Friday, June 13, 2014

The Real Deal

This is never going to stay up on the google+ page of someone who doesn't like me, so I'll repost it here.

Well Jay, you and I don't see eye-to-eye, but here's something you perhaps should consider. None of these beloved 'grandfathers' ended up with very much control over the pastime they initiated. Nor did they invent that pastime in a vacuum. In fact, they invented it among a lot of other people who DID wind up with a lot more control than these grandfathers, who aren't depicted sitting around in obesity.

These may have wound up this way because in fact they weren't very bright, they were just four somewhat imaginative, ordinary college students that started something that quickly grew too big for them, who afterwards were able to live very soft, largely purposeless lives playing a game or indulging themselves however they wished because they didn't have to earn hard livings that would have kept them trim and healthy.

Perhaps we should stop mythologizing these people and simply see them for what they are. Fat do-nothings who got lucky.


Did anyone, I wonder, notice that both posts I wrote today were about the same thing?


According to this post, these four were not who I presumed them to be, according to this post.  Sigh.  Twice this week I've had a research error.  Somehow, I don't feel bad this time, since the four people who were quoted in the post I linked earlier were Dave Trampier, Aaron Aalston, Tom Moldvay and 'Gary' - presumably Gary Gygax. And this is who I meant in my reply.

No.  I did not pick up on the fact that these were not the four in the picture, because I do not know what the four guys in the post look like.  I couldn't pick Aalston out in a line-up if my life depended on it.  Gary I only vaguely remember from his 60 Minutes interview.  I never cared about any of these people, so I didn't have posters of them on my wall.

I just feel awful about that.  My original statements, however, directed towards failures at the art of holding onto or improving their own creations?  Those stand.


Daniel Sell said...

Isn't there a middle ground of benign indifference?

Besides, control or not, they were part of a moment in history that is significant to some people. Enjoying their existence even in a rose tinted way is perfectly harmless.

JDJarvis said...

Not mythologizing here but Gygax had a few dozen published works to his name. That's not exactly "doing nothing".

Alexis Smolensk said...

I don't think my comment could conceivably be more indifferent.

Note that this post in included under the category, "religion."

Rose-tinted, perfect harmlessness has long proved a wonderful manufacture in the making of telling people what to love and who to respect. To certain people, it isn't enough that these people are significant to them - they must be significant to EVERYBODY.

You know how predictably my view count exploded after I posted this? "Pissing on the flag" . . .

Alexis Smolensk said...

As an afterthought, I should point out that the linked discussion tries to make a health issue out of role-playing based upon the fatness of these four 'grandfathers.' There's religion for you.

Alexis Smolensk said...

They all did, JD. Published works that did not have to stand up to the scrutiny of a literary critic, that were flogged largely by a monopoly, that are today largely unknown or fetishized, and not appreciated for their quality.

You're right. I'm completely out of line.

Dave Cesarano said...

Published works that did not have to stand up to the scrutiny of a literary critic, that were flogged largely by a monopoly, that are today largely unknown or fetishized, and not appreciated for their quality.

Which says nothing about their actual quality. I said it elsewhere that I respect the OSR but can't get really involved with it. One of the reasons is slavish hero-worship.

Gygax wrote amusingly pseudo-archaically in his rulebooks but his novels were absolutely horrific. Absolute, utter, and puerile crap. I couldn't read past the first few pages. Trampier's art is dull, pedestrian, the work of a high school student of mediocre talent. I could go on. I've always felt this way but dare I speak? No, for fear of being verbally pilloried. Well, if I'm going to be verbally pilloried, I'd rather it be about something that actually matters like, I dunno, how much I despise ObamaCare or something. But it seems people take gaming more seriously than politics.

Alexis, I'm glad you put this under "Religion." Gygax/Arneson worship is most certainly a sacred cow that begs to be slaughtered.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I was born with a chalef in my hand, Dave.

Daniel Sell said...

Indifferent, maybe. Benign though? You big bully, you.

It seems that you're replacing one mythology with another. "Fat do-nothings who got lucky" is an absurd reduction which is as far from the truth as calling them all geniuses. The original post is certainly a bit daft, but the people it talks about have a (very narrow) cultural significance that can't be hand-waved away.

