C'mere for a second. I don't want to say anything in front of... You know... The other guy. He's a nice guy, and an okay player, mostly. He knows the rules pretty well, he can make characters, he tries to get into the game, I think... I guess... Maybe. But I've been thinking... There's something about the way he plays, the way he talks about the game... I think I know what's wrong.
Do you remember when you first started playing role-playing games, and reading Science Fiction or fantasy, watching awesome movies and shows, reading comic books, or even writing, or drawing, your own stuff? Making up your own awful, or awesome games? Did you read adventure gamebooks? Lone Wolf, Zork, Endless Quest, Dungeons & Dragons, Sagard, Wizards and Warriors, Fighting Fantasy, Choose Your Own Adventure?
Do you remember imagining being someone else, somewhere else, doing something else? Seeing scenes in your mind's eye, either in a fully immersive, sit-back-and-close-your-eyes exercise, or just while you were staring off into space, while not doing homework, while someone was droning on?
When was the last time you truly used, focused on, for any significant length of time, your imagination; your active, conscious, willful, artistic creativity, to get back in touch with that ability to appreciate the wonder that you yourself can create and bring forth, all from within yourself? Were you ever able to do that? Did you ever do that? Can you still do it? Do you do it when you game, as player or GM? Will you do it?
I was talking with a friend of mine the other day, we'll call him Ted. His 15 year old stepson, eh, name him Brent, has played games with us enough to understand the basics of a few systems, how gaming works, including GMing, and even ran a few sessions of Warhammer FRP 2nd Edition adventures from some of the more famous campaigns, and I thought, did pretty good - he's a little rough around the edges in places, as player and GM, but for 15, he's got a good grasp and has the dedication to sit down and work on NPCs and go over the adventures he's going to run, when he wants to, to prepare.
So Brent is starting to GM for his group of friends, about 3-5 kids around his age, give or take a couple of years. He essentially observed that he felt one of the main problems with his group was that, besides them not being previously acquainted with role-playing games, besides online (MMORPGs/WoW etc) or console games (that's all for another post), he felt they just really didn't seem to have the ability to imagine.
Granted, that's just Brent's opinion, and potentially carries some bias and he's not exactly a trained psychologist, but from the standpoint of his experience with gaming, I think he might have enough authority in this particular subject to be able to at least "Diagnose" that much of an issue, if it's as obvious as he thinks it is. His friends do not fit the "Gamer mold" as most of the rest of us (Brent, me, my friend Ted, my cousins, the group to which I and my friend belonged) - voracious readers, interests in psychology, philosophy, trivia, history, arts, various sci-fi/fantasy, various analytical pursuits or aspects of the games themselves (his is the in-game hierarchy, intrigue, etc., mine's mechanics). Brent's friends aren't really readers except for one who's also a Star Wars fanatic, one's a sports nut, etc. In a way it's neat to see out-of-the-ordinary "Types" (for us anyway) interested in gaming, but in another, it's a real head-scratcher as to how to deal with them or explain things.
Brent's statement about the lack of imagination made me think about when he started gaming, and when my own cousins started, and when I started, and I think his observation is probably not just valid but significant. When I was in 7th grade, our science teacher did a guided imagery exercise where we closed our eyes and imagined what it was like to be an animal as a rainstorm came up - we had to run (or fly) for shelter - the smell of the rain, the cooling breeze coming in, the sound of the drops and wind, the other animals also scampering for cover, the intensifying breeze, flashes of lightning, booming thunder, all that. This was at least 20 minutes, maybe longer. I just thought this was one of the most awesome things I had ever experienced in school, as I was already playing role-playing games at this time and realized at that time most of the other kids probably didn't do anything that would lead them into anything that would ever give them the cause to do anything even remotely similar to that, and likely they never would again.
I flashed forward back to Brent's statement about his friends and I realized that it's quite possible that his friends, now that they had matured into self-awareness and long out of the influence of the toddler "Imagination" stage, had no real practice in engaging their imagination, as they had no cause to do so. They didn't read, only one drew or wrote; they most all played video games, but everything is already rendered very concretely for you. The only thing I could call to mind that might fire their imaginations was music so I hope they at least have that.
But again, I thought back and realized at the time of the animal visualization, even though I played role-playing games and I did some peripheral visualization and wrote my own stuff and drew, I really didn't do all that much true imagining either. Everything was always fuzzy and vague, and still is. I think that's why that exercise was so awesome to me, because it was a true novelty even for me, because I was able to appreciate how it could fully be applied and its use in something, rather than just "This is cool but what good does it do?" like the other kids probably thought.
When I gamed, GM or player, it was always a mesh of mental calculations of game mechanics, narration and vague mental image of the current action - I never fully clarified in my mind the full scene, it was always just a snapshot or a video clip of what was going on, like <* SCENE: Pit Fighter throws Dwarf Trollslayer through window into goblin crossbowman *>. Sometime it would just be a hazy face or general outline, especially if I didn't get a good idea of an NPC or creature from a description - it's more used as a placeholder in my head, than for imagination purposes, just to categorize things for how and when I deal with them.
