Sunday, 11 October 2009

Spare me the 'insights'

Sometimes google reader throws up these little blog recommendations. Often they are crushingly dull and of no interest whatsoever to me. ("English skill isn't built in a day", a blog about trying to learn English, for example. Not only do I know how to speak English, I also spent some years of my life despising myself for teaching it, so why on earth I would want to read such a blog is beyond me.) But sometimes you get some vaguely interesting titbits.

It was through such a recommendation that I came across the (now defunct) blog Enter the Octopus, what seems to have been a general grab bag of geek miscellania. This entry caught my interest; in particular this quote, which seems to have been cited with approval:

"Populated with cross-bred elves and dwarves, fantasy realms make people feel not quite so freakish, releasing them from their cages of identity. Playing half- or non-human characters can be an exploration of their freak side, a new door into themselves..."

pp. 56-57, Chapter Four, "Into the Dungeon Again"

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms
, by Ethan Gilsdorf.

Mainly because it seems like cod arm-chair psychology of the most banal kind. (You'll notice it's also self-contradictory - either fantasy realms make people feel less freakish or they help people explore their freakish side; which is it?)

I never think of fantasy gaming in that vein, and know very few people who do. Gaming is fun for a lot of reasons, but for me it has never ever been about making me feel "not so freakish", releasing me from my "cage of identity" or allowing me to explore my "freak side". I can do all that with beer. Maybe absinthe if I really want to explore my freak side.

Gaming for me is about two things: playing a game, socialising and stretching your imagination. All fun and worthy endeavours, especially when mixed. And there's nothing much more complicated to it than that.


  1. Yeah, I feel like people who play RPGs in order to "explore" stuff about themselves or escape a "cage of identity" are the people who like pretending to be an elf way more than rolling dice or killing monsters.

    I have two things to say about these people:

    -I've never met one ever, but I hear about them on the internet.

    -What I hear makes me glad I've never met one.

  2. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  3. I hate that crap. I'm not playing with anyone who wants to drag their dreary navel-gazing pseudo self analysis into the game and flop it on the table like a dead carp.
    I'm a GM, not a bartender. I don't give a rat's ass about your hurt inner child.

  4. I agree. Never let an armchair Freud tell you why you play RPG's.

    Beer? I thought I may have been the only one to vote 'beer' on the beverage poll. ;-)

    Absinthe? A friend of mine visited from Prague last month and he brought a bottle of the genuine stuff. Vile. Alas! No green fairies! :-(

  5. Fortunately most of that type of gamer have ghettoised themselves into WoD games or FORGE. They can be repelled with copies of "Rifts" if encountered outside their pseud hive.

    "Shut up and roll Herr Freud!"

  6. Oi! Yeah, players that bring agendas to the table are a drag. I cringe when a player makes a big deal about their alignment - let alone the out of left field request for the cost of some bondage gear or something.

  7. You know you're in trouble when the player hands you a ten page character background, a map of his home town, and is creative enough to scrape together bondage gear from the standard equipment list.

    I think playing a game where your character dies with excessive frequency, then one where your character might die sometimes (OD&D let's say), are rather necessary gaming experiences.

    Your character is not a unique and beautiful snowflake.

    This is not to say that the PC cannot be cool, or powerful, or interesting, or complex. But you can't expect your character to be the focus of the game - everyone else is playing the game, not your character.

  8. Jeff Rients, on earning your character's awesomeness:

    "Early in character conceptualization I considered riding around on a war-dinosaur named Boo-boo, but given the more arctic clime proposed I instead opted for a polar bear named Ooklamok...I call my place the House of Bones. It overlooks the Mammoth Graveyard, where wooly mammoths go to die, and is made out of tusks and mammoth skulls and bigass ribs and stuff.

    "I know what you are all thinking right now. Jeff, that is the single coolest character in the entire history of roleplaying games. And of course you're right. How could I disagree with all of my readers, who are classy sophisticates like myself? Unfortunately, I couldn't quite shake the feeling all night that Torgo was an utter fraud. I kept thinking to myself that Torgo is awesome by rules fiat, not through any accomplishment on my part. My gut keeps telling me that the only way I could really make Torgo work would be to start out with a first level Cave Man Rogue (or whatever) and to earn all that awesome-osity. Anything else feels like cheating."

  9. This guy (the author) is, I believe, a fellow Bostonian, and has promoted his book on a few Boston-area message boards and mailing lists. It's starting to get a little tiresome, actually.

    I just get the feeling this is some guy who's a little embarrassed about his gaming past, got himself a Master's degree in English or Psychology or some such, and has decided to milk his former hobby for every ounce of "weirdo factor" he can get before too many people finally get around to realizing that playing D&D is no more or less lame than being obsessed with "American Idol". Both can involve people making fools of themselves, but only one of the two takes place in front of millions of people every week...

  10. Great comments. Nice to know I'm not alone in this.

    I was about to make a comment along the lines of "maybe people think that way when they're teenagers?" But then I remembered that even when I was a teenager gaming was mostly about yes, socialising and playing a game and also maybe sneakily smoking and drinking. No exercising of inner freakiness at all.