As gamers all over the world converge playing augmented reality games like Pokemon Go or Ingress, the value of social collaboration as a tool grows redundantly obvious. Players discover rules together, increase comprehension, and collaborate to collectively solve problems both known and unknown. A similar microcosm for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game can be seen at conventions where massive gatherings of new players interact. However, these windows tend to be the exception not the rule, and can be cost prohibitive as well. But we don’t need to wait for the convention to get into a new space of ideation…
Social Gaming as an Ideation Tool
Gaming with generative playgroups and new idea spaces can be as easy as arranging a pick-up game at a LGS. Even easier and perhaps more reliable is the utilization of online tabletops like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds to reach out to new players. New gaming groups are unpredictable and as likely to dissolve as they are to resolve, however the generative space of new ideas and increased creativity will exist no matter what happens to the lifespan of the new group.Keep in mind the following tips for utilizing social gaming as an ideation tool:
- Social Gaming tends to be less serious. Don’t be over obsessive about specific visions of rules, settings or characters. Remember for new ideas to proliferate, a group has to be open to them.
- Everyone comes from their space. New gamers are going to have their understanding of rules, roleplaying and even table-top culture. Don’t assume they are wrong for being different. It’s surprising how often veteran players and even designers get a a basic rule wrong or have a house rule that runs contrary to the core game. The same goes for inclusiveness and acceptance at the table, understand that people have had vastly different play experiences and might need to be (respectfully) informed of acceptable and not acceptable behaviors.
- Online and LGS pick-up games have generally higher “mortality” rates. This is not something to fear. Rather learn to utilize this attribute to plan higher risk games. Try new settings, house rules, or short term adventures–go nuts, the likelihood of long term “suffering” from a poor choice is pretty low.
- Say Yes as often as you can comfortably do so. The best way to get new exposure and develop new ideas is to let people try new things. Someone wants to play a merfolk in the desert adventure? Crazy, but you are far more likely to see innovation with that than if a GM forces the player to run an Orc barbarian instead.
- Listen to each game for ALL games. Today’s Axis and Allies tactics might solve Wednsday’s Magic match which may in turn inspire the GM for Friday’s big Pathfinder battle. Watch interactions between rules, tactics and playstyles and drink it in. You will learn better ways to game and have fun during and after each event.
Stepping out of our comfort zones as gamers can be enormously rewarding. Even when it is just to verify the things we really, really do not enjoy. An open mind however is far more able to experience the full breadth of possibility and to learn from new game experiences and new players.