Does joining a game with a lot of background thrill or intimidate you? What do you do to try to learn the background, or to compensate for not having it? If you GM, how do you help newcomers to a background-heavy game? What has worked for you as a player/GM, and what hasn't?
I know players who would answer at both ends of the spectrum.
I've had several successes in bringing folks into running campaigns. My first campaign ran twenty years, with several turnovers of Players. I think that sort of thing can be intimidating to new folks. Generally, rather than 'large prep' on newcomers, I rely on the literate exercise of bringing them in 'young and naive'.
Then let the immersive experience make the character organically.
Con games are a special case. Can you really ask for tons of work for a 4 hour game? Maybe not. Just getting characters before a con game is usually about 50% successful. Don't count on folks doing lots of background work.
Then there is trust.
In House of Cards, I entered a game where the success and intensity was very high already. Background? Yes. There is even an encyclopedia and twiki to help get around. Existing Player niches to avoid? Yes. A large cast with many excellent and passionate characters already at full run. In a rules-light game where the 'kit-o-parts' for character design is limited, it could be a problem to make a character that seems competant by comparison.
Once again, the device used is someone young and naive. Unfortunately for her, Celina doesn't think of herself as young and naive, she looks at the world from a young and curious viewpoint.
As such, she's already had a number of shocks and universe-tilting bits of information fall in her lap. That could turn into her niche, but this Player (while being somewhat famous for playing 'clueless youth' in F2F) is not interested in Celina as clueless youth in the prestigious cast of HoC. As such, the story so far is 'how fast can the young lady come up to speed'.
And that's fun—because I trusted the quality of GMs and Players. I took a leap of faith.