Anyway, being lucky is usually enough and hardly a valid criticism. Whether they were instrumental or incidental is all rather academic at this point.

Alexis Smolensk said...


The comment you make is personally abusive, and therefore should be deleted - but I am going to make an exception and let it pass.

I should like to point out that I did not at any time personally abuse YOU. I made no comments whatsoever about who you ARE. The fact that I clearly make personal comments about your heroes does not give you leave to reciprocate YOURSELF on their behalf. You were not elected by them, you do not officially speak for them in any capacity, and therefore you are not entitled to any privilege to cast personal abuse in kind.

It is the very nature of religious fervour that it impresses upon people the idea that "if you speak badly of my icons, you speak badly of me." This is a dangerous dogma. It has led to much ill in the world.

It is the very reason I go after sacred cows. People use sacred cows to perpetrate aggression while claiming that the justice of their aggression permits absolution.

This is not in fact true.

My demonstration of the justification behind your malevolent behaviour is MORE than enough of a reason for valid criticism.

What they were actually instrumental towards creating IS academic, agreed. But what their contribution has been TWISTED into, as a privilege that you and others feel, to vilify everyone who disagrees with your assessment of their value, is more than academic.

It's a sickness. I shall not cease to identify that.

Alexis Smolensk said...

For those of you who have left comments attacking my use of the word 'fat.'

Some of you may have noticed that I lean somewhat in that direction myself. I also wonder how many of you have left comments disparaging the various blogs around the community who have unhesitatingly called me fat.

I would like to point out that only one person has expressed any problem with the term 'do-nothing.' To my mind, this would be the larger issue.

Mostly, I want to AGAIN express that the post this is in answer to argued that RPG sedentary behaviour might be a cause for early death. To which the picture showing three very large dudes, and one dude about my size, was added. Since early death was being attributed indirectly in the post to poor health due to obesity, I believe that the designation 'fat' is hardly out of context.

Finally, the real issue I have here is that they BECAME fat because they did nothing. They had 40 years to promote and improve their original concept, and as far as I know they did not a damn thing towards that end. In fact, in my understanding, they actively promoted AGAINST D&D ever changing.

In other words, having invented the thing, they then went on to deny that anything else could ever improve it.

So yes. Perhaps I shouldn't have called them fat do-nothings.

I should have called them fat, arrogant, self-righteous do-nothings.

As opposed to me. See, I am a fat, arrogant, self-righteous hard worker. I trust the difference is noted.

Jeremiah Scott said...

I haven't commented in several days because I've been agonizing over writing a review for How to Play that encapsulates how I feel. But this post and thread is far too ripe to pass up without throwing in my two cents.

First of all, as a religious man I truly appreciate that Alexis goes after sacred cows. His logic is difficult--if not impossible--to argue against. I think the worst thing people can do is insulate themselves in a community that thinks exactly like they do. That's true for religion, politics, and D&D.

To argue that Gygax, et al., were anything very special is a crumbling ledge. Role-playing games were simply the next logical step of creative development beyond playing make-believe. All that was needed was enough free time from work and a liberal enough intellectual environment and anyone would've come up with something very similar to what we have today. I don't know as much about Gygax and company as many here, but if they were so great, why did D&D become such an awful mess? I know it was out of their hands, but I have to believe things would've worked out differently had it been up to more competent stewards. We have no problem naming musicians and actors who sell out. Why are we so protective of these guys? We shouldn't be afraid to call it like it is. And we need to realize that we--the community of people who believes in the game enough to read intellectual thought about it--are the new stewards of the game's true lineage. Not WOTC.

A word on literature: The literary community is as important to defining what is good literature as the scientific community is to defining good science. That doesn't mean they can't be wrong. But it does mean they shouldn't be tossed aside. And saying that something got published means next to nothing, especially in genre fiction. Chances are your neighbor or bar mate is a better literature critic than most publishers.

Scarbrow said...

"As opposed to me. See, I am a fat, arrogant, self-righteous hard worker. I trust the difference is noted. "

Where is the "You are my God" button when you need it? :)