Monday, August 6, 2018

And Now For The Real Story

A long ago post originally written in 2009. Though it was the time of 4e, and me still running the Jr. High gaming club, I think it has a new relevance today in the chic and hipster world of 5e.

So my last entry was meant to be humorous, but may have left a bad taste in some people's mouths. That too was intentional. You see I think we in the gaming world suffer from a few dysfunctionalities. Yes we laud our creativity, our intelligence and even at times revel in our weirdness. The truth however, is that we also carry our share of bestial characteristics that put us down there not much better than barnyard chickens.

I can say this, not only because I have gamed for nigh on 30 years now, but also because I have committed these sins myself, and have to be constantly on guard against them even now.

When I first started gaming I died. Alot. I don't really recall the other players or DMs being mean really. I died, they continued gaming. At worst I was ignored post mortem. It was after all my first few months gaming and one can expect to die some as a newbie.

So it may have been those early pc deaths of mine that colored my first few months in the DM chair. I was to say the least a killer DM par excellence. We spent countless hours going through dungeons at the picnic table behind my house, and the bodies piling up around us as my nefariously overpowered npcs and wickedly unbalanced monsters worked their mayhem upon those who were my friends.

It was less than a year later I found out my erstwhile players would go to one players house and play Space Invaders on Atari. Without me of course. The thing that hurt was that they would pretend I was the little alien that slowly passed across the top of the screen.You got extra points if you shot me down. Ouch.

So I made a few friends unhappy. I changed eventually. But there were other more sinster faults pointed out by those who came into my life later. Faults like excessive competition amongst those who were considered weaker in game play, intelligence, creativity or simply likeability. Our group was exclusive, without really planning to be. We were a clique and it wasn't easy to get in.

A female friend of mine from those old days once called us stuck up when a friend of hers was shunned by our group. She said we had prided ourselveson being so open and accepting in comparison with jocks and preps and stoners; but she claimed we were just as bad. Thing is I don't even recall the kid we supposedly excluded. She called us hypocrites.


Yeah, well. It hurt at the time, but you know what they say about the guilty. They taketh the truth to be hard. Later I realized why she said what she did. We were so egalitarian--or so we claimed. Give us your tired of the social status quo, give us your hungry for a place for misfits, give your huddled masses yearning to be free from the tyranny of the "in". In truth we were really no better than anybody else. We were teenagers.

Now some of you at this point may be wondering if I am blaming gaming for such social cliquishness. No--that was due to adolescence. What I am exploring is the form it took that is unique to gaming.

You see, whether you like it or not gaming is a social clique. It is a rather rarified acitivty confined usually to the wierd of mind. Now that's fine--I like it that way. But what is not so good is the exclusive pride that can develop among such a social niche. In the jet set it's the clothes you buy, the stores you shop at, the cologne you wear and whether you fly first class. In the gang it's the lingo you speak and the colors you flash, sometimes your race and often the neighborhood you're in. In gaming, it's often the edition you play, your time in gaming, whether you can speak the lingo, how big and classic your collection of gaming books and if you can quote rules by book and page number.

But it's not just that. With any social group there are critera you often have to become familiar with in order to properly fit in. What's worse are the intangibles.

Gamers can be a competitive lot. Not only that they are often very particular about the creative and imaginative ability of those around them. There's got to be a certain cool quality to your geekiness in order to be accepted. That's the thing we have to be aware of--we have to gaurd against this demon if we are to not commit the unpardonable.

Why you ask would such a thing be so bad, and why talk about it on a OS blog? Because we old schoolers are competing against the slick new kid in town. What I have seen of 4e seeks to attract a "cooler" set to gaming. And there is nothing wrong with this inherently. 4e is just seen as being cooler than certain old school games. Old school games are more cerebral and more magical in quality than the very rule bound video game like rpgs that are coming out now.

I've seen this played out with increasing frequency at the adolescent level. There is a startling number of "cool" guys that are playing 4e. These new generation LOTR fans (now that it's cool to like such an awesome movie with great effects and lots of battle) with their shades, low hanging pants and bandannas are presenting a new problem. No geeks allowed.

This simply won't do. And the bad thing is that gaming plays right into their hand. The competetive element of gaming can work as a tool to its own destruction. We all know the game was meant to be a cooperative endeavor between a party of adventurers. But it's all too easy to exclude people with actions, meta and in game jabs, comments and general attitude.

Previously in the ancient days of gaming gone by this was done by those who didn't show enough gaming geekery to fit in. Now, its being used against the very people who kept gaming alive for so long. A war is brewing and its true nature remains to be seen.

Me, I have faith in the magic of gaming. I think it will prevail and sincere narrative,storytelling type deep roleplaying willwin the day. It has already begun to do so amongst the younger gamers I game with. When given a choice most prefer story rich gaming.