I had a bit of a revelation as I was watching The Matrix with the kids at the weekend and it had to do with emulation, system and narration in roleplaying games. With full knowledge of what was coming, I sat ready to watch 'the lobby scene' and then I started thinking - how would you do the lobby scene in a game?
My initial thought was about the mechanics that would be needed to create the same effect in a game - the guns, the avoidance, the acrobatics etc. No, thats not going to work is it, because the very nature of most mechanics heavy systems would decimate any immediacy of the action. Then I turned to some mook rule system, but that too just seemed too clunky and indeed maybe a little out-0f-genre for the movie where anyone can be a danger. This naturally took to the other extreme and the idea of narration and the dread conflict resolution. But even then when I thought about it I could not see how the system would recreate that scene.
And then the revelation came. Of course the sytsem wouldn't be able to emulate or recreate that scene. Lets face it - how many times have you played through anything as good as that in a game? How many times has any given system delivered that impact and 'WoW!' factor? Never. I would wager.
Thats because it isn't the system that 'delivers the Awesome' - its the players.
And sometimes thats a thing I think we forget. The players are going to add that X-Factor to a game that will make it or break it. As a designer, we cannot build that into the game as everyone's Lobby Scene will be different - all we can do is make sure that the mechanics we do have don't get in the way of that marvellous invention. As Games Masters we have to recognise when a player is about the throw back his trenchcoat and blow seven colours of shit out of the game with a large Awesome cannon and we have to let them run with it. As players, we have to simply not accept the mundane in the games that we play. We have to push the envelope if we are going to deliver memorable moments.
To quote the film in question:
Trinity: Neo... nobody has ever done this before.
Neo: I know. That's why it's going to work