Over in Steve's thread on opened versus constrained games, Guy said:
Posted By: Thunder_GodIf after you read the whole book (over 2+ hours) you can teach others the rules in 20 minutes? It doesn't cut it. You need to be able to run the game in 30 minutes from pick up, and that's still borderline. It's best if you can explain the rules for 5 minutes, begin playing, and after 10-15 minutes of explaining the rest of the rules as you play it's "all there".
Yes, this. Of course, I've been nattering on about this
for some time now, so I WOULD think so. But yeah, I've been working on reducing the brow-furrowing, page-flipping component of play, learning more and more techniques to whittle it down bit by bit, a shave here and a tuck there, until (hopefully) the "learning" component of a game vanishes completely into the "doing."
So "explain in 5, then learn as you go" is my current optimal methodology. Of course, most games aren't designed to transmit that way, so it does mean a lot of work on the behalf of one participant (me), and I don't always have time to do the work. And I find that some players are resistant for a number of reasons--"it seems pretty simple to me" (oh, really? There's like 8-10 distinct steps and each time we check out of roleplaying entirely while we plod through it.) or "but I need to know how the later rules work so I can make an informed choice" (oh yeah? what's more important, having fun at every moment of play, or always making optimal choices?)
And maybe, y'know, there are some people for whom fluency play isn't a good fit, who derive more fun or satisfaction from the puzzle-solving experience of figuring out the whole clockwork at once. Maybe.
But honestly, I believe that this isn't some special weird way of approaching learning, but actually how we learn all the time
. We never just "know the whole thing all at once" like Neo downloading Kung Fu to his brain. We're always, ever only learning one bit at a time, and this method just takes off the pressure to learn the whole thing before you're "ready" to actually do it "for reals." Instead, just start with one level, get comfortable ("fluent") with that, and move up to a more complex layer only when it feels right.
Which in the big picture turns out to actually be faster. I've had so many experiences teaching a game (story game, board game, or otherwise) where I think that if I can JUST say all the important stuff that they need to know up front, the whole game will go smoothly. But in practice I've found that dumping everything sat once--even just "a few, simple concepts" (like, more than 3)--just means when it comes time to do it nobody remembers and I have to explain all over again. So, do I want to explain everything once, or explain it 3-4 times?
I'll take once, thank you.
My game The Dreaming Crucible
is written from this principle--designed so you open the booklet, get materials together, and start playing right away, learning new rules and game phases as you go. It does mean that you won't always know the purpose of a thing you're doing until later. But it also means you can hopefully let go of that worry and embrace play in the here and now.