How do a game's designer, player, and protagonist interact? Mike Rubin takes a look at how three parts of a gaming experience interact — especially in terms of interactive fiction games, where many designers plan for responses that don't correlate with how the protagonist should act, but how players make them act. The fact that designers do figure out responses to problems that aren't necessarily part of their 'vision' is a double edged sword:
The problem is that gamers enjoy pushing limits ....
What's funny is that game designers invite that sort of behaviour by implementing responses to it. For instance, how many interactive fiction games implement a witty response to the XYZZY command, even though there is naturally no place or reason for using it? If no game other than Colossal Cave had a response to that command, nobody would be tempted to give it a try. And if there is a response implemented for that command, how many other interesting goodies like that might there be to discover? How many of us who played the original Warcraft sat there clicking repeatedly on their individual units to see how many different annoyed responses it would elicit? It's a form of exploration, I suppose.
Granted, this is a bit different than the topic of role-playing, but I think the same principle applies. Still, in the situation of role-playing, accounting for different types of behaviour, even bizarre behaviour, can actually work to the game's advantage.
The explicit response mechanic is something that seems relegated to a few types of games; the relation between 'getting into a game' and how a designer designs that game, however, is not. It's an interesting problem to muse on — especially since once a game is released to the public, there's no way to control how players are actually playing it.
Playing the Protagonist Part, Partly [Monk's Brew]