This post arose when I responded to s post on the Gauntlet Slack about the fact that decades of F-2-F GM-ing is no guarantee of success in the online sphere. I went on to point out that running games online meant I was having to unlearn some F-2-F habits …
So … Face-2-Face ‘un-learning’:
- I liken a table game to a dinner party where, even if everyone is talking at the same time, body language, a glance or a slight change in tone is enough to cut through the babble to a consensus about what happens next … Over the years I’ve got used to assessing mood etc. from all that input and then deciding what to say/do next, and generally ‘managing’ the table
Online is more like a structured business call with much less ‘social data’ coming in unless I structure the conversation more carefully. In my early online forays that has led me to roll on with the narrative as if it was a table I’d judged well, only to find out I’d steam-rollered a player’s agency.
Learning … I must take time to run around my virtual table to make sure that I have interpreted the much narrower bandwidth of information I’m taking in from those postage stamps at the bottom of my screen accurately. I must remember to seek more explicit responses rather than just raising an eye-brow, as I might around a table, and knowing people know what I mean.
- F-2-F games … at least the ones I have played in tend to be with people I know relatively well - even if only in a largely transactional/game-related way. I understand what they like and dislike and how they tend to signal either response.
Online, I more often play - at least initially - with ‘strangers’. Over the last 9 months I’d like to think some of them have become friends as we crop up in many of the same games, but because of the narrower bandwidth of exchange (above) I still struggle to consistently pick up or understand ‘their jam’.
Learning … Rather like a Con game (when you encounter complete strangers) I have to consciously avoid assuming I know what they want and use CATS to ensure we’re on the same page and ask more establishing question (which I never did with F-2-F groups) to increase the chance that the game I came to run is the game they came to play.
So … in summary - I am un-learning habits of taking players for granted or making well informed assumptions based on lots of F-2-F data.
I am un-learning a tendency to treat them as actors in my drama, and instead I’m trying (and I do not find it easy) to treat them as collaborators in a drama we are trying to create together.
On the upside I am carrying some of this new learning back to the F-2-F environment … even if they sometimes wonder what the aliens did with the real Alun they thought they understood. Which means the unlearning meme is actually a virus I am infecting them with … but we’re friends and it will do them good in the long run even if it makes them work harder in the short term!