Friday, June 14, 2013

Why Do People Still Enjoy Action?

Hey, readers!

So, I just came back from seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness. No, the date isn't wrong. Yes, I am seeing it a few weeks after release. Unfortunately, I'm about a two week delay on my summer movies, seeing as my brother watches them all with his friends and my father and I like to see them together so we wait for a time that is good for both of us.

It was a good movie, all things considered. Story wasn't awful, characterization was strong, and it had some fun moments. Still, walking out of the theater and discussing things with my father, I couldn't help but ponder this question.

'Why do people still enjoy action?'

I mean, at the beginning, the appeal is obvious. Action allows you to experience things that you'd never experience in an out-of-body sort of way. You can be in the middle of a tense fire-fight, escape explosions, fly a ship around, mow down enemies with an automatic weapon, all without any of the real danger. It's exciting.

At least, it's supposed to be.

It's not for me. I'm tired of action. In this violence saturated culture where you can live out any fantasy by popping in a movie or playing a video game, I feel like I've been through it all. I've fought zombies, flown spaceships, beat the bad guy down with my bare fists. There's only so many elements or variations that you can throw on it, but in the end, it's all the same. I don't get excited from action anymore.

Why am I in a minority here?

Since this is a role-playing blog, let's bring it back to my favorite hobby. The majority of RPG's have a focus on action. In fact, you can usually tell how combat driven a particular system is by how much of the core rule-book is taken up by rules on how to handle conflict. Look at a book like D&D, it's usually a pretty solid chunk. A World of Darkness book? Not so much.

I'm just curious as to the why here. Why do people enjoy a game of D&D that's just a constant kill-fest to find better treasure? So, your character kills an orc in a cool way, then another one. He jumps off a building and slices a guy. Maybe he drives a cart into an army and scatters his opponents, sword in hand, plowing away. I can see how that can be fun or cool for a little while, but eventually it becomes a contest of 'who can be the biggest badass' that drags on and on.

Why do people need action to jump-start the game or bring excitement into a session? There's that old trick of introducing ninjas for no reason when the plot gets slow, but why is that necessary? Isn't drama and human emotion engaging enough? Hell, stage-plays are almost entirely comprised of drama, emotion, character depth and growth. That keeps an audience engaged and entertained for the span of the production. Why do things like role-playing games and movies have to bring physical action into the picture to garner interest all the time?
I wish I knew why I was wired different. Many of my friends do not seem to mind combat heavy games with little regard to rhyme or reason. Only a few people agree with my point of view that I know of, and those people are mostly women. Go figure.

Still, I would love an answer. Why do you still enjoy action? Why does it take combat to get you interested or engaged during a session?

For me, I want to move on. I want to leave the mindset of 'My character does this 'cause it's cool, fun, or funny,' and start to explore why my character does what they do, what the consequences are, how they change my character, and how that changes the story. Not to say that action or combat doesn't have a place, it does! But I want it to mean something.  The choice to kill someone should have deep personal and external repercussions, not just he was bad, now he's dead. My character should be doing something beyond the motivation of 'I want money' or 'This is my job.' If my character fails, it should mean something more than just 'Game Over.'

Even if you don't agree with me, I challenge you GMs out there (and myself!) to think outside the combat box when designing your sessions. There are other ways to engage people. Not everyone has the same tastes, and your game design should be diverse to cater to the people you are running it for. If your group is full of people who can't get enough of mindless combat, then keep providing it for them. Just keep in mind the people like me who would prefer something else.

If you have an answer to the main question or any of those above, please, please, tell me! I want to understand this position that is not my own so that I could be a better GM and expand my own point of view. Also, if you agree with me or want to explore the same things that I want to, let me know! Maybe we can gather some like-minded people and do... Something!...

Regardless, I do hope you enjoyed this rant. If not, here's a funny picture.


1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you. I've always found combats the most boring aspect of gaming (yeah, even more than character creation) and I had years to harness my skills as an action GM before finally finding the group of the like-minded, narativistic players that I have today.