And I wondered about that. The whole point of games is having fun and I realize it comes down to what your definition of fun is, and not only that, I think it depends on WHICH definition of "Fun" you're going to choose each time you sit down to play. Some days you're in a "Standard gaming fun" mood, character sheet, dice, pencil and whatever else, and there's nothing wrong with that at all.
But there is the more primitive but no less valid definition of "Fun" - it isn't about leveling up, hording coins, sucking up XP, buying new implements of destruction, slaying monsters, figuring out stats, or how many inches a feat lets you jump or how much damage you can do - not really; gaming, like any entertainment, are about escapism, and they're about losing yourself, letting the books and numbers and dice and everything fall away, enjoying sharing the same make-believe world for a few hours with other people and everyone getting along and loving the whole experience of being able to be somebody totally different.
So, when you make that warrior or knight character, maybe you see him on a horse, okay... But... Can you see YOU on the horse? Have you ever tried it? Is there a difference in first and second or third person point-of-view imagination scenes? How much does it change our emotional investment? Our enjoyment? Our appreciation? Can you imagine looking down from the view of the lush expanse of deep green meadow and the far distant lavender mountain range and dark silhouetted tower, and grabbing the saddle horn in your gloved hand, feeling and hearing the soft leather creak slightly as your grip tightens, while the bit and bridle jingle musically, and your whole body is jarred rhythmically as the eager horse trots forward in surprise, anticipating your tugging on the reins? Can you see your own royal blue velour tabard cascading from your body?
I think Brent's friends, and probably a LOT of people, maybe a LOT of experienced gamers, may need a primer for just imagination - not a "Game", not an adventure or a scenario, but just like a 10 minute "Walk-through" if you will, of just guided imagery, read by the GM, nothing but one long "Read-aloud" box, directing them, similar to the animal in the rainstorm exercise. No dice, no stats, no character sheets - just "Sit back, close your eyes, relax and imagine".
I think you are very correct. I have found that many of the people I play with of late have no real experiences in imagination. With the kids of nowadays growing up in a digital world they have had game boys or other digitally enhanced games that they could play and enjoy themselves with no imagination needed. Everything was yes or no. A bunch of 1s and 0s grouped together to give them a reward or defeat. There was no real death as all they had to do was try it again until they figure out the correct way to proceed. A imagination is something that many of the new generations need to be coached in. :)
I think the immagination is there its just like putting it in words is the problem. You get a place like this that asks you to write properly and stuff and some people just can't like deal with that. They can takor tweet their ideas but they just can't put it down in words.
That is a fairly long post so I just skimmed through it, I hope you don't mind. For me imagination is based on the individual. Its either you have it or you don't. For instance if I said something like "You see a big purple box in a circular room" then that may mean something to one player and nothing to another. I might start to wonder why the room is circular and if the box has a trap, that is part of imagination. Another player might just walk over and open it and not care about the color or the room. Each player just reacts to things differently. I believe it has to do with a lot of real life experiences. How you perform in a game tells a lot about yourself. Some people say they are playing their alignment but remember you CHOOSE your alignment for your character.
Depends on how you define "Imagination" since its all about experience and perspective. The color "Green" might not be the same green I picture in my mind as it is for you.
I feel the imagination that JPatt was probably talking about is like getting what is being described by the GM. I mean I can't tell you how many times I've read what the GM describes and then the rest of player put this answer of what they will respond like if they're playing in some other game.
I understand completely what JPatt was talking about. I have been a Dungeon Master for several years in my mid-twenties in my country but sometimes it was just a boring task: rolling dice, taking note of what happened and that's it. I always liked to read and write as well. My adventures were like novels. But, often, that was not so appreciated: "Why you have to describe something for more than 1 minute, we want to move on!".
Is not that they were not having fun: otherwise they would not come every week, sometimes twice a week (I was in game centers and not with friends but with unknown people, just like here). The problem was: they wanted numbers and dice, not a story. Most of them had no imagination at all. Their characters were empty sheets of paper filled with many numbers but no personality.
For me, Role Playing Games are a different thing. Ditch the numbers, ditch the dice: give me a story and some hours of entertainment! That's why I hate high ability scores and, still now, I try to make the dice disappear from the game disguising them as much as I can.
Once, I got a group that was awesome. They encouraged me to make deeper descriptions and they were getting into the story and into their characters so much that I felt like my duty to work as hard as possible to make each session a worth experience. I spent not days but weeks downloading and selecting music so I could put the right soundtrack for every single situation in the game. More than once they were listening to the descriptions with their eyes closed, feeling the music. Somebody would shout, horrified, in reaction to a wrong deed or jump from his chair after an unexpected event. We arrived at the point that we were standing up and talking with a disguised voice, feeling like we were the characters. May look silly or ridiculous but I never had so much fun as I had with that group. Every real gamer should have the chance to try to play Dungeons & Dragons like that. Fantasy means imagination but many people tend to forget about it.
It is not just the ability to Imagine that is being lost. People are also losing the ability to think analytically. Some have just gotten used to everything being handed to them wrapped in a box with a neat little bow, via video games, the internet or television. These people are not taking the time to read or write, which is diminishing their capacity to think. People forget the brain is a muscle, if you don't exercise it, you lose it.