Ok, chewing on the list from last week, I’m not sure I’ve got a final 5, but there are definitely a few standouts as good candidates, so I want to pick one of those and drill into it a bit. The first one on my mind is one that is implicit in a few of the items on the list, but was not called out as its own thing (but probably should have been) and that’s the issue of player engagement. Phrased as a question, it would probably be “How engaged was every player at the table?”
Now, practically, what you’re really asking is “How engaged was the least engaged player?” but that sounds kind of negative phrased that way, so I’d just keep that in mind.
Anyway, none of this is very useful if we can’t make it measurable, but this is thankfully made a little bit easier by the use of a compressed scale. So, we need to decide what we mean by engagement, and what a 0, 1 or 2 means. I’m starting with this one because I think it’s probably one of the simplest ones to measure, since I think it’s probably an 80/20 split.
The largest part is participation: did the players participate in the game? While what exactly participation might entail can vary from game to game, it’s pretty easy to suss out. Look at the activities engaged in by the players at large (talking in scenes, sharing ideas, taking action in combat) and use that as the checklist for each player. As a baseline, it will be pretty easy to judge the level of participation.
Now, there’s a catch to this: it is easy to equate participation with extraversion, and we all know quiet players who are less likely to step up and participate, but that’s what they want, and that’s ok, right? Well….no. That’s the easy out. It is far to easy to attribute someone’s lack of participation to their disinterest or introversion than it is to try to figure out what’s going on and try to draw them in. I don’t want to go off on a full-fledged tangent here, since the act of drawing out reticent players is a nuanced and involved one, but the short form is that there are so many possible ways that your game is discouraging engagement (speed of play, extroverted or “overly-helpful” players, high pressure) that you can’t take a pass on this metric just because someone “is like that”.
Yes, at some point, if you’ve tried everything and really wrestled with the issue, you can write it off, but it’s pretty much on your conscience to determine when that is.
Anyway, the other element of engagement is the ephemeral moment of cool. If everyone participated, that’s well and good, but did everyone get to do something cool? Does everyone have a moment that they can take away as their moment to shine? This is, admittedly, somewhat subjective, but I don’t think it’s too hard to measure.
So, with that in mind, I figure the engagement element looks something like this:
How engaged was every player at the table?
0 – Long stretches without participation.
1 – Everyone participated
2 – Everyone participated and had a moment of cool
This one is also pretty easily flipped from the GM to the individual player, if that’s the goal. I’m not sure it is, but I’m filing that possibility in my back pocket.
Anyway, I think this is a pretty good example of the idea. The question is slightly fuzzy, but the compressed scale makes it easy to answer with minimal wiggle room. So I ask, does this make the implementation of the model any clearer?