I think that it was just yesterday when I wrote about my MLP campaign. When the session ended, one of the players sent us a drawing of the characters. Apart from the cool factor and the feeling of epicness for such an instant, what struck me more was the conversation that ensued.
Player 1: You should post it on Facebook.
Player 2 (the artist): What should I write?
Player 1: Tag all of us-
Player 3 (interrupting): And write that it's Yosi's campaign.
I immediately said that this campaign is owned by all of us, it is our campaign, and that they created the story as much as I did. A quick conversation ensued, and it got published as "our campaign (but mostly Yosi's)".
I have 4 players in this group. Each one with different amounts of experience with RPGs, with only one of them (quite ironically, player 3) having prior experience in one of my games. The fact that he's a regular player in my groups for about 2 years now is only this more ironic.
The consensus was clear- this is my campaign far more than it is their campaign. And I find it quite interesting. You see, I always use "my campaign/game" in my writing, because I took part in it, making it mine. It is my campaign not because I'm the GM, but because I help to drive it toward a certain dramatic beat. I don't mean here railroading, because I don't railroad (and my players can attest for that), but rather I mean here creating as much drama as I can, while ensuring that as much of the story and drama is created by them and/or for their playing instruments (the PCs) and them.
My players also play this way, and have almost as much control about the plot, setting and the like individually as I do. They create parts of the setting, their findings, they even invented the plot, creating and fleshing it between the sessions to our own amazement. Yet they all agreed that it was my campaign and not theirs.
And I'm confused. If it weren't for them, it would remain just a concept, an idea about a MLP game in which the players play Blank Flanks looking for their Cutie Marks. If it weren't for them, we wouldn't have a prophecy, or Sherlock Hooves, or Zombie-like ponies. If it weren't for them, the books wouldn't do anything more than fly and laugh till the end of days. If it weren't for them, the narrative wouldn't move from Canterlot to the Crystal Empire. If it weren't for them, they wouldn't meet Cheese Sandwich. Yet it is my campaign, according to their words.
Looking in forums, theory articles, RPG.SE and other places that I regularly visit, it seemed almost too prevalent, too widespread. I found only a handful of players who didn't gave the credit for the campaign's success, or the credit for ownership, to their GM. And it didn't matter if the game involved a pre-written narrative, a sandbox or a completely improvised game. It didn't matter if the players were active, passive, inventive or questioning for permission before each step on their way towards the end.
And I find it confusing and problematic. We always say that RPG is a type of shared experience. We always say that we create everything together. We always say that the story moved one way or the other because we, each and every one of us, chose so. So why do we still give the keys of ownership to the GM?
I don't have an answer. I have some theories, but not even a single one of them is fleshed out, not to mention able to stand a test or scrutiny. But I know that I don't like this mindset. Am I alone?