Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Anthem

Yesterday, never mind where, I read some fellow on the internet bemoaning the endless argument about things.  How is it, he asked, that the internet has been around for ten years and we're still having these arguments?

Ten whole years.  Wow.  That is a really long time.  If you're ten.

The question is evidence of a failure to grasp the principles of thought.  Truth is, most of the really good arguments through history took hundreds of years to have out and resolve - and some of those have taken thousands of years without yet achieving a reconciliation.  Religion versus evidence, for example, which continues to hold a prominent place in discourse; or the benefits of self-sufficiency versus mutual-sufficiency (also known as left-right politics).  Select any collection of writings put out today, from anywhere on the planet, and we will find both those arguments still going strong . . . and so it will continue until, eventually, there's no one left who believes one side or the other.

(though, of course, any rational thinker already knows which side must win).

It is only natural that there will always be a portion of the population that argues, "What is the point?"  For them, there's no possible solution, ever, to anything in the world that is right now in contention, specifically because there is no solution.  This seems enough for them.

But of course contention began before humanity, with the first two creatures able to fight over a scrap of food.  Everything since then has been a matter of complexity.  As evolution progressed, leading to thinking beings that would associate culturally, the natural fact of contention demanded compromise.  That's all civilization is; compromise.

We are locked into an interesting experiment just now.  For the first time, all the people on the planet have the potential to insist that all the other people here must compromise.  I advance an idea and I challenge people in Germany, Japan and Kenya to explain why the expectation I have cannot be met.  They, in turn, explain why I have to compromise my expectation in recognition of their expectation and so it goes, around and around.

Why are we arguing?  Because it matters to us.

My discussion of legitimacy yesterday was written because I really believe in it.  I truly feel that every game played would be a better game if participants yielded to these principles and in that spirit I seek to challenge my reader to a) embrace these ideas; b) explain why they're not useful or practical; and c) dare to justify what they do at their tables to me and to everyone who enters this forum.

It isn't a matter of winning.  It is a matter of compromising.  Not the sort of silly notion that we will agree to disagree, but a real compromise: where on the track of running a campaign and managing players can a DM enable trust, act fairly and respect their players?  What is respect?  How much trust are we speaking of here?  What does 'fair treatment' entail, moment by moment, during the game?  How much are you personally willing to give and how much would you ask others to give?  These are the principles at work.

If we care, then it isn't a matter of arguing this until we're tired or bored.  It isn't a matter of the two of us or just those who read this blog coming to an agreement.  If we care, it isn't settled until every person in every game comes around to where we have, as JB says, a Gamer's Oath that everyone (player and DM) is expected to take and live by, else they will be excluded by everyone else from playing.

Imagine a gaming community where, before the game starts, every person empties their hands, stands up at the table and intones, together, said oath.  Don't laugh.  We sing the national anthem at a hockey or baseball game.  Why?  To remind ourselves that we are humans together in this thing and that as humans together, we owe those three things - trust, fairness and respect - to each other.  Those things aren't jokes. They're compromises that were won after centuries of brutality, murder and exploitation, as an effort to end those things.  Do you think your country is a joke?  Your responsibility to your fellow citizens?  Your willingness to defend those citizens?  Do you suppose that the way we manage these things today came from something other than one fuck of a lot of arguments fought by extremely bitter people for a very long time?

The fools who wail that the arguments are boring and have gone on too long only demonstrates how little care they have; how unconcerned they are with anything except their own immediate comfort.  None of this world around us was built by such people.

So we might feel a little silly speaking such an oath.  Certainly, as a child, we all felt a little silly singing God Save the Queen for assemblies (something gone, since the compromises that created that tradition were swept away by greater calls for a self-sufficient Canada).  Many feel pretty silly standing up for the anthem.  When it happens, some people sing; some don't.  But those that don't are shamed just enough to keep their choice quiet.  We know there are always those people who stand because they don't want to be those people who sit; and we also know what we feel when we see those sitters just sitting there.

It wouldn't hurt to have a little of that sentiment attached to table-top role-playing.  It wouldn't hurt to have everyone be reminded before a game starts that we're not sitting here to fuck-over one another.  There are more than a few DMs and players who could stand a little shaming.  How pleasant if we had some specific, well-known words on tap when we needed to stand up against a DM acting like a complete tit.  Words that everyone recognized and could nod their heads to, in unison.

Some will recoil in disgust at this idea.  Others will find their eyes shining a little with pleasure.

Let the argument begin.

I hate to spoil the end of this post, but I'm still in a bind.  While I have had some startling contributions of late, the end of the month yet looms, just 16 days away.  I am much, much closer to salvation and staying here, at least another month; but it takes help.  I'm asking only a little from each reader: $10, $15, maybe $25.  I'm thrilled to be on Patreon but the contribution there manages my future, not my right now.  Please consider helping me however you might care; I am very grateful for every small donation.


Maxwell Joslyn said...

I'm all for it. The only way to bring on the era of civilized tabletop gaming, free of manchildren and crap DMs, is to put our feet forward and insist on it, one table at a time.

In this vein, my rules include a DM Code of Conduct. There will one day be one for players as well. (Like everything else in my rules, both are work in progress.) Perhaps these could be condensed or converted into pre-game oaths, re-affirmations of commitment to the principles of a good game.

JB said...

Do you have a running total somewhere of how close you are to reaching your goal?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, JB,

Our original ask was $6,200 to sustain us through May. We have raised, to date, $1,998. Taking away March rent ($1,025) and utilities/food, adding other sources of income (selling books) and small aid from friends and family, we stand $120 short on paying for internet service come Mar 28 and just under $300 short on paying April's rent.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Allow me to correct that; we've just received another donation bringing our total to $2,048.