(Much of this post is actually taken from a comment I left over at Chgowiz's blog)...
Tonight was my wife's first play (of any role playing game actually), and she really was at a loss. It was up to my 8 year old nephew to rescue her from this - the root of the problem was that she really, truly felt she didn't know "what to do" - they were at the very beginning of an adventure, just settling into a tavern scene which I'd briefly sketched out as the result of the two of them meeting due to (largely) needing employment (we'll skip their individual backgrounds here) and journeying to the same town of any size in their area in search of same. I thought it ironic yet understandable that my 8 year old nephew (perhaps as the result of playing in Nintendo's Zelda worlds) took quite naturally to the gameplay environment. He quickly saw the potential and need for hirelings, as well as listening for rumors/lore. I'd assumed that my wife would rise to the role of "caller" so to speak, if not that of at least mapper, but now see that her younger may well show the way!
Afterwards, I asked her how she felt about her first opportunity to play, and found out she was really bewildered about what she should and could do. I had to explain to her that some of the awkward silences during actual gameplay was due to me simply refusing to hint or guide her in any way to anything that might move the narrative forward... I've said it before, but the sheer infinite number of choices available to a player can be overwhelming, and the idea that they might have to elucidate specifically what they're aiming for with a given action can be at first shocking to the players! I really do think this is a quickly overcome hurdle though, esp. as the consequences of running on auto-pilot become obvious!
Camille did some theatre in college, and I tried to bring up some ideas I've had before with her, such as the improvisational nature of the game. "Picture yourself on stage trying out for a part - the part of the dwarf character you rolled up earlier. I'm the director. Now, there's no script, so just improv. Your sister is missing, you're out of work, you overhear some other travellers in the tavern discussing searching an old and deserted temple for treasure..." to paraphrase some of what I said to her. That seemed to help her understand. It's hard to believe now that I assumed she would just get it (or that anyone necessarily would). I guess when you've played a whole bunch, it just becomes so natural that the notion of even having to describe the process seems silly.
Hero Games - Star Hero
3 hours ago