The word ‘powersimming’ comes from the term ‘powergaming,’ a term which came out of tabletop roleplaying. Powergaming is when a player focuses on the mechanics of the game so heavily that they stop thinking about the story that the game is trying to tell, the appropriateness of what elements they are placing on their character and the balance of the character in the party so that everyone is having fun. But what does it mean in a script-style sim that doesn’t have game mechanics or dice rolls?
Powersimming is where one player dictates the actions of another player or players by “writing them into a corner.” The tags in a powersimming exchange do not open up the action for all players to contribute equally, but instead drive the other players into following the ideas and decisions of the writer.
No matter what the game’s rules are, powergaming or powersimming both have the same root problem – they give a dominating amount of control to one player while the other players feel sidelined. Unfortunately in a script style game it can be difficult to know how to advance a story without powersimming. But it also tends to be much easier to correct powersimming than powergaming – you don’t have to re-roll your character, you just need to adjust your tags.
So, how do you get your ideas across without pushing other characters in a controlling fashion?
Limit your tags. There is a reason that 4-5 tags is considered the ‘sweet spot’ for most posts. That tends to be the right number of tags to get your ideas through without forcing a scene to go in a certain direction. While sometimes you’ll have a bit less or a bit more, if you’re routinely leaving 8 or more tags you should re-read your posts and see if you can cut down the number of tags to allow your fellow players more agency in collaborating with the action.
Don’t assume answers to important questions. If you ask another character ‘would you like anything to drink?’ unless they have a history of never accepting hospitality (or not drinking liquids) you can safely assume the answer is yes and continue on with your tags. But if you reach a critical moment in a scene and have to ask an important question it’s always good to leave that as your final tag and let the other player respond. No matter how common sense your character might think their decision is, the other characters in the scene may have a completely different point of view. A Kelpian officer might think “we should run away!” is the most sensible advice ever, while a Klingon officer would think that was the most dishonorable idea possible.
Get excited at your fellow player’s answers. Sometimes it can be scary giving up the control of the scene to other players. But that’s also one of the best things about simming. If you were writing fiction you would never get the ideas and feedback from other writers like you do in simming. That element of waiting for replies and seeing what new direction a scene goes in is a special thrill. The more you appreciate it the more you’ll start leaving open-ended tags and have the fun of a collaborative ride and a story that go where no one expected it to go!
When in doubt ask your mentor or CO. Sometimes learning how to leave tags that collaborate well with your fellow players is a matter of experience. And the experienced staff on your ship are there to help any players – new or old – with playing better and writing better. If you have questions about a scene, tags or maybe you feel that another player pushed your character into a corner and took away your agency, talk it out with your staff. Communication help solve problems and makes every game stronger and every player better.