I started trying to write a long post on identity politics of RPGs and the Internet Drama(tm) they create on blogs and forums, but then I realized that this is the only part that matters:
RPGs can be goddamn near anything, which is as it should be. An immersive world, a shared storytelling exercise, an excuse to make weird jokes, a board game with dialogue, and a million other things no one’s thought of yet. No one is obligated to play or not play anything, least of all on the basis of what some guy on the internet says.
4 thoughts on “This thing we do.”
The broader matter at hand is, when discussing a topic are you doing so with actual logic for your point or are you breaking out irrational cliches and half baked memes/analogies to make your epeen look huge?
If you’re the second group (and I assure you, you know who you are) thanks for playing and be quiet. Grown ups are talking.
I think it’s interesting that games of this sort tend to actually generate identity issues in the first place. It’s almost like a simple Three Letter Abbreviation ™ could hold some dark magical power over people’s minds.
From the very first years of playing RPGs I’ve been hearing accusations of “not playing real RPGs” or “playing them wrong”. It’s not like I didn’t sometimes direct them at others myself, though. The moment I started playing D&D regularly, and having fun with the game as designed (officially unthinkable here in Poland), I learned that I was no longer a roleplayer – which actually made me fight over that back then. When I started playing indie stuff, again, I learned that in fact, I’m playing board games with story rather than “real” RPGs. And again, I felt compelled to fight for the Three Letter Abbreviation.
But at some point, it made me think: hey, maybe the accusers were right. Maybe I’m not playing “real” RPGs. And since the “correct” alternative they presented actually didn’t seem very attractive to me, maybe I don’t like RPGs at all, in fact?
So, hell, let the accusers have the Three Letter Abbreviation. I have enough figthing for three letters. I just like playing well designed games. Fringe/Indie/Story/Bunny/Punk Games, call them however you like.
Though apparently I don’t really like playing the kind of games that are generally regarded as RPGs, unquestionably, by most. It’s just, they always failed to produce fun for me, in one way or another.
And frankly, I don’t think calling any game “an RPG” has any merit these days. The Three Letter Abbreviation have lost it’s proper meaning years ago, or maybe it didn’t even have one in the first place (past the player identity value). Likewise, wondering what RPGs actually are feels unresolvable to me now, and trying to define them feels rather futile.
A game is a game, that’s all ^_^
Even though it shouldn’t, it annoys me that some people so readily accuse games of “not being RPGs,” as though it was some kind of cudgel they can use against things that don’t fit their preconceived notions. It’s not unlike how otaku are quick to dismiss stuff like Avatar as “not anime,” as though that said anything at all about the quality of the experience it delivers.
Maybe we do need a new term. You would think that “a game where you play a role” would be sufficient, but then every nerdfight about the definition of a term that never had a firm definition in the first place turns out hopelessly stupid and utterly mired in identity politics and local variation.
But really, as long as a game helps me have fun with my friends, I could care less about the rest.
Whenever I see the “not a real for-true RPG” charge being thrown around, I tend to think “then so much the worse for RPGs”, if the folks are having fun.
It’d be nice to have some consistent language for the cases on the margins, but…even if we had a set of terms that worked for everyone, people would go on to the real point, which is sneering at the innate worth of the stuff they don’t like. And that’s boring no matter how good the vocabulary is.
It would be nice to be able to create lil’ floating icons of the games we each like with glowing webs of relationship, admittedly.
Have a good GenCon!