It is said that being a player is a lot like using a flashlight and a being a GM is like using a spotlight. The GM can see the whole story – the interesting parts, the boring parts and most importantly the way forward. It is his responsibility to direct the player’s flashlight towards the interesting parts and away from the boring bits. However, I believe that when it comes to rules mastery the player, with his flashlight approach, should have a higher level of knowledge than the GM for the rules that concern his character.
The reason I believe this is because the GM needs to be a jack of all trades. He needs to know about the matrix, magic, combat and all of the other subsystems. The GM’s level of mastery is consequently not as specialized as a player who plays a hacker and doesn’t need to know how to cast a spell. The GM does need to maintain a level of rules mastery to tell a story that hasn’t been written yet. I will often determine a character’s chance of success based on the amount of dice they’re rolling, the skill level of the opposition, what’s fun, and what’s challenging. I don’t need to know what rolling 4 success on a Data Search grants me.
As a player you have chosen to specialize in one of these subsystems and similar to how you only have a flashlight view of the game world, you have a flashlight view of the rules. As the player you should know the difference between augmented and virtual realities if your a hacker or watcher spirits and totems if your a shaman. You don’t need to worry yourself about the rules that don’t affect your character. Use this focused approach to understand the rules better than the GM. It will speed up the game and provide new, and interesting avenues to follow.
The GM briefly dabbles in the concepts that your characters have focused on. Just long to attack you with a spirit or have a node available for your characters to hack. If your going to play a mage, a hacker, a rigger, a technomancer or anyone else that uses a specialized rule system then you need to be able to tell the GM what you need to roll to accomplish your task. Otherwise, when I get inspired to read up on IC for the next game your character is going to end up with blood dripping out of their ears.