I was reading this interesting article over at the Gnome Stew which discusses how your life experience affects how you roleplay. I read the article and the comments with interest, because clearly my life has been pretty boring over the last 37 years compared to those folk. I went to University, did a computing degree and have had a desk job ever since (support, development, technical support, infrastructure, etc.)
I think however, that one of the major elements in roleplaying is problem solving. Specifically, team based problem solving. On top of that you have all the other elements of team working, communication and planning. Those skills are invaluable when roleplaying and they’re invaluable in most other aspects of life as well. I think good shared storytelling involves conflict and conflict resolution, and underpinning that is a root cause of some problem (or many problems and challenges) that you have to overcome as a team. In too many games those problems are simply boiled down to ‘you meet 10 orcs’, in good games, those problems are more varied, more complex and have deeper roots.
I’ve always been interested in solving problems, it’s why I enjoy being in an IT support function so much. The varied challenges, the different problems and the requirement to understand causes and implement solutions really gets me going. It’s no different during roleplaying, both as a player and as a DM. As a DM, I introduce lots of problems (or try to), and game play is driven by overcoming those challenges. As a gamer, I want to be challenged to solve things, not just ‘the best way to defeat this encounter of 10 orcs’ but the best way to get somewhere, the right strategy to defeat some complex powerful well organised enemy, solve the underlying causes of political strife in a small town, understand what happened to cause some problem that people are experiencing, etc. And I want to do that in a team environment.
Team based problem solving where you come together with disperate skill sets and arrive at a successful conclusion is something I enjoy in the real world and in my gaming, be it board games, tabletop roleplaying or MMORPGs.
So I guess that’s how who I am affects how I roleplay.