At the heart of it, however, I believe lies a very basic question - who's game is it? Traditionally, the answer would look something like this.
The GM creates and controls the world, the NPCs and the adventures.
The players create the player characters and control their actions.
They control all aspects of the character, the GM controls all aspects of the world.
Fundamentally though, that places a massive onus on the GM to be very much on his game throughout every session, and that simply isn't going to happen. I have, in the past, seen this of games where the GM is literally tasked with entertaining his friends, almost despite their best efforts to thwart him. It's not pretty. I've also seen times when the GMs performance has been critiqued down to the last nuance of his speech, but the players? Their behaviour is almost sacrosanct. Normally, someone will now say, 'ah, but he chose to take up the GM position. It comes with the territory.' Really, thats bollocks and you know it. These are your friends, your buddies. These are the people you choose to hang out with and spend quality time. This is not a cabaret bureau or some indentured service that people have volunteered for. There has to be some redress of the balance, surely? However, that simply isn't so. Scan your eyes across any roleplaying forum and see how many threads there are on GMing, improving as a GM, how to be a good GM, world building, adventure design and all the trappings of the GM centric game. Vast mountains of them. Why? Because thats the way it has always been and for many there is no reason to question that.
And yes, there are 'indie' games which take a different direction. Sometimes they share the burden of creation from the GM. Sometimes they allow the player to be the one that adds the spark of creativity to the game. Sometimes they shake up the narration. Sometimes they ditch for the formalised GM role altogether.
However I don't think this is the solution.In my opinion, the problem seems to be that people are looking towards a game to solve this problem when in reality it is based in respect and responsibility. You don't need a rules system to engage these principles of human nature. You need to have some emotional conscience that looks at the lonely GM and says 'can I help?' or 'Is there something I can do to enhance this game?'. These things aren't the purview of traditional or indie games, they are something any player can do if they want to. It doesn't have to be whatever the current hot technique thats just popped out of a 'Forge' game - it can be something as simple as bringing along a special soundtrack CD or drawing some sketches of the PCs or taking the time to detail your characters family tree (if appropriate).
The thing is, whilst some games have these things built into their mechanics, the games that don't do not have rules which specifically prohibit them. No Wizards of the Coast ninjas are going to leap from the shadows and eviscerate everyone at your Eberron table if you allow the players to create backgrounds with taggable keywords that give the GM some flags about your desires for the character. (And remember, there is a fundamental contradiction in the premise that a game which is the story of the players character has virtually no direction from that player and all the direction from the person at the table who has no character). I'm sure that Kevin Siembieda isn't going to unleash the Palladium lawyers if you allow the players to dictate some of the NPCs their Coalition Shocktroopers answer to as they crush the world under their jackboot.
There's nothing exclusively indie about being a considerate player and there's nothing engulfing about 'traditional' games that wouldn't allow an under pressure GM to spread the joy a little bit. Do what you need to do to have the fun you want to have, as an individual and as a group. As a GM, look at the players and say 'Is the way I am running this game truly reflecting the fun that my friends, the players, want?'. As a player, look at the GM and say 'Am I supporting my friend in his undertaking to run this game?'
Thats the message I take from the way Luke Crane approaches Burning Wheel. This is what he needs, as a GM and as a player, to have fun. More power to him.
ps. A bit of podcast serendipity on this topic from Sons of Kryos #42 if anyone is interested.