Jan. 30th, 2008

kayjayoh: (find x)
A recent post at Making Light reminded me of my strange relationship with gaming. The vast majority of my friends are gamers. In theory, I am one, too. Only...I am frequently frustrated by games.

For starters, I am awful at learning rules, so I like simple games. Scrabble is simple. Trivial Pursuit is simple. Monopoly is simple. Clue starts to get into the realm of complicated, but fortunately I've been playing it since I was a kid, so I've kind of got it down. Chess is complex as all hell, but once you have pinned down which way the pieces move you've got a good start. You may not have any concept of strategy and will still get your butt kicked, but at least you know what is going on. It took me years to learn how to play poker and I *still* need to write down what the various combinations are in order to remind myself what beats what any time I play, and god help me if someone wants to play something other that 5 card draw.

The thing is, most games aren't simple. There are a billion rules and pieces and cards and contingencies and I can't freaking keep track. Then there are the games where the rules evolve as the game goes on--WTF! This makes my brain go squishy and leak out my ears.

I don't play video games, though I do sometimes like watching other people play them. I didn't grow up with them and didn't have regular access/exposure to them till halfway through college. I have a hard time working the controllers and I get bored with the playing faster than I can get up the learning curve. ("Hmm, I seem to have died again. Meh, my thumbs hurt. Where did I put that book I was reading?")

RPGs and LARPs are a bit different, but again it is a question of learning the rules. For role-playing I need to be able to really develop my character and understand who she is, what her goals are, who these other people are, what is my relationship to them, how does the world work...so one-shots, which have the least "system" are generally bad for me. I spend most of my time trying to remember who is who and what is going on and then the game is over. I do better with chronicle play, and then I try to use the "system" only when I absolutely have to (Which means when I do need to use it, I'm really out of practice.) I was in one game for three years and even was a narrator for the last...same system the entire time, and at the end of the last night I still would have been hard-pressed to tell you exactly how all the challenges were supposed to work. When someone brings out a new book and says "Hey check this out! It's a really cool game." Part of me thinks, "Great, another damn set of rules to learn."

This is a difficulty because games are the main social glue for the people I know. So my options are either to be the curmudgeon declining/refusing to play or I can go through the frustration of trying to learn a new set of rules. Now, once I get the rules down there is a good chance I will enjoy whatever game I have just learned to play. However there is also a good chance that either people will stop playing it in favor of something else *or* SOMEONE WILL CHANGE THE DAMN RULES!! Version 2.5 will come out and there will be tweaks and tugs and nips and tucks and I'll think I know what is going on except for the part where I don't. Gar!!!

I don't know why this is the case. I want to be one of the people sitting down enthusiastically to open the newest box or book or deck of cards that has come along. Instead the phrase "new game" fills me with dread. Which is funny because I distinctly remember as a child we learned new boardgames and card games all the time. It was one of our rainy day activities. But I think they were simpler games--5 rules or less. And when we played with our dolls (basically a tabletop RPG with minis) or put on dress-up clothes and ran around the house and yard (basically a LARP) there weren't any rules, we just made the story up as we went along. Granted, this occasionally lead to fights and crying, but what *didn't* occasionally lead to fights and crying among young siblings?

I guess I still want to play games as an adult. I just want them to be as easy to play as I remember, rather than a whole lot of work. Intuitive, rather than frustrating. I also wish we still played games like hide-and-go-seek, tag, and all the variations thereof. (Kick-the-can, Sardines, Bloody Murder...) Those were fun, and I miss them.

In meantime, I'll keep working on getting rid of that feeling of dread when someone brings out a new game. I don't want to be an inflexible stick-in-the-mud. It's not like I don't like to try new things. If I'm going to keep spending my time among gamers (as I have for the last decade or so) I'll have to keep learning the rules.

June 2008

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