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"Games, GMs and Smart Phones--Blessing or Curse?" Topic


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47Ronin27 Jul 2019 9:12 a.m. PST

After hosting a game or two at a convention, I tend to get philosophical and turn to TMP to share my thoughts.

Some of us have been running games for a long time. In the old days, GMs might be concerned that a game was dragging along for some of the players. This is especially true in a format where one side moves and the other side watches and waits for their opportunity to respond.

These days, however, almost every player, young and old, comes to a gaming table with a smart phone. If it's not their "turn", many of them take to looking at their phones. Some might be checking the Guidebook to see what their next game will be but most, I suspect, are not.

Should GMs care that players are on their phones instead of following events on the table? If players are on their phones, is this a sign that the GM needs to increase the speed of play?

Or is this just the "new normal" not only in gaming, but everywhere else?

Your thoughts are welcome.

torokchar Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2019 9:26 a.m. PST

Don't have that problem with my flip phone…….I play the game and not my phone.

whitphoto27 Jul 2019 9:31 a.m. PST

If your game is boring is it the problem the players attention span or your game? I prefer games without IGOUGO mechanics partially for this very reason.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Jul 2019 9:58 a.m. PST

Bad manners by the phone users in my opinion. I would not want to spend time with them. If they would rather spend quality time with their phone then they should "go for it" and let those interested in the game play the game..

HMS Exeter27 Jul 2019 10:38 a.m. PST

Blessings:
Weekends
Cons
Games
Telephones, you know, those things that can make phone calls, nothing more.

Curses:
Work
Coffee
Golf
Bass Fishing
Drugs
Politicians
Allowing anything, tech or otherwise, to reorder your life
in ways you have not affirmatively chosen.

GMs are like most things in the middle, they must be individually assessed on their individual merits.

A game is a shared social experience. If it isn't your turn, you watch and decide what to do next. You don't wait until it's your turn to begin thinking about what to do.

When it isn't your turn, chat with your teammates. If you're really good friends with your opponents, some spirited, good natured, heckling might be in order.

A 4.0 GM named John Stanoch, always begins his games the same way "we meet to play as strangers, may we leave the table as friends."

I can't improve on that.

Stryderg27 Jul 2019 11:01 a.m. PST

"we meet to play as strangers, may we leave the table as friends."

NICE! Way to go John.

I think it's a difference in expectations. I, and anyone running a game, would expect the players to be "involved" in the game: planning the next move, watching die rolls, chatting with partners, looking at the reference sheets, etc. Younger folks tend to expect to be entertained without them putting much effort into it. So if the game isn't non-stop action and involvement, then they mentally wander off to something more interesting. At least until it's their turn again.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Jul 2019 11:41 a.m. PST

My experience of young gamers is much, much different. I find they are just as engaged as anyone else, if not more so, in many cases because miniatures gaming is so novel to them.

I notice phone use is not age dependent any more. I see as many gray hairs glued to their screen as teenagers.

One thing I see a LOT of is badly designed convention games. Specifically the "one activation at a time" type. You know, where every player or unit has a card and it moves when its card comes up. This is simple but means you spend 90% of your time standing around, and no games need THAT much thinking. Other faults include tiny movement rates (12' table, 6" movement), convoluted combat mechanisms, etc.

For that reason I prefer variants of IGOUGO; saving throws or defensive die rolls to keep players involved; smaller commands to keep decision making limited; and interesting victory conditions.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2019 1:09 p.m. PST

Younger folks tend to expect to be entertained without them putting much effort into it. So if the game isn't non-stop action and involvement, then they mentally wander off to something more interesting. At least until it's their turn again.
This isn't just a characteristic of younger players. I have also had plenty of older gamers too distracted or disengaged to be good players.

In defense of the smart phone: it's a tool, and it may have plenty of uses appropriate to a game. I personally use my phone and/or tablet during games as a calculator, rulebook, cheat sheet, or encyclopedia. It's a complete computer connected to the greatest source of instant answers ever invented; texting friends about evening plans may be inappropriate during a game, but looking up quotes by the commander whose forces you command may not be, and looking up die roll modifiers for the current game operation definitely isn't.

