Storium Theory: Build a Community

This post first appeared on Gaming Creatively on March 22nd, 2016.

So, today’s Storium Theory article is a bit unusual for me, as it’s about something that I have to call out as a good idea for running a game…but also something that I consider myself very bad at.

A lot of Storium games slow down. There’s no question about that. But some live through the slowdown, and others don’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently. What causes a game to survive where others fail? What helps it keep going?

I think possibly the biggest single thing that can keep a game going is a sense of community.

Community. The sense that we’re all working together on something. The feeling that we’re all…friends, having a good time together. That we’re doing more than just turning in moves at the appointed time…that we honestly enjoy playing with each other, we’re enjoying each other’s work…

…we’re enjoying each other’s company.

The games that I’ve seen survive struggles, the ones that I’ve seen pull through even if things get rough…generally, they’ve had that.

Take The Cost of an Arm and a Leg, for example. I’ve mentioned that’s one of my favorite games. We started with three players, but lost one about a quarter of the way through the game, if that. But we kept going…why? Because we all really liked playing the game with each other. It was fun, and we appreciated each other’s writing. I would say the game actually got even stronger after that, and I was always excited to come in and see what was going on.

It didn’t move fast…but it did keep moving, and we kept up a dialog all the way through. We talked in the commentary stream, laughed with each other, made jokes, and just generally enjoyed each other’s company in addition to talking about ideas for the game. It made the game feel good, kept it from ever feeling like work.

I believe that’s a big reason that the game succeeded.

Safe Haven Games felt similar…after a bit of a struggle starting out, we ended up with a good sense of community. We worked together, liked what each other wrote, laughed at running gags or themes through the game, and just generally had a fun time. The game completed, and was great fun.

There’s examples of that all over my profile, in my completed games and my current ones.

I can’t overstate this. If you want a game to be successful, community helps. A lot. It won’t guarantee success on its own, but it helps.

So…how do you craft that sense of community? It can’t be artificial, really. I think it kind of happens, or it doesn’t. But…there are things I think you can do to encourage it.

  • Be a presence. Come to the game often to see what’s going on. Check in. Chat about something.
    • I’m serious. Chat about something. Doesn’t have to be the game itself. Anything fun or cool or interesting, game-related or not, can help. Did you go to a neat concert? Say so! Did you read a fun book? Mention it. Obviously there’s a balance, as you don’t want to derail things entirely, but one of the great things about Storium is that the comments section is separate from the game text, so you don’t send up with in-character and out-of-character stuff in the same reading area. Heck, if game planning is set in the Green Room, the comments section is pretty much meant for just being pals. Thus, the comments section can be used to talk about out-of-game stuff that just…builds a sense of friendship and community, without disrupting actual game play.
  • Talk about what was cool in the game. Praise other player’s moves.
  • If something seems to be a running theme, or especially a running gag, call it out in comments. Have fun with the game.
  • Talk about ideas. If you’re not sure what would be a fun move, ask. Talk about your characters with each other. Talk about what you’re trying to bring out; maybe someone will be able to help you do it, or have a way their character can interact with yours.

These aren’t things you can really do artificially. It helps to be particularly social in the first place, and I’m not…thus, I’ve had trouble sometimes making this happen. But the great thing is that this doesn’t depend on the narrator alone. It’s not up to him. It’s not up to any single person.

A community is built by everyone. And really, it isn’t that hard. It’s just about enjoying the game, and enjoying each other’s ideas and company…and showing it.

It’s as simple as that, really. Have a good time with each other, and…don’t hold back from saying it. If everyone feels good about the game, and feels good about each other, they’ll stay through thick and thin.