I am not sure what I think of this question as a whole. In reality, it is not just the players’ job to make a world real. In fact, most of that job falls on the Games Master (GM). There is, of course, a series of what I consider unwritten rules that players could use. Most of these rules come down to one particular issue. The issue of investment.
I pretty much always look at these questions from a GM perspective. I have run a lot of games and nothing kills my games quicker than unwarranted criticism of this point or another. I like to run games where a lot is going on under the surface of the plot. Characters that are interacted with may change attitude quickly. They may even appear suspicious while trying to cover up personal secrets. That is because characters need to have their own story. I have had many players ruin a game because they tell me that I got it wrong and that the non-player character (NPC) would not have acted in that way. I find this especially hard to take when they have shown no interest in the NPC apart from how it can serve them.
This kind of behaviour has happened so many times recently. It may be an NPC or simply an organisation. Players tend to just take things up front as the way it is. Feelings have been hurt when they are betrayed by an organisation or things are not as they actually are. The players tend not to research the shady organisation before the betrayal though. I just feel that players’ need to do what anyone would do and get to know their settings. Get to know the things they are interacting with. Just like we do in real life. I do not trust an organisation or company without doing some research or asking questions.
Accept the unknown
Players can do a lot by investing in the setting. If something odd happens in the game perhaps they could get their character to investigate it. Accept the change is real in the game and work out why this is happening. I often hear jokes about cardboard cutout NPC’s. Sometimes this is true but there is a lot that is not so simple. Sure, your character wanders into a sporting match, most of the NPC’s are two dimensional. But the husband of the star player that you are there to meet is going to be more than just that. Then you meet the same character two weeks later and they pretend not to know you? Ask questions rather than assuming that it was played wrong. Thanks to Susan Barber of susangbarber.com for the following image that sums many of my thoughts up.
Most of the job of bringing realism to a game setting is the GM’s role. That is what they are doing this for. Players’ just need to buy in and accept that reality. They need to let go of what they think should happen and investigate what is. Not everything is a puzzle but some of the elements of a game are complex. Enjoy that. Revel in the intrigue and complexity of a well-designed game. Don’t simplify it and you will be amazed at some of the stuff you will uncover.