Update Your Operations Manual
This is an official announcement from the Indie Game Reading Club. Please download the updated PDF and/or mark up your local play culture procedures manual.
Time to talk about being the change you want to see in the world, specifically regarding helping players do better.
Primetime Adventures has fan mail. Burning Wheel offers inducements for specific kinds of positive player behavior (embodiment, workhorse, etc.). There are others of course, but those popped into my head. Economic incentives are great and usually (!) actually incentivize. But you know what always incentivizes? Other people.
Recently I received heavy doses of indie game culture radiation (it’s okay, I’ll live, keeping my eyes open for nascent superpowers), during which I got to see lots of uses of roses and thorns. You know this one? Go around the table after a game and say one nice thing and one critical thing. Designers need it to help hone in on the ideal experience. GMs need it to help hone in their craft.
But it’s all trickle-up. Players are above GM or Designer. Do the feedback thing, the top dog gets what they need, the players part ways or maybe they have a gushing debrief.
Please update your Local Play Culture Operations Manual with the following:
10.2.4.a – At the end of session, each player shall give positive recognition to one or more fellow players. This recognition shall herein be referred to as applause. It need not be long or gushing. Any positive acknowledgement will suffice. GMs will continue to receive feedback via standing roses and thorns procedures covered in the previous section.
Here’s what I’m thinking: unless the event was so unpleasant that you wanted to ghost the table (or scream, I get it), every player’s participation deserves to be noticed and you can find something nice to say about every player’s contributions. Believe me, I’ve been at some shitty tables. And I’m pretty sure I could come up with a moment, a gesture, something worthy of praise.
I feel like, culturally, we are in desperate need of more positive feedback loops around play, especially if there’s any belief that play is a craft and that its improvement benefits everyone. I do! I know I’m much happier as a player and as a facilitator with better players. And as a side note: loops need to go in a circle, so as players let’s also be listening for the positive contributions of other players, yeah? I don’t know what it is about playing, but gosh it’s easy to crawl up inside our own heads. That might be a result of the cognitive load of play itself, but I’m betting just about any neurotypical player can split off a little bandwidth.
One small positive thing. Every time. That’s all I ask. Your operations manual now mandates it.