The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m convinced there’s at least one more axis in the old “roleplayer vs rollplayer” argument.
My revised graph of where people stand on this issue now uses three: Story, Rules and Realism, with most people sitting somewhere on a 0-10 scale for how important each is to them. It’s entirely possible for some people to rate all three equally high (although someone rating all three equally low probably is in the wrong hobby), or one or two more than the other.
Story gamers are all about the… story, strangely enough. The important thing for them is that their group manages to weave the most interesting, fascinating tale around what occurs within their game. “Unrealistic” heroic events are easily explained by narrativium, and rules are fudged, ignored, and completely changed if necessary for dramatic effect.
Rules gamers focus on tactical decisions driven by the numbers they’ve seen in the rulebook (as opposed to tactical decisions driven by the scene they’re envisaging), and don’t see it as wrong to take advantage of a rules loophole that allows something that probably wouldn’t work if tried for real, because it’s only a game after all. The idea is to win, not to write a novel.
Realism gamers tend to get easily confused with Story gamers by people that belong to neither group. They’re the ones that are all about simulation. It doesn’t matter what happens as long as the results fit within the physics of the imaginary world in their minds. Rules that allow someone to do something unrealistic are wrong and are changed on the fly, and a story that allows someone to skid down the back of an elephant is just silly.
Now, at first I was envisaging a ternary plot for this, meaning that the more you lean towards one of these concepts, the less you lean towards the other two. e.g. Add two points to your story stat, and you lose one each from rules and realism to keep the total running at 100.
I’ve come to notice this is probably the wrong way to envision it, though. It’s actually possible for someone to care about all three, each at a level above that of someone else that cares only about one of the concepts. That was a hard thing for me to grasp at first, but now I’ve got my head around it I accept it’s really more of a case of shading in a triangular area of that ternary graph than plotting a point on it.
If that’s too technical, here’s the layman’s version: People don’t necessarily stop caring about one aspect of the game because they started caring more about another.