#rpgaday2018

#rpgaday2018

Heyyyy, the questions aren’t universally terrible this year. I’ll write answers if I’m inspired.

Today’s is “What do you love about RPGs?”

Friends, I’m going to admit something: I may not love them. But I can’t live without them. So it’s kind of an unhealthy codependent type relationship I have with them.

It may be that I really don’t love RPGs categorically speaking. I think there’s a lot of bad stuff out there. Uninteresting gameplay. Pretension. Tedious or outright unpleasant philosophies about life and drama, deconstructed and dressed with beautiful exciting art and fed to the reader as aspirationally “fun” when it is no such thing. I’ve been around to see enough bad games that somewhere inside me, I assume most RPGs are bad.

Gosh, the good ones though. The ones that teach me some new way to perceive and understand real life. They exist! Or proceduralized descriptions of genre structures that have eluded me until I saw the interlocking gears. Or, sometimes, manipulative-as-fuck psychological tricks that move my emotions to a surprising place. Even then, I’m not sure I “love” them.

I have loved individual games.

The games I have loved were because of the people who played them, and the shared imaginative spaces the games put us in together, and the trust extended back and forth via the medium of the rules to talk together. That’s hot! I have no idea how any other art form could hope to achieve such a thing.

I’ve studied and written music and words for money, and the relationship is always between the creator and the audience. Sometimes the audience talks among itself about the work (or, good lord, the creator), but it’s all just opinions about someone else’s work. Honestly, that relationship to me feels impoverished alongside a small group gathered together, as peers, working together for nothing more than the pleasure of doing so.

So I guess I do love RPGs in those particular moments, with those particular people.

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0 thoughts on “#rpgaday2018”

  1. For me there is a thing: I often don’t like theory, or talking about games with people I don’t play with.

    And yet, as you may have noticed, I do it a fucking lot. A lot lot.

    It’s because, I think, I love playing games so much that I both want to do better at it — which part of me believes I can do by understanding it — and want to be able to be in the penumbra of that glow even when not doing it.

    So I talk and think about theory as like non-lonely lonely fun. It’s not something I usually actually like much, but I do it to feel closer to play and hopefully (maybe, it’s debatable) make the games I do play better.

  2. (Minor clarification: I don’t like talking about RPG theory on line. I actually love reading good academic game theory. But reading good theory and arguing about immersion on the internet are different activities.)

  3. Is your relationship to other forms of media similar or different? Do you love fiction or film in a similar “most of it’s bad” way?

  4. J. Walton mmmm no.

    If it’s a book or a movie, I can read a review from someone I trust, or look at aggregate opinions via fivestar ratings or Metacritic or whatever. Everyone’s engaging in the same activity (reading a book, watching a movie), which is passive and has no end product beyond the work itself that I care about (other than Opinions). But RPGs, in particular, are incredibly subjective and rely so much on the participants to produce the end product.

    I don’t have a super high regard for most of the participants either.

  5. Alright, finally in front of a proper computer.

    This:

    The ones that teach me some new way to perceive and understand real life. They exist! Or proceduralized descriptions of genre structures that have eluded me until I saw the interlocking gears. Or, sometimes, manipulative-as-fuck psychological tricks that move my emotions to a surprising place.

    and this:

    It’s because, I think, I love playing games so much that I both want to do better at it — which part of me believes I can do by understanding it — and want to be able to be in the penumbra of that glow even when not doing it.

    really speak to me. From the first time I saw a manipulative gimmick in an RPG as an intentional piece of design to motivate certain kinds of play, that possibility to take them apart and try to understand how they work had been a big part of why I play games and why I seek out theory-friendly (or at least theory-ambivalent) online communities.

    I think one of the elements I really appreciate about RPGs as an art or a form of entertainment is that they do construct that dialogue between the creator and audience, but that dialogue is distinct-but-linked to the dialogue at the table in play, and that both of those experiences, or some magic combination of them, can contribute to the positive experiences of play.

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