual thing, I don’t actually own the copyright to my own blog posts, though I doubt they’d look the same coming from anyone else. And if I’m to believe White-Wolf’s lawyers, most of the characters I’ve created in the last five years who make appearances on Saturdays or occasionally as examples in weekday posts aren’t mine, just because I was using my version of one of their worlds when I thought them up.

It’s even more interesting when, as I did, you look at the impact of the GM and of the other players on a character, and how they change. Every single one of the examples from my original riff is something that’s happened to one of my characters. Sometimes, several of the examples happen at once. And those things, most of us in the group have agreed, are what made the game really, really awesome. We all take ownership of the events, and the events create the characters—in the end, it’s as much collaborative fiction with dice-based resolution as anything else, and that, to me, is what makes it so darn awesome.

Part of why I think about it is to try to figure out the etiquette of recycling characters, since a lot of the games I play in die young, and some that don’t still end before I quite know what to do with the concept. It always struck me as an insult to the people I worked with not to have them in some way shaped by what had come before, particularly if what little of the game there was had been enough to shape them. And more, if the character still treated those incidents as parts of her story, to try to make sure that whatever characters were referenced were incorporated as accurately to their original creators’ visions as possible. (Interestingly, I don’t generally do this when dealing with canonicals. Now I’m tempted to look into that.)

In part, it’s because almost everything I do is just as much about learning as about the usual rewards for playing in a role-playing game or reading/writing a story. I watch the people and see why they do what they do; I analyze the techniques being used; heck, I take apart how I’m having fun while I’m having fun and apply it to other things to ensure that I keep having fun and because for me, the understanding, and particularly the aha moments I get from the analysis, are fun in and of themselves.

And hey, I have to find topics somewhere!

So no, I don’t think it’s simply a matter of “not having too much fun”, and I’d prefer not to be treated as if that were my sole motivation.

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