Thursday, May 17, 2012
Go read this, and then come back here. If you care about roleplaying games, about the RPG industry, or about game design, you're going to want to read this. If you have any concern about the fact that non-WotC RPGing is a complete fringe hobby (awesome as it is), you must read this. I saw it, and it's provoked some mighty powerful thoughts on my part.
What They Call "Epiphany"
I read this post, and was hit by a massive moment of "that's exactly right". It set out, in a very straightforward way, the awkward problem that probably every RPG enthusiast has run into: how to explain roleplaying? "Uh, it's like telling a story, but all of you act as characters, and there's dice." "It's...like improv, but with rules." "You know Dragon Age or World of Warcraft? It's a little like that, but with way more room for creativity, and you get to hang out with friends." "This game is like cops and robbers, but with rules so that the robber doesn't bring a force field to the gunfight." (Yeah, I'm looking at you, every mainstream RPG introduction ever.)
Do we really have a good answer to this question? All of those answers are comparisons that, if you'll pardon me, are completely lame. We can't manage to articulate the solid definition of an RPG on its own, without trying to set it up next to something. If you think about it, we're really just making an excuse for your beloved hobby. We're trying to make it look more acceptable by setting it up next to more familiar things, more "normal" things. There's nothing wrong with using analogies to explain something, but please, people. We don't owe any apologies for roleplaying, and we know it can stand tall and strong on its own.
Why Do We Game?
It's that strange paradox that we find it the hardest to talk about the things that are nearest to our heart. I can speak from experience, though, when I say that forcing ourselves to put into words what makes those things special is the greatest favor we can do them...and ourselves. It helps us to appreciate them all the better. When we set out just what it is we love about our hobby, then we can describe that to our friends, and sell roleplaying on its own merit.
I really don't know what the answer is to this question. I'll be revisiting my own slow exposure to RPGs, and my experience reading Burning Wheel, because I know two things. First thing: there is an answer to this riddle, a concrete answer, because I've felt it, over and over. The trick is putting it into words, in a way that captures its essence, even if it can't capture the whole. Second thing: I know the answer is something I've rediscovered. I recognized it back when I opened a colorful copy of Decipher's The Lord of the Rings RPG, and I felt it again, even more so, as I paged through Burning Wheel.
As a heads-up, I'll probably be musing on this in future blog posts, as I sort this all out. I encourage any like-minded RPG bloggers to do the same. We've got a dungeon to crash.
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