I’ve spent a lot of time in the last six or so years thinking about how gaming affects the people who play them. The cause and effect is tough to wrap one’s head around. My review of Unicorn City brought some of these old thoughts to the surface. In the film, during the first playing session, a few things happen:
On the first viewing, the scene in meant to set up the characters. Specifically Voss and Shadow Hawk. Voss is the intense leader, and Shadow is the douchebag GM who cares more about his story than his players.
Thing is, we’re thrown into this out of context. The first thing we see is Clancy complaining about not having a thumb to hold a sword with. Shadow denies him this thumb, because his character is some big cat person, and has been since the game started.
This is totally reasonable from one perspective. Shadow is right. The character that Clancy CHOSE to be should have had its limitations fully aware to him at the beginning. That isn’t the problem though. The problem is that Shadow isn’t working with the players. He’s working against them. A good DM would listen to his players, and try to do something for them later, like, I dunno, a magic glove of opposable thumbs. It doesn’t even have to be a good item, but it would be valuable because it’s something the player WANTS, and can be used to get him to do things the DM wants him to do. DM-Player relationships should be symbiotic. Instead, he’s a huge ass, and Voss isn’t helping. He demands that his character be brought back into the Material Plane, and that Clancy’s character have thumbs. Then there’s that whole thing with the sword through the table. Look at his face after that. He seems to be completely regretting that that happened. He actually had a temper strong enough to make him stab a table.
I would NOT want to game with this guy.
Voss spends most of the film in this very intense, let’s-get-down-to-business mind frame, brought on by his belief that “he is what he pretends to be”, which in this case, is a bard/paladin knight. This is really to his detriment, as it leaves him blind to the feelings of the other characters at several important points in the narrative.
As the knight he believes he is, he’s TOO GOOD for things like fish tacos. This leaves him WITHOUT A JOB, with an eviction notice on the door, and no way to pay rent except for unemployment, but that’s okay, because he got the girl and the moral high ground in the end. See the problem
Once the players decide they really don’t care for Shadow’s game, Marsha writes her own campaign set up. Voss states that you can’t just “willy-nilly” a game together. YES YOU CAN. Spontaneity has been one of my biggest motivators as a gamer. Many a game has a started with a simple “You know what would be cool?” or simply stating “I want to play a game of Call of Cthulhu”. A mindset like that, making gaming into something that has to always have serious thought put behind it, is really dumb.
Games are fun! I play D&D to try out a new twist on a character, or to see how players will react when I toss them in a pit with a bunch of slime creatures, not as some expression of how into it I am.
As a writer, I get that it is hard to wring drama out of playing an RPG, I’ve tried. Drama comes from intense emotions and situations, gaming is a bunch of geeks getting together to have fun, if anyone takes fantasy too seriously, that’s when the questionable mental states come into play. If it isn’t fun, you shouldn’t be playing, if tempers flare, then the environment is just not right. As a gamer, I’ve been in situations where I need to do a bit of manipulating of people to get them to just sit and play. These days, I’ve gotten sick of solving everyone else’s problems. If it’s that much of a hassle, then just drop it. All this forcing it is gonna make someone blow out an O-ring.
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