Disengagement takes many forms besides smartphones. I've seen plenty of problems with runaway conversations, barraging the GM with questions that could be answered by the cheat sheet, incorrigible pontificators, players wandering away between turns, preferential engagement with bystanders, etc.

- Ix

Bowman27 Jul 2019 1:27 p.m. PST

Buck Surdu, on another thread, stated that rudeness is the new "normal". I was going to expand on that but I see that Martin nailed it in the second entry, up thread.

It not the games, the rules or the GMs. It's the "my time is more important than anyone elses" attitude. The phone shows you have more important stuff to deal with at the moment.

D A THB27 Jul 2019 2:37 p.m. PST

I guess it depends on the frequency that a player looks at his or her phone. If some-one is glued to the device and does not pay any attention then they should not be there. If they miss something important then its up to their team to fill them in. If they miss their turn then its down to fog the of war haha. We all need to check to see messages or inform love ones that things are running behind and we could be late etc.

TSD10127 Jul 2019 2:50 p.m. PST

I've never walked away from a game, even though several times I should have. I've had absolutely AWFUL games at cons where I sat there for hours and never got to do anything. One of them was ACW naval where my ships finally made it onto the board on the last turn of a 4 hour game that was already at its time limit. I wasn't the only one. Sad part was, it won an award because it looked pretty even though it was an absolutely awful game for half the players.

It works both ways. Players can certainly be rude, but GMs can be just as bad in designing poorly thought out scenarios that leave players completely bored for hours. If your battles rely on hidden movement or spotting mechanics that means your units may never get into action, RETHINK YOUR BATTLE.

Dynaman878927 Jul 2019 3:22 p.m. PST

Phones (or other devices) have no use at a game other than taking pictures for showing off later.
Games being poorly thought out or run is another matter and also should not occur.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2019 7:52 p.m. PST

Phones (or other devices) have no use at a game other than taking pictures for showing off later.
Balderdash.

My tablet contains every set of rules and cheat sheet I can get in electronic format. It's a complete library the size of a single book.

The rules in ebook and PDF are searchable, which makes rules lookups during a game faster than searching a paper book. I use this feature to settle questions all the time.

My phone is also a calculator, dictionary, encyclopedia, and access portal to online FAQs about the game in progress.

Phones and other devices at a game have lots of uses besides taking photos for showing off later.

Dynaman878928 Jul 2019 3:26 a.m. PST

balderdash – BS
I find all the rules I need in the printed manuals. So my way must be correct.

Pictors Studio28 Jul 2019 5:59 a.m. PST

Yesterday I ran a one-day Necromunda campaign at the local store. We had 4 regular players and two who had never played Necromunda before, one who had never played a mini game before.

I forgot that I took my deck of cards out of my bag before I went to Texas last week so we didn't have cards. The players whipped out their phones and found a dice rolling website and we rolled d24 to figure out which territory people had won in the game.

The camera function on the phone was useful for determining line of sight when it was difficult to get your head down there to do so.

The calculator was useful for re-summing players gang ratings in-between games.

In all of this only one of the players spent any time replying to or sending text messages. That player had a previous engagement and came down to play as long as he could and was getting updates about when he was meeting his friends.

The game we played was engaging for all the players, when they were playing a game they were fully engrossed in the action and they were having fun.

In GMing scores of games at conventions over the years I've encountered the odd player that was distracted but for the most part people are fulling engaged in playing the game.

So probably it has something to do with the games being run if it is a consistent problem.

Also I'm surprised that this is being blamed on cell phones. In my experience random BSing during a game is the bigger distraction from playing. This usually happens when playing with my friends and it is all part of the fun.

However there have been a few times when running games that players have become distracted by talking about something related to the game, like a new product for the game or the period usually. This I take to be more enthusiasm for what they are doing than distraction in some ways and as long as all the players are engaged in the discussion I more or less let it peter out on its own.

