A recent addition to my gaming circles is a fellow by the name of Eric.
Eric is an interesting guy; he's a deep thinking, heavily philosophizing, game theory theorizing sort of gent. He's also a great, if off beat type of player. I'd be curious to play in a game he GMed.
While talking RPG theory, and execution after a paradoxical Star Trek RPG* session last week, he brought up the phrase, 'Making Business'.
According to Eric, an actress friend of his used the phrase, apparently not uncommon among improve theatre types, to describe something I have been trying to put a name to for over 25 years. Basically, it's the art of keeping busy in a narrative, even if the narrative isn't focused on you. Additionally, it is the means by which one supplies the directors, and writers of a show additional inspiration, and material, without disturbing what is currently happening in said show.
The example Eric gave was...
Eric's friend, an actress, landed a role as an extra on a TV soap opera.
The role was that of a nurse in the background during hospital scenes. It wasn't much, but the young lady made it her own. She embraced it. She imagined an entire background, name, and other such details for who this nurse was. During filming she would go about her business, but instead of just pretending to file, or study a chart, she would periodically make a jealous expression while looking at one of the other background nurses who was talking to a background doctor. She would seem to sip coffee from a cup, and check her watch. All in all, without interrupting the other actors, the crew, or the story at hand, she gave her character personality.
Moreover, she gave the writers, producers, and directors ideas.
When someone was needed to play the larger, speaking role of a bored, envious nurse willing to do something underhanded in order to step up in the world, they chose her. The part was already developed, and defined before she was even given a script. She had, in essence, created it herself..
So how does this relate back to gaming? Ah! I was just about to get to that...
I am very much used to players who 'Make Business'. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the vast majority of people I've gamed with over the years did this naturally.
Through a combination of really good, improvisational role-playing, well thought out, or instinctive characterization, and a desire to be involved in the game, my players have always provided me with ample material with which to bring them into the story, and expand from there.
The narrative elements of my games are created by merging an idea, theory, or theme I want to explore with the interests, goals, motivations, and such the players have established for their characters.
In turn (and this is key) my players (traditionally) find ways to fit their characters' wants, needs, and obligations to things I've set up in the world, or universe I'm creating.
If the players, and by association their PCs, are 'making business', I have more I can add to the game, which means there is more the players can get out of it. Likewise, if I've done the work to create an interactive setting for you to explore, and engage, the very least I ask of you is that you try to explore, and engage it.
I promise to incorporate the work you've put into your PC into the campaign, and you promise to incorporate some of the campaign into your PC.
Now that begs the question...
How much effort are you willing to put in as a player?
For some, not as much as I'd like. Perhaps even not as much as I need.