Because I have a giant ego, I google the title of this blog on a fairly regular basis to see what "word on the street" is. Yesterday, while doing this, I discovered that the podcast Canon Puncture has talked about entries from my blog at least twice. The episodes in question were back in 2009, so it took a bit of digging to find them, but when it comes to ego-stroking there are no time limits.
I really enjoyed hearing people talking about Monsters and Manuals - it's a nice filip. But I have to take issue with some of the comments regarding this old post of mine, from the second of the episodes in question. This won't make much sense to you if you haven't heard the podcast and haven't been reading my blog for a long time, but indulge me: I'll be back to rambling on about monsters and Yoon-Suin tomorrow.
The critique of my position that Judd makes in that episode seems to me to be rather unfair, as it mischaracterises what I was saying, essentially, as follows: "Gaming is purely about escapism, and there's nothing wrong with that, and narrative/story-telling gaming is not escapist and is inferior for some reason that I won't make clear."
He rebuts this by making the following argument: whether you make it implicit or explicit, and even if you think you are indulging in "escapism", by participating in the act of gaming, you are still bringing yourself, your world, your assumptions, and your politics, to the game. It is impossible not to do so. As he puts it, whether you like it or not, "Your game says something about the world", because your opinions, background, and assumptions make their way into the game whatever you might think. You are therefore not, in any real sense, "escaping", and in fact you are best off admitting that and making it explicit.
Now, I should say first of all that I am more than familiar with this sort of analytical approach. Listen; I have a degree in English lit, a Masters in Law, and I'm currently finishing off a PhD in legal philosophy. The kind of argument Judd is advancing is not at all unfamiliar to me. It's basic critical theory.
The point I wanted to make in the initial post is that, irrespective of whether or not I am bringing my self, my world view, my politics and my beliefs to the game, irrespective of whether or not I am "saying something about the world", and irrespective of whether or not that is a good or a bad thing, I don't care. Analysing it is not enjoyable to me. It is a game that I indulge in for fun, because I like imagining weird shit. The way in which I imagine weird shit may be deeply political and may say all kinds of things about the world: I don't care to find out.
For other people it may be fun and enjoyable to analyse their own gaming in that way, and I'm perfectly willing to accept that. Different strokes for different folks, etc. For me, it doesn't work - analysing things is my day job. Gaming is sacrosanct.
This doesn't mean, by the way, that all I'm interested in is imagining killing orcs in dungeons or being "the good guy" versus "the bad guys" (as is implied in the podcast). I'm perfectly capable of playing games with far more nuance than that - and I resent the false dichotomy created in the podcast between subtle narrativist gaming which is "about the world" on the one hand, and braindead escapist heroic fantasy nonsense which is also "about the world" but doesn't admit it to itself on the other. And finally, I have to say that I find the podcasters' insistence that they are not being snobbish a bit rich, given that they explicitly state that their own mode of play is (quote) "best" - without giving any reason why - and portray my position as advocating a stance of sticking ones fingers in ones ears and saying (quote) "la la la la la, I'm an escapist".
I'm happy to entertain the notion that it is impossible to game without "saying something about the world", but in the same way that I will watch a game of cricket without worrying about what that says about the world, because I like watching cricket for its own sake, I don't want overanalysis to get in the way of my imagining of weird shit. Simple as that.
EDIT: I feel compelled, because I'm such a nice guy (as if you can't tell), to insert the disclaimer that generally speaking Canon Puncture is a good, snappy, fun listen, and Judd is a very eloquent and thoughtful speaker in general. This particular episode just made my hackles rise.