If some are not engaged then I end it and get back to the game.

You don't need a cell phone to get distracted from a game, especially a poorly designed one.

Bowman28 Jul 2019 6:15 a.m. PST

My tablet contains every set of rules and cheat sheet I can get in electronic format. It's a complete library the size of a single book.

The rules in ebook and PDF are searchable…….

For sure, but you must know from reading this thread that is not what we are talking about.

Having a player go through all his emails at the table during the game is hardly the same as a GM checking a rules interpretation on his phone or tablet. False equivalency.

Bowman28 Jul 2019 6:27 a.m. PST

I've never walked away from a game, even though several times I should have.

Yikes. I've played in some dull games but nothing like the one you describe. GMing is an art and a science, and some people are just not good at it. Some people love their club rules, and therefore think that that rule set would automatically be a good convention game.

But this deserves it's own topic.

Sad part was, it won an award because it looked pretty even though it was an absolutely awful game for half the players.

Allow a small digression. I've won two PELA's and both games looked pretty good, if I'm allowed to say that. However, in both times, the person handing out the award explained why the game won. "No one was looking up rules, and no one was staring at charts for long periods. Everyone seemed to be engaged in the game and they were talking boisterously (about the events in the game) and were laughing and generally having a good time." Pretty scenery by itself won't cut it……or so I would have thought.

For a good example, just look at the photos of John and Erin Spiess' Siege of Paris game.

historygamer28 Jul 2019 5:39 p.m. PST

As an oft GM judge (and, ahem, winner of Gamemaster of the Year award), I can tell you then that the judges were not strictly following the criteria. Obviously a good looking game will catch your eye, but there is also something there for determining if the players are having a good time.

My experience is that judging is fairly quick, moving from game to game. But then you have a handful of games in contention and you go back and look for a longer period of time. Sometimes you ask the players their opinions too.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2019 7:01 p.m. PST

Having a player go through all his emails at the table during the game is hardly the same as a GM checking a rules interpretation on his phone or tablet. False equivalency.
Your false equivalency, not mine.

Dynaman said there is "no use" for a phone at a game; I refuted that assertion with several examples of potential gaming uses from my actual experience.

I'm not making an equivalency, I'm making a point. The same one Extra Crispy and Pictors Studio also elaborated.

The title asks us to render a judgement ("Blessing or Curse"), and I'm saying phones and tablets are a mixed blessing, like any tool. I totally agree that most people would agree that texting or emailing or browsing the WWW instead of playing is inappropriate and annoying behavior at a gaming table. I'm sure most people do, especially GMs. But you can't tell without examining the screen what a phone/tablet is being used for, and blanket prohibition of phones and tablets from miniatures gaming is simple technophobia, or neophobia, or even luddism. There are lots of good uses of phones and tablets for or during gaming.

I added a list of other distractions that I find occurring without phones and tablets present, because I think the problem of distracted players is a much larger problem than the actual focii of their distractions. It looks to me like the more important problems are short attention spans, limited time budgets, and this problem:

Younger folks tend to expect to be entertained without them putting much effort into it.
I disagree that this is a problem limited to "younger folks", and I said so. Most of my gaming friends and acquaintances are over 60, and there is plenty of this attitude present at our gaming gatherings.

- Ix

Bowman29 Jul 2019 4:04 a.m. PST

Your false equivalency, not mine.

Dynaman said there is "no use" for a phone at a game; I refuted that assertion with several examples of potential gaming uses from my actual experience.

Context is everything. I'm going by the context of the OP:

These days, however, almost every player, young and old, comes to a gaming table with a smart phone. If it's not their "turn", many of them take to looking at their phones…….Should GMs care that players are on their phones instead of following events on the table? If players are on their phones, is this a sign that the GM needs to increase the speed of play?

Or is this just the "new normal" not only in gaming, but everywhere else?

