The following expressed is an observation and opinion based on my experiences from the last six years of participating in this wonderful community. The ultimate goal is to keep playing this game with people on a regular basis because I enjoy so many elements of it.
In my one post, I noted a cultural shift in the community. I was asked to elaborate on it. So here we are...
I'm seeing a cultural shift from the original intention of this game. People come together to play the game, we pew pew aliens who wish to violently hurt us, then each other (Bridge vs Bridge), and then space wildlife. Then what? People grow bored and move on. Yes, that's life, I accept that. However, I have a sense there's a group of us who see's more than that one narrative repeating itself, although it is what is currently happening. I acknowledge there is also group of players who just wishes to engage in constant combat only, and that is okay as long as everyone is on board at the start of the game.
I'm defining what I believe the game's intentions are, what I am seeing to date, using a bit of behaviour science, then noting two probable working solutions to shift the culture/Force to the game's core intentions. One solution is a game master and the other an engine that attempts to balance several factors. This is all part of figuring out how to keep having fun with all of you.
THE CORE INTENTIONS
Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator is a multiplayer co-operative spaceship simulation game created by Thomas Robertson. The game is designed to be played between three and six players over a local area network. The game's objectives are: social, having fun, team work, co-op, in person on a bridge.
Thom has said many times to me when I am blue skying ideas with him. "Are you getting together and having fun?". That's why I wrote it.
Having fun is subjective and defined by each person who plays and engages. Defining what is team work, co-operation and collectively agreeing to that when playing. Most of the time, people just want to play a game and not think about all this.
Currently, in our lives. There are numerous competing hobbies and entertainment options, we can play other games and do other things in the similar vain. Since our personal and leisure time is limited, our expectations for the development of the game should be fast moving, corporately driven. Rather than recognizing this is an independently developed game, which follows a different growth curve. So it is not changing fast enough for the general and avid gamers out there. That is the nature of this beast and I accept it.
Behaviour science is noting the sense of autonomy, self governance, idealized version of masculinity over good first and third person shooter game. A psychological craving that needs to be scratched, similar to hunger, sleeping and going to the bathroom.
However, on the flip side to all that, "relatedness" – feeling like you are connected with other people, that you have a material impact on each other is something we all want too. Finding your tribe is the saying these days.
A state of purgatory of wanting and needing both these diametrical opposite ideas with no real balance is cultural shift I am observing. We want both of these, a sense of belonging, but without sacrificing our options to make autonomous decisions. Can we overlap them like in a Venn Diagram? Increase the area to some sort of reasonable balance?
While, we operate with limited resources in both time and money in our lives. Players who discover this game and the community around it are drawn based on relatedness, the love for science fiction, space and a romanticized version of a world, where resource abundance, sustainable environmental practices and peace has been achieved. You can correct me if I am wrong, but this Star Trek utopia we all come to love is always on our minds.
Then, there's the flip side, where we train as military units, mobilizing and engaging in warfare; where we run around and shoot each other because someone is angry, opposing us and don't align to our group values. (Insert pounding of chest emoji here)
PROBABLE WORKING SOLUTIONS
I find I am flipping back and forth between these two ideas when I'm playing the game. At times, it drives me mad because I am unable to figure out a reasonable and resource abundant solution. The target changes each time we mix differently players into the game. It makes it really difficult to nail down when playing, "Are you having fun?" objective.
An experienced Game Master, who has spent much of their time understanding the game, getting to know the players and can move engaging game forward is rare in community groups. This is the ideal solution to achieving both the feeling of playing together, and to shoot and destroy enemies, whilst having fun. Perhaps this is where A.I. will really benefit us in the near future.
Addressing and identifying the issue of what we as individuals need and want is the first thing. So, when I am hosting a game and I ask, what kind of game do you want to play. I normally get silence, or what ever you want... If you want me to facilitate this gaming session, I am going to attempt to get a sense of what your definition of fun and team work is implicitly. I understand if this is your first time, you won't really know off the top.
Grouping participants into these two diverging categories will help develop some resemblance of "fun", so a fine balance has to be achieved, by converging the players into a sense of team work, and with enough providence to make their own decisions, to shoot or not to shoot.
LIMITED RESOURCES & TIME
What are other mechanisms available when an experienced Game Master (or A.I.) is not always accessible and available?
I attended Armada IV: The one with the Whales this year. I go with the intention to have fun, see everyone, be inspired and creative. I achieve all this and many more! I am grateful for the organizing team for hosting this. I came away inspired by a) the random game setting module, b) the scripting and DMX workshops, c) the green screen live feed mission, d) the murder mystery and full fleet battle, and e) the willingness everyone had to share and play together.
MY ATTEMPT AT A TEMPORARY SOLUTION
Since accessible, available and engaging game masters are not in abundance online these days, nor A.I. is mainstream for us to access via an API on a distributed server farm. I was inspired and started project "NginEcho" soon after I returned home. A tool to help Artemis communities gain a sense of having fun, working as a team and to shoot things. I'm not sure where that fine balance point is just yet. I don't condone the killing of space wildlife by the way, it gives me the space whale blues. This tool will randomly provide a scripted game where anything can happen. I just finish the initial base code at the moment. But as the weeks go on, I'll continue adding new events and reach out to USN/Eastern Front during our regular games on Discord (~9 PM America/Eastern Time). I'm also baking this into our Canadian fleet missions, one report has already been published by Commander Katy Fulfer.
So here we are in a full circle, "Are we having fun?".
Everyone I interact and play with have been instrumental to date. I don't believe I would have these thoughts if I didn't engaged with you. Thank you and I look forward to having fun in future games. I hope to continue working on NginEcho for the rest of the year to see if I can find this balance in the Force I am sensing.