Why this topic?
A group game was my first taste of collaborative writing, a few years ago. It was a small website, a forum for a single game specifically and the group of active writers counted around twelve. The atmosphere was great, the community was great, the story was engaging and I fell in love with this form of writing. It was an extension of what I have been doing since I was little and opened up to me the rich world of online roleplaying as a creative effort. When that website stalled (as the GM no longer had time to keep it running), I started hunting for another place to write and after a few looks at less than impressive sites, I found Elliquiy.
On here I started, as so many others, with the socializing threads. My writing was mostly just short posts in those threads of what I've later tagged as some kind of hybrid between story writing and conversation. It can be fun and I do venture over there regularly for flirting and the little word games I love. But then my first actual game was Whose Keys?, a small group game with some system elements due to its nature. Since then I have played in a number of groups, some I've started myself and some I've been in from creation date while others were a passing thing. I do enjoy solo stories as well and have plenty of them, but the groups are undeniably my favourite kind of writing. And as such, I have a few things rolling around in my head on the subject.The Social Aspect
Playing in a big group means interacting with a lot of players both IC and OOC. For some of us this isn't an issue, but for some it is a big one and those can be divided into categories. The shy player is going to have a hard time getting involved and is going to need a little help pushing his or her character into the story if it isn't already placed there by default. The aggressive player is going to have trouble getting along with some of the others as he or she will bulldoze the less aggressive ones in the process of getting to a preferable spot in the story. Neither of those examples are generally intended, I think, but both cause equal issues because in the perfect dream group game, everybody would be happy with the game time they got and how they got it.
I've been on nearly all sides of those issues (I say nearly because I don't think anyone who knows me would ever describe me as 'shy') and while I've had definite negative experiences I do love the sense of community that can form in a group game environment. I've made wonderful friends through it, people I would most likely never have even talked to if not for the games we met in. I think the main trick, or magic if you prefer, is communication. A lot of things may be said or explained while leaving aspects out of the equation that would otherwise be a game-changer, and this isn't a good thing. Negative feelings will always surface at some point and it is so much better to get them honestly out of the way so they can be dealt with and so that things can possibly change to avoid whatever issue caused those feelings in the first place. If we can't share the things we'd like to see done better, how on earth are we going to expect change? But of course, it works both ways and I am a firm believer in compliments when they are due. So to me, communication is about sharing the good and the bad, and trusting that the group as a community will embrace both. Not necessarily jump and change at any issue, but consider every concern to show respect to the player who is voicing his or her thoughts.
But this isn't the only thing a group game's social aspect offers. Not at all. What I adore about it, and what makes it such an addictive form of writing for me, is the joined effort of all these people in creating one big picture out of the small ones. While writing a solo does involve creating the world around the protagonists, it doesn't quite capture the layered and detailed world building of several writes focusing on (often) even more characters. I'm obviously not talking about world building in the traditional sense of country, politics and so on, but the more intimate and personal world of whatever setting explored in the game. I find this absolutely fantastic. As an example, I write a character and in my writing I detail her history, her family and her connections. Places she likes, and activities she enjoys. In addition to my own creation, I have my partner's description of such things to add to add to my writing world. In a group game, I have any number of those extra layers and it can become incredibly complex and interconnected. Delicious, right?
For it to work that way, the social aspect needs to be good. Things won't be worked out into these fantastic patterns unless the players have fun in the ooc, plot and plan and generally enjoy each other's company. Oh things can be planned without all that, through PM's and to-the-point comments, but my experience is that when people have fun, those ideas wind into so much more than just a plot. It becomes a world.
Outside of game play, the group can (and I've seen this in several games) provide a stable support system, so that when something happens in real life, players can rely on the group to first of all not be impatient and secondly empathise. It's a factor I like very much.
I'm going to leave this here, and write about another thing that occupies my mind about group games in my next little post.
Feel free to comment and share your experience with the social aspects
of group roleplay!