#RPGaDay2021 – 12 – Consensus

Today’s entry for #RPGaDay2021 had what now seems like the normal state of things: stiff competition. With the large-print prompt ‘think’ leading the way, the opportunity to jump the deep or hopefully arise in triumph there is lots to talk about, but today I feel compelled to explore the uplifting support of consensus.

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Consensus

Growing up, a quality in common that a lot but not all of the people that I would game with had, was a preference for a smaller subset of friends. One of the ways that these small and somewhat insular groups of people had of finding and defining themselves as a group was through discovering that they liked some or all of the same things, or at least enjoyed having good-natured arguments about them.

When it came to gaming, groups built under this premise had a real advantage over groups with a shifting roster of curious-but-not-invested players, not just in terms of stability and a chance to form lasting friendships, but also in quality of the experience. These groups, built shyly from individuals of like-mind, had the power of consensus baked into their experience. Even before play began, they already knew what the other players would like, like despite themselves, or would tolerate, because they shared the same sensibilities. Geography, limitations on media access, and the very real isolation of the pre-internet world enhanced the chances of a group enjoying the benefits of consensus without having to work for it or to learn how to achieve it.

Belonging

It feels good to be a part of a group that enjoys what you contribute. When you hit the right note – the note that must be there – at the right time and in the right way, and when you hit a surprising but harmonious note the smiles and evident enjoyment adds to and intensifies the experience. It makes you want more.

It feels good to be part of a group that recognizes when things get away from you. When you hit a sour note – a note that should not be there – it is great to feel that even though they might be disappointed in what you have contributed this time, it doesn’t change the joys of the past or the expected joys of the future. Everyone makes mistakes.

It seems like it would be nice if being in sync with the group could be effort-free all the time, but then, honestly, we just would not appreciate it.

The modern world

At some point, the groups of childhood seem to almost unilaterally give way to new and different groups. Some good, some not. At some point the need for establishing some form of consensus (not, note clearly, consent) occurs to people and they learn how to work their way back to that state of harmony with their fellow players which most likely was due to pure luck when they were kids.

Getting there

Unsurprisingly, to gain consensus, we have to do something which may never have occurred to us as kids. We have to talk with each other about what we want. A lot of people are getting distracted right now by flipping the focus from what we want play to be like in terms of genre to what traumatic things we don’t want to have happen in play – but I think we can trust that most of those people have their hearts in the right place. By remembering to find out and to keep on finding out what our friends and fellow gamers like, what they have enjoyed before, what they hope to do again, what great surprises they still talk about, and what they can’t believe turned out to be so much fun, we get a sense of our common bonds, our common interests, our common dreams, and our group’s likely fluid area of consensus.

First we talk with the players, then we choose the right game for those players, and through it all we choose to be a part of the solution not a part of the problems.

In Our Play

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