Play Passionately is a public space setup for me to think out loud about what I enjoy in role playing, the techniques and games that support it, to invite others to try it, and to offer advice on how to do it better. To me, “playing passionately” is something very specific I enjoy in my games and this introduction is intended to outline the core elements likely to be explored and developed further in other articles.
To me, a game is most fun when there’s an element of social risk. When playing passionately there are two layers to that risk. The first is the same as any collaborative creative endeavor: Failure. Simply, the game or some part of the game and the created fiction might suck or be no fun. It might take some practice or critical thought to understand exactly what went wrong and how to avoid disappointment in the future.
The second layer of social risk is, perhaps, a bit more controversial. Plainly, you might get hurt or offended. Playing passionately involves an element of emotional vulnerability, putting a little of yourself out onto the table for others to poke and prod. It’s about finding the uncomfortable spaces inside us and deliberately bringing them out into the light. That kind of honesty brings us closer together through vulnerability, trust and shared pain.
Playing passionately accomplishes all of this by embracing mechanics that allow us to encode and express thoughts and feelings about the characters and fiction directly into the state of the game. It involves aggressively applying the rules of the game with as much thought and practice as the fictional contributions. Rules are something to be learned, mastered and applied consistently as tools of creative expression, not forsaken for “the story” or “fade into the background.”
Indeed solid rules design allows us to throw ourselves into the game and not have to pull our punches. Without appropriate rules the kind of play I’m describing can quickly turn into social or emotional bullying. With the right rule set I know I can push as hard as I want because there are mechanisms in place that enable you to push back with equal force.
I want to be clear that Playing Passionately is not about drama-queening or competing for best thespian. It is about honesty and self-reflection through gaming. When real issues and feelings are on the line we are often more honest about what we really think through fictional proxies.
In the end Playing Passionately is about finding and pushing our emotional limits by investing ourselves in the characters and created fiction and expressing that investment through application of the game mechanics. In the process we learn something about ourselves and our fellow players, oh and create some pretty compelling fiction as well.