- There's a game
- The game is one which has at least some connection to a concrete reality, typically the real world but perhaps a made-up one (from Football Manager, which is about the real world right down to accurately modelling the abilities and actions of tens of thousands of living professional footballers, to Civilization V, which isn't about the real world at all)
- The game conceals its mechanics behind an interface (like Crusader Kings II), or a fake set of tokens or other realia (like Monopoly) and isn't based on abstracted or notional items like cards (poker)
Monday, 10 June 2019
The RPG Hobby is Bigger Than You Think
It depends on how "role playing" is defined.
I've come to believe that human beings cannot help themselves role-playing under certain conditions. Yes, I know that in a broad sense we are all always inescapably playing various roles - father, mother, husband, wife, teacher, plumber, professional snooker player, etc. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking specifically about games.
There are certain types of games - war games, board games and computer games - in which players naturally start to associate themselves with a certain role or character such that at a phenomenological level they begin to think "as" somebody else, somebody who they are not.
The most obvious example of this from my experience is the computer game Football Manager and its earlier iteration Championship Manager. Here, the player notionally takes on the persona of the manager of a football club somewhere in the world, and the game simulates the decisions that a manager supposedly takes - buying/selling players, picking the team before matches, carrying out training, coming up with tactics, and so on. It would be entirely possible to play Football Manager in the manner of chess - just doing what is necessary to win as an abstract challenge. But the actual experience of playing Football Manager is nothing like this. In fact it is an emotional rollercoaster in which every last outcome is keenly felt and in which one comes to identify so strongly with one's abstract "manager" that one can quite readily come to hate opposing managers, clubs, and even one's own players for frustrating one's wishes in-game. (One of the reasons I stopped playing the game in around 2013 was because it was making me so angry and stressed that I thought it was no longer worth the inescapable emotional investment. I would be better off with the real-life stresses of actually managing a football club, and being paid for it.) Football Manager is not just a computer game. It's actually a role-playing game. It just isn't thought of in that way.
Other examples which may be more pertinent to your experience are strategy games like Civilization and those in the Paradox Interactive stable. I don't think anybody plays Civilization as though it is just an abstract challenge like Scrabble or Go. Instead, they quickly take on the personas of all-powerful Gods, bossing their little Egyptians/Mayans/Mongols around and taking against those dastardly Persians while looking favourably on the sexy Carthaginians (or whatever). They may not take it as far as writing Crusader Kings II After Action Reports in the first or third person, which thousands of people do. But they certainly, to some extent or other, come to feel as though they occupy a "role" - and become emotionally involved in the decisions and activities associated with it.
Some board games - the best examples I can think of being Monopoly and Diplomacy - also have this character. Play a game of Monopoly and you'll quickly find that the players will begin to act as though they are real-estate entrepreneurs, threatening each other with bankruptcy and bargaining ferociously once all the locations are bought. It's not as though their entire personality changes for four hours. But there's slippage from the role of player into the role of character. They aren't just rolling the dice and trying to amass money as though they are just a stand-in for abstract points. They are trying to amass money because, briefly and conditionally, they want money.
What, then, are the conditions in which "role playing" takes place? I'd suggest:
These conditions may simply be ideal ones. Chess probably doesn't meet them, and yet it is possible to think of oneself as "being" the King when playing (although most players likely don't do this).
Thought of in these terms, there are hundreds of millions of us - maybe billions - around the world.
Posted by noisms at 22:02