Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In You

After an impatient reply yesterday, I've been thinking.

I've been beating this drum of working on worlds and campaigns for a year now and it comes down to the question of why it matters.  If the readers do not wish to put more than the minimum effort into their campaigns - if that effort produces the result they and their players want - then it can make no possible difference to me and my campaign.  I will go on in the same way, my players' experiences will not be compromised and we should all be able to live healthily and happily in the campaigns we wish to have.  Yes?

No.  I don't think that's the correct way to think.  I know it's popular, I know that tolerance is preached on every street corner and I know very well that most people - regardless of the activity - would prefer most things if they worked that way.

My feelings about it are quite different.  I have enormous faith in the power and importance of creativity - not only for the general welfare, but for the individual.  I believe that the greatest obstacle to creativity is not the know-how or the sweat involved, as is often pointed at, but in the fear.  To be creative is to risk, to put oneself on the line and accept criticism.

"The least I can do" is a way of circumventing that fear.  The smaller the investment that is put into the project, the less can be lost.  It is easy to play a few bucks at the craps table.  The dice fall wrong and the player can shrug it off, remembering all the times a few bucks have been spent on a spilled coffee or an off-tasting dish.  No big deal.  It is another thing altogether to slide one's monthly mortgage payment onto the line and wait for that outcome.  The physical effort is the same - but the loss cannot be easily dismissed.

I have found that most people from any walk of life can commit themselves to a steady, necessary effort - even if that effort brings pain and physical challenge.  Left to it, the reader will likely adjust to having to empty out a flooded basement or walk fifteen miles once the car has given up the ghost.  We're all able to take on hard work, if we must, when the compensation is assured.  The basement will be restored.  The distance will be covered.  What we need to get done will get done.

What we won't do is apply ourselves if the odds tell us that failure is almost certain.  This is what fear does.  It causes us to concentrate on the loss and not the win.  We know there might be a win, but all we really see is the loss.

As such, the preparation we might put in before our campaign is tempered by that sense of uselessness in trying.  All this work might make a really good session, but we think it probably won't.  The longer we apply ourselves, affected by the work as we must be, the greater the certainty that we're working towards nothing.  Therefore, let us do the least possible - for the least possible promises the smallest loss.

How do we combat fear?  The populist answer is that the fearful pull themselves up by their bootstraps, dig in, have faith in themselves and power forward.  Truth is, that's a lot of bullshit.  All those people we think of as successful and fearless were supported by friends and good luck; even in the worst cases, we find the darkest souls among the famous and successful were beloved, even when they were at the bottom of their fortunes.  We combat fear with numbers - with the sense that we are not alone - with the certainty that however we might fail, there are others who will appreciate and understand that failure and support us - both in our coming to terms and in our will to try again.

Here I am.  I am putting myself in the number of people who will say, "This is something you can do.  This is a way you can succeed.  You have it in you.  Apply yourself, steady yourself, endure the level of work and the doubt you feel and in the end, your commitment will win the day.  It looks doubtful, it looks wasteful, it looks impossible, but look at me.  I was bad when I began this game, I was nothing special to speak of, but I had friends who gave me the time I needed to find my feet and keep going.  You will too."

I always tell DMs to talk it over with their players, to open up the lines of communication, to find out what the players want and to work towards those things.  Turn to your players, too, for support.  Find players who will give it to you and rid yourself of players who won't.  Your success depends wholly upon the people in your life who can help you believe in that success.

Inevitably, the effort and the risk and the success will lead to competency - and then you, too, will begin to produce the sort of system you see me producing, that you now wonder how I'm able to do.  You'll learn it's not beyond you.  You'll find how satisfying it is.  And you'll begin to see why I won't let this go, why I won't abandon gamers to the games they think they want to build right now.

I have faith in you, O reader.  Let the knowledge of that give you a little faith in yourself.



5 comments:

Dennis Laffey said...

Bravo! I think this may be one of the best posts you've ever written (and you've written a lot of good ones).

I struggle with that fear of failure myself, constantly. Usually not gaming related, I've gotten fairly good at ignoring that little voice in the back of my head when it comes to gaming, but in other parts of my life, it's definitely there.

I may be sharing this post with some of my students. Thanks, Alexis!

Doug said...

"The enemy of great isn't bad, it's 'good enough.'"

JB said...

I really don't get why people think you a "Negative Nelly." You are (with regard to gaming) one of the most blindly optimistic and Pollyannish people I've encountered.

Which is why folks can glean so much from your writing.
: )

Alexis Smolensk said...

Blind?

How exactly do you characterize me as "blind"?

Maybe I'm just realistic about possibility.

JB said...

@ Alexis:

Figure of speech.