I want some room to answer this comment from the last post, from Andrej. Andrej plays in my online campaign:
"Yet people can get together and play chess or cards intently and people can get together to rehearse and act out a play or musical performance together intently. What is it about RPG's, that enjoy some aspects the above those stated activities, that makes it harder. Do even the better run games just accept that RPG's are less serious stuff? Is it something else?"
People who play chess and bridge do so for the pure tactical elements of the game. Chess players, in my experience, tend to be anti-social in general when they're not playing, and the game does not demand they be social. Bridge players, on the other hand, tend to be VERY social when they're not playing ... social to the point where they don't need to bond and interact and be friendly because much of the rest of their lives consists of that; bridge is a rest away from chatter.
Actors performing in a play reherse seriously because they know the day is coming that the will have to stand in front of strangers and be judged. When someone at a rehearsal is less than serious, who clowns around too much, the director is there to stomp them, and the other actors will tacitly support the director out of the fear they have that come opening night, they'll look like idiots. If you go to an opening night and the play is bad, it is usually because a) the actors were not serious; or b) the director wasn't willing to stomp hard. A fellow I knew back in the 90s, who directed several plays and a couple of films, ultimately realized that he had to be willing to throw people off the set or out of the performance for nothing more than not showing up to rehearsal. He had tried to be understanding for years, and it just meant that the serious people couldn't rehearse because the non-serious people weren't there. Answer? Fire all non-serious people. No matter how much they cry, how much they whine, what excuses they have, etc. By the time I'd attended my last experience with this director, 12 years after his first getting his feet wet, his speech included the statement, "If your mother dies, and you are giving the Eulogy at her funeral, and you don't tell them to reschedule the funeral because it conflicts with this rehersal, you will not be in this play. If you are less than dead, and you do not wheel yourself in your wheelchair to a rehearsal, you will not be in this play. Get a friend to pick you up, get a gurney, do your fucking lines laying on your back staring at the ceiling - if you're not willing to do that, you will not be in this play."
These are the standards to which I conformed when I used to perform. These are the standards that all good performance companies meet. Just talk to a couple of ballet artists about the damage they do to their feet.
RPGers do not submit to this type of treatment, or these standards, because they DO NOT CARE THIS MUCH. It is that simple. The chess players I have known, and I have known many because I used to moonlight at a coffeehouse/bookstore that at the time was the center for chess in a city of a million people, live for the game. They work at their jobs so that they can feed themselves and have a home so they won't be interrupted in their desire to play. They will play with you, but they don't give a shit who you are, how much money you have, what you do for a living, if you're married, if you're educated, if you have children or if you're psychopathic. They definitely won't give a shit about you if you CAN'T PLAY. If you prove you can play, if you can make them sweat before they beat you, if you are good enough that you can win half the time, they will pronounce you a worthy human being who has the right to share their air. Everyone else is shit.
Bridge players are friendlier. They'll chat about the hands, they'll give advice, they'll make a comment or two about the outside world while they're shifting their hands, and often the dummy will mutter on about a story, usually to the player on the bidder's right. But there is some terrifically subtle etiquette in it all and if you underbid or overbid too frequently, if you get a reputation for it, players will speak of you snottily behind your back, rating you on the same level as homeless persons or wifebeaters. You may be allowed to play, but it will become quite clear that you will not be wanted, and this is a decision that will be remembered all the rest of their life and all the rest of your life. It won't be, "Nice enough, but she can't play." It will be, "Oh my god, don't mention her."
Why? Because these players don't care about people. They may give lip service to it, but at the core they are haughty, superior, judgemental and unforgiving ... and they care FAR, FAR more about the game than they do about people.
But then, both games, bridge and chess, have absolutes. There is an absolute win. There is an absolute lose. This makes it far easier to establish one's credentials, or to be rated, on ability. RPG's don't have anything as clear-cut as that.
Too, they've both had time, literally centuries, to establish social perameters about play. Both games can be played for money, but usually aren't, unlike poker or other assorted games that are tainted by the presence of people who either have problems with money or who ultimately are willing to cheat for money. People cheat at bridge or chess, but they do it for prestige ... and both games are hard to cheat at. Chess, because the good players never take their eyes off the board, and bridge, because it takes real wit to invent hands that no one has ever seen before. And bridge players remember hands. They remember hands from 15, 20 years ago. They can play them out for you, if you ask. Creating hand after hand from scratch, so you can look brilliant as a bridge player, would take more brains than it would to just get a lot better at playing bridge.
These centuries of development have included adapting new players to the standards the old players use. It means generation after generation of older players harumphing and clucking their tongues at young players who behave inappropriately, or hissing and even physically threatening people who won't shut up - with the full support of everyone in attendence, I might add.
Try to imagine a D&D game where the players acted like the tough chessplayers who meet at the park in downtown Manhattan everyday - who are not above putting a knife between your ribs for kibbitzing. Imagine a D&D player turning to another one and saying, "What the fuck do you mean you burn the barn down? Get your shit and get the fuck out. Do it now, or I swear to god you're doing it with a broken leg."
Imagine being at a convention and some guy passing by the table says, "You guys playing D&D, or what?" and your friend Joe standing up, looking at the stranger and saying, "Yeah. That's right. And we don't need motherfuckers like you opening your mouth and wrecking our veri-fucking-similitude. So why don't you take your pussy ass fifteen feet back and shut the fuck up."
Those days are coming. They're a couple of generations in the future, but they are coming. I think it's kind of funny-strange that people haven't yet grasped that all this back and forth about how serious the game is reflects the growing mood that for the game to be taken seriously, the players are going to have to get serious. We're a long way from that. There are still a lot of losers around who don't actually give a shit about role-playing, who are just tourists, just fuckers who are here to troll, not here to roll, who are taking advantage of the fact that the people who actually give a damn are still uncertain about what's allowed, what's expected or what we're allowed to say. But that ain't gonna be forever. Players in large numbers are going to get clear about what makes a good game, and what doesn't, and how the makers of the game have to bow out and shut the fuck up, just like any other kibbitzer.
The older players, the ones doing this for fifty, sixty years, won't need to "catch up" during games, because there's nothing left to catch up on. That's what age is like. They're gonna play very hard core games, and the young people 20 years from now are gonna see that in vids online and they're going to think, "SHIT, I want to play like that." And they're gonna turn to their buddies and say, "Hey, shut up, we're trying to get some role-playing done here."
Yeah. The day is coming. People just can't see it yet.