Sunday, October 7, 2018

Structured Activity

Life is boring.

I hear this invoked when defending the structure of role-playing games in every conversation.  Role-playing games have to be escapist because life is boring.  Role-playing games have to be about adventure and excitement because life is boring.  Role-playing games that are not about being heroic are equivalent to staring at, oh, something like tax forms, because life outside of adventure is boring.

I get it.  For a lot of people, life is boring.  We work repetitive, monochromic jobs with dull monochromic people, who do not change from day to day but repeat the same characteristics ... and there's never any achievement, or reason to be heroic, or element that causes us to think, "Wow, I really made a difference today."

We see this as we want to see it:

There are millions of people who lead very fulfilling, purposeful, busy lives, who do not find their day-to-day at all boring.  We like to think that most of these people must be wealthy, but in fact most of these people are simply engaged in doing something they like doing.  They're not "escaping."  They're pursuing.  They're running towards life.  They've made up their minds not to continue doing things they don't enjoy, so that they don't get up in the morning and think, "My life is boring."

They've examined their weaknesses and set out to compensate for them.  They've set out to learn whatever they need, overcoming their lack of education.  They've organized themselves and their relationships to make room for positivity, growth, support, understanding and direction.  They've worked their boring jobs to pay for it, then they've quit their boring jobs.  They've changed.

I refuse to believe that I am duty-bound to give any credence to people who feel a role-playing game must be "this" or "that" because their lives are boring.  That's not an argument.  That's an excuse.  My life isn't boring.  Harried sometimes, and lacking in some things, but certainly not boring.  When I wake up in the morning, and get myself together, I have things to watch, artwork to consider, a partner and a daughter to converse with and hug, music and films for entertainment on the bus, necessary work to perform for income, future plans to make, a difficult blog post to structure in my mind, a loving partner to come home to and lay in bed with and snuggle, games to work on and words to write ... and none of it is "boring."

Some of it I like much, much more than other things.  I would rather my personal writing paid the income that my job pays ... but it is fun to write about costumes and talk to people on the phone about what sort of costume they're trying to make for Halloween this year.  It is reassuring to help people and make them laugh at the absurdity of things they plan to wear.  It is fun to write posts and reach people's mental interests.  It is fun to snuggle.

I do not play D&D to escape anything.  For me, it is a structured activity.  I play it to pursue my intellect and my imagination.  I'm not afraid of life.  I don't need to shout at others not to spoil my form of escape.  I'm not that fragile.

I refuse to limit my game design for people who are.


Drain said...

Just the sort of post I needed for my monday morning blues.

Reading you at your most worldly really can be such a treat, like tuning into a warm talk-radio exchange.

JB said...

Very positive and inspirational, man...not to mention a justification for folks to play the game as they want, not as it's dictated to be played.
: )

Lance Duncan said...

I think this also applies to literature. Right now I'm reading the John Carter novels. These works are often called 'escapist fiction', but I'm not reading these because I want to escape from my life. Yeah, I can empathize with John Carter, but I can empathize with any well written character; that doesn't mean I want to escape my life and live his. I don't play D&D to escape. I play RPGs, and read books, and watch TV/movies, and listen to music to enrich the life I have, not to escape it.

Mic B said...

I also thought this "escapism" thing weird. D&D would be boring if my character was sitting in an office 10h a day and sleep the rest of the time, but there is a gap between this and heroic fantasy.

also: our lives can't be boring: we play D&D! (properly)