How Do You Like Your Games Served?
For those of you who are gamers, you realize that there are some groups you prefer gaming with and some you don't. The same is true for MMORPG's (or any large, persistent world) - we find a group with similar goals to hang out with (or adventure with or whatever). And the same is also true of gaming groups whose focus is board games.
For those of you who are gamers, you realize that there are some groups you prefer gaming with and some you don't. For Table-toppers, some are too "hack-'n-slash", others not enough; some spend too much time in town bartering/digging up information or negotiating & not enough in the dungeon looting and clearing out the bad guys - or the reverse; some have a focused story line and if you miss a week, you're in trouble (and that's good for some folks) - others are more loosely set and new comers can enter or you can miss a session with no trouble; some are too "rules oriented" (you've met them - the DM who says you can't carry that extra dagger because it'll put you over weight limit?) & some no rules at all - very arbitrary and you can't figure out how to advance in the world - we all find a group that games "like we do" or we end up not happy in our game groups (or giving up all together). The same is true for MMORPG's (or any large, persistent world) - we find a group with similar goals to hang out with (or adventure with or whatever).
The same is true of gaming groups whose focus is board games too - some groups are all about the "party" games (Scategories, Taboo, Celebrities) - the ones that don't take much strategy, hard thinking or complicated constructs - others argue that Settlers of Catan is for the beginners who might be visiting and if the rule book doesn't rival the Sunday edition of the NYT, it's not interesting enough. Most groups are somewhere in between. Interestingly there's another variant - a "z" axis if you will - and that's whether one plays "cut-throat," "care-bear," or somewhere in-between.
I hang out with a group that, in a relatively unusual behaviour in my experience, tends to play differently along that "z" axis depending on which of it's members has shown up that night (or depending on the mood of the group that night). Sometimes Apples-to-Apples is all we can handle - other nights we start with a Settlers game (with *all* the variations we can find) and get harder from there. That's the "easy/party to hard/strategy" axis ("y" if you will). The "x" axis tends to be "are we talking or playing tonight" night in our group - some nights we talk a lot while we're playing, some nights it's all about the game. Some nights we play all out on that "z" axis - cut throat, everyone for their own and blood on the table - other nights we play *total* care-bear - sometimes it's even by table, that is 1 table is cut-throat and the other is care-bear.
All of that is, not surprisingly, going to vary from group to group and some folks will find one extreme or the other vile. That's fine - one goes and finds one's preferred style over time.
The problem enters when a new player joins a group that varies likes ours does who either *only* wants to play one extreme or the other along *either* the "y" or "z" axis - or doesn't get that some nights we're one way and other nights we're other ways. It's a hard pattern to relay to someone who's new - hard even to notice that it's an issue at first - and difficult as hell to teach (assuming the new person is interested in learning ;>). So a new member of a group that varies might always want to play "party" games or only the "thinking" games - might only want to play "cut-throat" or only "care-bear" - and the first night they come we happen to be doing it the way they prefer - when the next time the group meets it's a different kind of night (or different mix of folks or different whatever), it's really hard on the newcomer when they have to figure out what the hell happened to this group they thought they met the previous session.
So - a group that varies - needs to be sure new folks get it - heck, any group needs to make sure a new person knows what the preferences are - "party"/hard; talky/game focus; cut-throat/care-bear - and any other variables that a group of games might "assume" (for some groups it's "kids of x age/x ability vs. no kids") - but a group that varies needs to be the most careful with those kinds of explanations - or everyone has no fun at all.