All right, here’s the deal. I’m out of town for the next week or so, and I have a lot of things that I’m going to need to do that aren’t working on the blog. So from tonight through next Tuesday night, I’m going to rerun posts from earlier in this blog’s history—the kinds of things that are in the archives somewhere, but have probably long since gotten lost in the shuffle.
Originally posted on January 15, 2010
Yeah, we’ve all seen this one, particularly in the heavy-RP sorts of groups. There’s always that one person who just seems too twitched out to really get into it. Apparently when someone mentioned that it was a game and they should relax, they were already too busy focusing on something else. Usually it’s associated with inexperienced players (again, particularly in heavy-RP groups), but it’s just as possible for it to be happening to someone with decent experience; I actually think the greatest predictor for gamer stage fright is perfectionism rather than skill level. What might be going on?
- Worry about the separation between player and character. Yeah, this one is usually more often a newbie thing. Usually. But when you’re dealing with something where you don’t actually know the player, particularly if you know what sort of impression you want to make on them and you’re pretty sure it’s counter the impression that the character’s actions would make, even someone who’s been gaming for a while but is used to different people and/or people they know might start having trouble.
- Unfamiliarity with the system/mechanics. The solution to this, of course, is to familiarize oneself with the system better, but for people who are trying to immerse themselves in the world, that can be an added (and potentially annoying) stumbling block. And if they don’t have the free time to look through the rules, who’s to blame them for not improving at the same rate as the others?
- Unfamiliarity with the world. This as a stumbling block is likeliest to affect the kinds of people who live by their powers of observation and their wits rather than their dice, particularly those who just plain don’t trust random chance. (Five single-digit results in a row on a d20 will usually do that to you!) So when they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re likelier to freeze up than someone who likes to fall back on the numbers.
- Discomfort with the playstyle. Different playstyles, after all, create a pretty significant mess of ripples when it comes to what the ‘right’ (or at least, the lowest risk/greatest chance of playoff) thing to do is. It’s not quite the same as having to learn a new set of skills, as with the other two, but it can feel like it, with the added issue of just how you go about bringing up the fact that you aren’t really enjoying playing this way. Particularly if something like this has happened before with another group, it’s easy to think that admitting it isn’t working is just going to mess things up more.
- Disparity of skill (particularly in one of the two above areas) with other members of the group. This one goes out to perfectionists, general showoffs, and/or people who want to make a good impression on another of the people involved. You’d think that having an expert or two in the group to set things straight would be a good thing, but if you want to reduce the risk of this kind of stage fright, it’s probably better that everyone be raw beginners, unfamiliar with the system or the setting, or in some other way on pretty much the same terms. Otherwise, you might get someone who doesn’t Get It worrying about looking stupid in front of or in comparison to the one who does, or the one who does have the background worrying about whether someone’s going to ask them a question to which they don’t know the answer. Even among friends, it’s still possible for this to kick in.
- Joining in mid-game. There’s a whole lot to learn in a little time, and depending on how conversant with the group, the system and the world she is, a newcomer to a group’s game may find herself dealing with any combination or even all of the above problems at the same time. Interestingly, the game doesn’t have to actually have started for this to be an issue; a late recruit, particularly if the group has synced up their character development, can have the same issues.
So if someone’s showing standoffishness, irritability, or any of a number of traits that usually say “does not play well with others”, particularly if you’ve seen them not doing that in other gaming situations, see if any of these factors are coming into play. It might just be stage fright.