Friday, January 20, 2006

Lesson: Player

It seems that RPG designers enjoy creating new terms for concepts which are already fairly well know to their audience. Witness the plethora of names for the person who runs the game: Gamemaster, Referee, Storyteller, Control, etc. The term Player is much less controversial, it has pretty much the same meaning for most people who play and buy RPGs. However this meaning is not the same as the one used in RPG theory.

One of the first barriers of understanding between the layman and RPG theory is that when a theorist says "player", they usually mean anyone involved in playing the game, whether a traditional player or a Gamemaster (or what have you). This distinction is very important, because it removes the isolation of the Gamemaster and reminds the theorist that everyone at the table is in fact playing the game. This opens the door to different approaches to RPGs, from communally run games to carefully divided roles in running the game. The Gamemaster role is recognized as an artifact of how most people play, not an intrinsic part of what RPGs are.

But in expanding the definition, additional questions arise. Does the organizer of a larp count as a player, even if he or she doesn't participate? Does a game designer or an author whose work inspires a game count as a player? And if so, how does that change our understanding of RPGs?

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