Ok, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done PTA a couple of times, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fun. Thing is, we finished up and pretty much decided it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t for my group. No sleight to the game Ã¢â‚¬â€œ among other things I think it is the single best illustration of how to set up meaningful conflicts out there, so while IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m using it as an example, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m absolutely not busting on PTA.
So, when we finished up a session, we hung out on the back deck, shooting the breeze, and my players and I were trying to put their finger on exactly what it was that hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really worked. We knocked it around a bit, and one of my players pretty much summed it up. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was like telling an interesting story, but the thing is, I can do that already. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not what I want in a game.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Now, every groupÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s experience is different. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m somewhat lucky in that I have a large number of players who I would consider skilled storytellers (in the traditional sense of the word), and at least one (the gentleman I quoted) I would consider exceptional. But the end result is that using a game to create a story is more or less excess baggage.
Now, that said, we absolutely are possessed of storytelling sensibilities, so many of the things that make a good story (Strong characterization, compelling situations, meaningful conflict, thrills, chills and spills) are things we also look for in a game, so the big question really seems to be what is making the game something different than sitting around, telling a story collectively.
Now, right off the bat, maybe itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just a matter of different media. Books, oral storytelling, movies, plays and whatever else springs to mind all have a lot of those elements in common, so from a certain perspective, perhaps Ã¢â‚¬Å“storyÃ¢â‚¬Â is sort of the meta content, with multiple ways to express it.
If thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s true, this seems like a pretty easy resolution. Storytelling is one lens, Roleplaying is another, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s enough overlap that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easy to confuse them, even to the point of conflating the two at times. Thing is, while thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty straightforward, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m uncertain itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a useful conclusion.
I come back to our original problem Ã¢â‚¬â€œ presumably there is some sort of difference that is at the heart of why my group prefers to game. Of course, some of the answers are obvious Ã¢â‚¬â€œ we like to get a little bit of our competitiveness going, we like the thrill of the dice, we like the strong identification with the characters. In fact, for all that storytelling/narrative crap we look at as central to the experience, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all that other stuff that puts the spin on it for us. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the things that define the experience for us Ã¢â‚¬â€œ they prove far more complimentary than contradictory.
I dunno. Gaming really is itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own thing in my mind. The difference is clear enough that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m always gonna feel a little bit of warping when I try to run it through a filter better suited for a different medium. Despite that, those filters tend to be much better developed than the ones we have for games, so theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re still mightily useful. And hell, I know that some folks think weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got some damn fine filters for gaming too, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s its own argument.