Monday, 20 July 2009

Why RPGs?

Inspired by comments here, I've been thinking about what got me into rpgs:
  • Escapism. The town I grew up in is a nice place, but boring. Liverpool is a big, exciting city and is just over the river, but that's far enough away to be too expensive for a kid to go to on public transport on more than a weekly basis. I played a lot of football and cricket as a youngster, but that doesn't provide the same escape.
  • Derring-do and adventure. Boys like those things, bears shit in the woods, etc.
  • Violence. Boys also like this. An important part of rpgs for my friends and I when we were 12-16 was the combat. No, not an important thing, the most important thing.
  • Disapproving parents. I sometimes read stories about people playing D&D with their sons and daughters, which is so completely alien to my experience I just can't envisage it. Moreover, I think the fact that my and my friends' parents would look at the covers of my AD&D rulebooks with raised eyebrows and looks of vague concern was all part of the fun.
  • By the same token, older friends. When I was 11 or 12 we gamed with my best friend's older brother (who was probably 14 at the time). It seemed like a hobby for more mature people, which was a good thing.
  • Pictures of hot women in the near-altogether. (In the absolute altogether was of course too much to hope for.) Larry Elmore has a lot to answer for.
  • The fact that there were a lot of pseudo-rpgs or lite-rpgs or whatever you want to call them around. For example, the Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf adventure game books. They had massive market penetration 15-20 years ago. Not any more, that I can tell.
So what we need is to play up all those elements and the hobby will be booming, no?


  1. First comment! Yay!

    Noisms: "Boys like those things,"

    Just boys, now? *head tilt*

  2. Girls evidently prefer things that won't excite the Bodily Humours ;)

  3. Rach and Tacoma: I didn't say "just" boys; I am a boy and I was only speaking about my own experience. There are girls who like those things too.

    That said, I don't partake in the ridiculous fantasy that's somehow become in vogue in English speaking countries that men and women don't in general like different things.

  4. When I was a kid and I first read the Holmes edition of Dungeons&Dragons, the thing that popped into my head was, "Holy crap! This is the closest I'm ever gonna get to actually being the Gray Mouser!"
    RPGs enable you to partially exist within an other world in a way that reading, or day-dreaming do not. The fact that there are rules to the experiance that are beyond your control make it that much more realistic in feel. It's a fantastic world experiance, but not totally beholden to your wishes.
    That's what gives it the power it has to thrill.
    You can immerse your self in reading fiction, but it's somebody else's world. You can day dream or imagine what ever you wish, but there's no chance of failure.

    Hmmmm, it looks like I'm painting myself into the Old Guard corner here, since following somebody else's story line and eliminating all chance of failure are hall marks of current game culture.
    I'll just shut up now.
    Wink-wink, nudge-nudge...

    wow, my word verification is sorignar. That one's going in my list of future character names.

  5. Y'know, nearly EVERY form of popular entertainment targeted at teen boys features:

    Derring-do and adventure.
    Disapproving parents and
    Pictures of hot women.

    (like, for example, comics, which you, noisms, said you never really got into)

    I think what brought me to RPGs INSTEAD of all those other hobbies (or in addition to them) was largely what I still like about them--the opportunities for weird, semisocial creativity.

    I think the problem isn't the wrong product, I think it's probably that video games offer a similar (though maybe more diluted) thing but with less up-front investment. (In friends, time, and social outcastness--and, in some ways, money.)

    Plus with on-line games, you can actually meet girls WHILE playing a video game, which is definitely some people's idea of heaven.

  6. Yep, if you do want to “boom” the hobby it’s gotta’ need something more than escapism, “adventure,” violence, and chicks in skimpy costumes, ‘cause you can get that from several on-line games.

    Not that I didn’t get into the hobby for many of these same reasons 27 years ago, but there’s something else that keeps me drawn to it even as mmorpgs absolutely do not (or don’t beyond a few hours game play).

  7. You're right, the social aspect is a huge factor too. Though these days you can even get that with MMORPGs - if you count online socialising as real socialising (which I don't but a fair amount of people do).