Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
To give a more serious answer…
In my opinion, yes, but an important caveat is that the game is asymmetrical. The other players control a single “game-piece” - their character - and are playing to achieve goals, both personal character-driven goals and quest goals. The DM controls the “board” - the environment and NPCs - and is playing to provide a challenge to the other players and perpetuate the gameplay.1) Is the DM a player?
Kind of? The players (including the DM) are creating a story, but they’re not writing a narrative as an author does. They’re perpetually facing (or creating, in the DM’s case) challenges in pursuit of their goals, and through this conflict an emergent story unfurls.2) Are the players writers creating a narative?
To an extent. The only thing the (non-DM) players directly control is their own characters. But, the DM may look to the players for help in creating a world that they will find interesting (usually before play, but some do so during play as well and that’s perfectly fine), and the actions of the characters during play can end up influencing the world.3) Are the PCs able to have any narrative control of the world (before/after/or during game play)?
Umm… yes, in a sense, but “audience” and “show” to me imply passive consumption, whereas the players (including the DM) are active participants. They are creating entertainment for themselves and each other, so yes, they are its audience, but their relationship to the entertainment is quite different than that of audiences of, say, TV shows.4) Are the players the audience watching 'the show' of the game?
They’re pursuing goals. Personally, I’m comfortable with calling that “playing to win,” with victory here being defined as successfully achieving those goals. But I know folks are often very particular about that language when it comes to D&D and I don’t want to step into an argument about whether successfully completing a goal constitutes “winning” or not. At any rate, a story will naturally emerge from the pursuit of those goals against the challenges created by the DM, so there’s no need to actively try to make “the most interesting story.” In fact, trying to do so can actually get in the way of that organic story-creation that occurs through the gameplay. “What the characters would do” is up to the players. I would hope, however, that the characters would pursue their goals to the best of their ability. I think doing otherwise is ultimately an attempt to “tell the most interesting story,” just with a particularly idiosyncratic view of what makes “the most interesting story.”5) Are players trying to 'win' by beating everything as best they can, or are they trying to make the most intresting story, or are they (oh god I hate this one) doing just what there characters would do?