No one mentioned the GM using a phone to facilitate their game until you brought it up. BTW, I agree with your use of the phone, but that is not the point of the thread. And in that context, Dynaman is incorrect.

mildbill29 Jul 2019 4:43 a.m. PST

Cell phone zombies. Addiction to constant stimulation.

idontbelieveit29 Jul 2019 11:15 a.m. PST

I've often thought that C&G, for example, could be improved if they had an app that players could download to their phones and the players could then enter their firing/movement/rally info so you wouldn't be stuck sitting around waiting for your turn to tell the one guy running the game, and, ahem, being tempted to find something to do on your smart phone during your wait….

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP29 Jul 2019 3:53 p.m. PST

No one mentioned the GM using a phone to facilitate their game until you brought it up.
But I didn't bring that up. I'm saying it's perfectly appropriate for players to show up at a game with a tablet or phone and use it to look up the rules, read the cheat sheet(s), mine the Internet for relevant quotes, answer questions in side conversations about the battle at hand, where to get the miniatures for the game, etc. These things all contribute to the engagement with the game, and are among the ways I use the technology at games where I'm only a player.

- Ix

John Michael Priest30 Jul 2019 5:28 a.m. PST

I am experimenting with simultaneous movement and several action running simultaneously on the same table in different areas.

HMS Exeter31 Jul 2019 4:39 p.m. PST

#Yellow Admiral

If you don't know it, dig up an OLD Outer Limits episode. "Demon with a Glass Hand.". It is a superb, if rather dated, story about a hero with what must be the ultimate "hand" held tech device.

It's worth an hour's time. It was written by Harlan Ellison, who wrote the initial treatment for "City on the Edge of Forever.". Ellison was a bit of a tool, but he could spin a yarn.

WaltOHara06 Aug 2019 3:11 a.m. PST

Robert Culp. Shot in the famous Bradbury building that was featured in Blade Runner and other movies. I know the reference… "off hand".

Ba dum bump!

Shockingly I've been working on a game system that actually requires at least one smart phone on both sides. It was an idea I got from running a gaming camp for distracted kids for a dozen years…

Walt

WaltOHara06 Aug 2019 3:12 a.m. PST

I'm not on here much and profess my ignorance. What is the code to quote someone, e.g. copy their text and make it show up as white background?

Walt

Bowman06 Aug 2019 3:41 a.m. PST

Walt it's in the FAQ at the bottom of the page. I can't type out what you need as the quoting starts and you won't understand the text.

Place a < symbol and then a > symbol with a q inside. That starts the quote. Then have a < symbol and a > symbol with a /q inside to end the quote.

WaltOHara06 Aug 2019 4:00 a.m. PST


Place a < symbol and then a > symbol with a q inside. That starts the quote. Then have a < symbol and a > symbol with a /q inside to end the quote.

Got it. That's pretty standard forum code. Should have thought of that.

Grumble8710616 Aug 2019 3:43 p.m. PST

Shockingly I've been working on a game system that actually requires at least one smart phone on both sides.

Several years ago at Historicon, I was the air commander for a WW2 game, and my presence at the game table was not required. in fact, it was prohibited. (I could do this because I was scheduled to volunteer for the convention during the game. OK, I confess, I was playing a game when supposedly working. But things were pretty slow at the Registration desk.)

The GM would hand a player on the German side a smart phone, and the player would dictate a text into it. The phone would then transmit a (garbled) text to my phone. The game was set in Crete, and the place names really confused Siri or Alexa or whoever she was.

So I would get a text and allocate air power for a following turn based on what I understood from the text. The classic result at one point was that I ordered an air strike instead of the requested supply drop. However, I did get the right location.

The Germans were awaiting their food and ammunition and instead got strafed and bombed. I hope the GM never told them who their air commander was.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP16 Aug 2019 6:56 p.m. PST

If text-to-speech ever works as well as it's supposed to, that game will be totally ruined. grin

pvi99th21 Aug 2019 11:49 a.m. PST

I once ran a game where a person, without a bluetooth, received a call on the phone in his pocket, that resulted in him having to leave the convention.

My wife was playing, it was a skirmish game, and he decided to engage her in close combat. He lost. Guess he didn't want to lose to a woman.

