When I GM I give my players a piece of my self. Usually an important piece, an egg I’ve been nurturing for some time. Sure, I’m used to sharing. But it still matters to me.
So when I GM, I need to know my players are playing along. If they aren’t into it, there’s no point. No one is going to have any fun. And I’m certainly not going to brace myself on my knees and smoke for them if they aren’t willing to talk in character to me.
But being in character is embarrassing, yeah? Maybe embarrassing isn’t quite right. But it’s scary, it’s vulnerable. They might make fun of me, I might judge them for not doing well enough.
So we have to be vulnerable together.
There’s this thing called ‘psychological safety’. It’s basically a fancy word for how comfortable you are in a group. If you’re comfortable enough to share, that kind of thing.
If I’m in a game with a player and they don’t feel safe, I worry they aren’t going to play. They probably aren’t going to have any fun. In fact, its worse then that, because I, and other players, are going to feel their frightened and unparticipating presence, and we’re going to stop feeling safe too. No one likes to be vulnerable on their own.
Feeling safe isn’t just about everyone being into it enough to be silly or to risk new ideas (although I think that’s important). For me, it’s also about being willing to risk being hurt by the story, playing the game instead of trying to keep everyone happy, being comfortable saying I want to stop, and that kind of thing.
I guess what I mean is, gaming is, for me, an intimate activity. It’s scary. It’s high pressure. I’m sharing a part of myself, a part that is vulnerable and easily damaged. If I don’t feel safe, whether it’s because I don’t know the people playing with me, or because I’m scared that someone has a problem they need to discus with me, then I don’t want to play.
I dunno. Maybe it’s just me. Lots of people seem to have games, and gamers, that they don’t particularly like or trust, but that they can have fun with anyway.