Friday, September 21, 2018

Why a University Class at All?

Given my recent work on these RPG 201 posts, I think it's fair to ask the question, am I a mentor?  I know for a fact that some would say "yes," without hesitation.  Others might say I had important things to say or that I was useful.  And still others would answer emphatically, "No."

Frankly, it doesn't matter.  As my 8th Class argues, every voice is suspect.  Every voice, regardless of the status, regardless of the number of years behind it, regardless of the accreditation behind that voice, has every chance of being dead wrong about some, most or all of what it claims.  That is why we create boards that evaluate professions after it's members have reached the last measure of their educations, or the pinnacle of their careers.  Because people, even the proficient and the expert, fall into patterns of thinking that lead them into bad habits and potentially abusive, misleading and criminal behaviour.

Despite what many people think, even after you get your papers, there is no free ride.  If you're not consistently responsible and above board, people will notice and you will lose your credibility, your status and your right to practice.

That is why I would be the first to argue, resist what I'm telling you.  Resist it.  Don't accept it as written.  Test it, examine it with your own experience, research it from data you find both inside and outside role-playing games and come to your own conclusions.  I am not describing my right way.  I'm describing a method for the reader to use to find the right way.

This does not mean there is no right way ... and it especially does not mean that any way is right if it is the right way for you.  I don't want to explain that.  If it's not self-explanatory at this point, it isn't worth my effort to flog why.

The goal is to build a premise for how RPGs function within the framework of other established fields.  RPGs do not exist in a bubble onto themselves.  The principles surrounding participation between DM and Players obey the same social conditions that affect all group dynamics, all power dynamics, all motivational dynamics and all other human activities.  As a DM, we face the same trials that a manager faces in handling employees; we face the same limitations in how much data we can manage at any given moment, just as a firefighter or a soldier manages; we possess the same base instincts and needs as any other person acting within a family, a tribe or a clique.  The guiding principles underlying role-playing are not a science onto themselves.  Role-playing is not "unique" where human-to-human interaction is concerned.  It is merely a different venue.

That's been the trouble to date. There's been a deliberate attempt to "pretend" that RPGs somehow operate according to internal rules that are utterly removed from human experience.  As if, sitting at a table to play D&D, we're not dealing with the same human emotions we would find at a game of poker, or RISK, or a wargame like Battletech.

We're human.  We have to deconstruct RPGs along those lines, to see how they're put together apart from the rules of the game.  Why do we like these things?  Why do they create the impulses, the obsessions, the eventual ennui, that RPGs create?  What parts of the psyche do they feed and what parts do they corrupt?  These are questions no one is asking, because there's a quiet resistance to seeing that RPGs fall into the orbit of human experiences.

As if somehow, admitting the fact would somehow cheapen RPGs.  I don't agree with that.  I believe that by measuring RPGs, and the behavior of the participants, as we've learned to measure every other human activity, we teach ourselves what to expect and how to understand our motivations, our shortcomings and our means of self-improvement.

What did he mean, "some?" Pray tell me, what parts do not fall into the purpose of those exercises? What parts of "role-playing games" are not governed by the same goals behind clinical and academic efforts as encouraging emotional, uncertain people to role-play out their experience?  Was he being deliberately obtuse, or did he really think that D&D consisted largely of people doing things disconnected from everyday human response?

1 comment:

Ozymandias said...

Interestingly, I'm finding some people who have put the effort in to study RPGs from an academic view. It's a step up compared to the common topics found online but . . . I dunno, seems lacking at the same time.

Gonna need to ruminate on this one . . .