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Yeah, you get together with some people, and maybe you've been doing it a really long time. But no one really knows much about one another's characters, or what menace or story is under way except just enough to know when to roll the dice, and in practice, only a couple of people are paying attention at any given time. Using laptops, texting, comics, or zoning out might engage more of one or another person's time during a game session than anything to do with play. You might really be into your character, but it's mostly in terms of scribbling stuff no one else is reading.

Effectively, you and pretty much everyone present are not playing so much as being together while nominal play is happening.


Play which includes little or no Reward, but which continues in the absence of major Dysfunction. A relatively functioning Social Contract is present but without focused investment in "Let's play this game," despite play being the main thing bringing the people together, typically. Notable for Creative Agenda being present at most as a minor ideal, observed individually and sporadically. Marked by inattention to play that does not immediately concern one's character, at least among some members of the group, and also by the need for one person to periodically update everyone about what's occurring, with limited effectiveness.

Sometimes perceived as good play because it typically lacks arguments and other signs of Dysfunction. It is at least arguable that the participants are getting exactly what they want and having a good time, and therefore it does not necessarily count as dysfunctional play.

Relevant threads

Coined by Walt Freitag in 2004, Zilchplay (split from Understanding: the "it")

Dust-storm warning: In The Provisional Glossary (2004), I described it as A type of Simulationism by default, because in the absence of a desire to actively pursue a Gamist or Narrativist agenda the only focus is on exploration. This was grossly incorrect.

Much better: 2006 HERO System, M&M and assessing incoherence