Unfortunately now she figures all men will be that way and I am having a tough time getting her to play.

John Michael Priest13 Nov 2019 10:47 a.m. PST

I think that it important to get the players into the action as soon as possible. Having war gamed in my high school history classes, I found it best to get into the action ASAP. It applies to adults as well. I usually so engross in what is going on that I do not notice phone usage as much.

That us why I am experimenting with simultaneous movement.

historygamer13 Nov 2019 11:12 a.m. PST

JMP:

"I think that it important to get the players into the action as soon as possible. Having war gamed in my high school history classes, I found it best to get into the action ASAP. It applies to adults as well. I usually so engross in what is going on that I do not notice phone usage as much."

Agreed. GMs should not waste anyone's time with a bunch of march columns and deployment moves. If you want, let the players choose how to deploy the troops, but get them shooting ASAP, as that is what the players came for.

"That us why I am experimenting with simultaneous movement."

Have you tried Johnny Reb? :-) I'm betting you have. LoL

John Michael Priest13 Nov 2019 11:24 a.m. PST

No. I have not. A lot of individuals play it and it is very popular.

historygamer13 Nov 2019 2:58 p.m. PST

Because JR is a simultaneous move system it uses small cardboard markers place upside down, the revealed upon the start of the move. The markers make the players commit before knowing what the enemy will do.

John Michael Priest13 Nov 2019 3:42 p.m. PST

What a cool idea.

Wolfhag16 Nov 2019 1:10 p.m. PST

Here is what I've been using to successfully implement a playable simultaneous movement system for a 1:1 reinforced company level game with 1" = 10m-50m. The example is with 1/144 scale models and 1" = 25m.

All moving units have a movement marker to show the speed, distance and direction they will move in the next five 1-second turns. I call it "virtual movement" because at the start of each turn all moving units are assumed to move to the next of the 5 segments on their movement marker. Each turn a vehicle can turn up to their turn rate. For tanks, it's from 5 to 30 degrees based on their historical maneuverability and terrain.

Every 5th turn ALL models are simultaneously physically moved to the end of the marker and the marker is placed to show the general direction it will move in the next 5 turns. This really speeds up multi-player games and the marker already shows the distance moved. To stop remove the marker. To move place a marker. After each 1 second turn, any new LOS can be reacted to. Distances and LOS are measured to the segment on the marker the model "virtually" occupies.

Benefits:
- Movement rates and rates of fire are synched to the same turn eliminating opportunity fire rules
- A fast-moving target can realistically dodge out of the shooter LOS before being shot at.
- Players can realistically estimate enemy action for the next 5-30 turns
- Players have a hard time gaming the system because the markers show the direction of movement unless it maneuvers.
- All units are synched to the same game turn which presents a more realistic flow of the battle.
- Units are "active" at all times allowing them to react to new threats, including change orders, on the turn they notice a threat (some imitations).
- It presents a dynamic and changing picture of the battlefield and you can get an idea of where units will be in a certain amount of time, if they don't maneuver.
- You get a better appreciation of the difference between fast and slow-moving vehicles.
- We've played games where fast-moving T-34's were able to move across a 12-foot table representing 3600m in a 2-3 hour game.
- The game unfolds in a more realistic manner than traditional IGYG or unit activation games.
- You don't have enemy units moving across your field of fire and not able to engage them.

Probably the biggest benefit is that it keeps all of the players in the game at all times. Sometimes we'll do 2-3 five turn movement segments back-to-back because there is no other action/shooting. There are normally no more than 7-8 minutes of action before the next movement segment is called when the player needs to move their models.

In some games, the player is basically out of the game after his IGYG turn is over or he has activated all of his units. With this system, you need to stay focused and can't just walk away. Players can cancel an order to respond to new threats and not wait to be activated.

I've played this at over a dozen conventions, mostly with new people and it works great. I think it's best for models up to 15mm. However, we've played tank/infantry in an urban area in 28mm. The vehicles just have to stay close to the infantry.

Wolfhag

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