Monday, January 5, 2009

It Is NOT "Just" A Game

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated.”

Tell me you haven’t heard this kind of thing (quoted from Berin Kinsman, Uncle Bear, Jan 4, 2009): “There seems to be a lack of perspective that these are, ultimately, just games. Pleasant pastimes. Things we’re supposed to be doing for fun. Not saving the world. Not curing cancer. Not ending war or poverty. We aren’t debating politics and the best way to run the country. We’re not discussing religion or ethics or moral quandaries. We’re talking about playing games.”

Kind of smug, isn’t it? Certainly it’s dismissive. It’s exactly the sort of thing your parents and your teachers told you, trying to guilt you into a profession where you would be curing cancer. But old Uncle Bear just wants us all to get along and stop insulting one another. He’s disturbed by what he’s reading about this fun, pleasant activity.

Well … okay.

Let’s talk about what’s “important.”

I am in the entertainment profession. I write articles and stories whose purpose is to entertain readers so that they will be distracted long enough from their ordinary lives to look at the advertising on the facing page. It’s not saving the world. It’s not curing cancer. I don’t think there’s a chance that anything I write is going to end war or poverty. I’m not paid to write about politics or to tell anyone how to run the country. I write humour, not religion or ethics. The highest level of moral quandary I write about is ways to save your money.

But I am not playing games, nor are any of the people who pay me. Rather, they are making a rather impressive amount of money from their non-game playing activity, and in return they give me enough to let me fart around with the rest of my time. And some of that farting time is spent playing D&D.

It strikes me that it would be a pretty insipid thing to say that the entertainment industry is a load of dingo’s kidneys simply because it did not have as its mandate the curing of cancer. People spend quite a lot of money, time, effort and so on in order to BE entertained, a process which involves the existence of movie houses and theatres, concert halls, restaurants, casinos and strip clubs, along with the making of beer, spirits, drugs, a wide variety of confectionary, music, video games, tobacco, pornography and toys; if you add in the car that gets you there and the house where most of your entertainment occurs, we’re talking about the largest fundamental activity pursued by human beings. There are more prostitutes in the world than technicians striving to cure cancer.

And yet, with all that in the world, when I decide to play D&D for five hours on a Saturday night, everyone shows up.

That is, they’d rather play D&D than do drugs. And unless I’m mistaken, people are murdering one another over the circumstance of doing drugs.

But then, it’s all about perspective.

From my perspective, I spend approximately 25 hours a week working on material associated with D&D, which is a conservative estimate to be sure. I have been doing this since I was 15 years old, a total of 29 years, or 37,700 hours all told. This is an estimated four years of my life. It is also in addition to the amount of time I’ve spent running D&D, which on and off I would estimate as one fifth of that time. This last two years I have been running bi-weekly, or 52 times, or a total of 252 hours. I have six players who each play about 90% of the various sessions, so in total this is about 1,361 total entertainment hours that I’ve provided by running my little world. In terms of the cost of having dinner and a movie in order to spend a decent Saturday night, it is the equivalent of $9,266. And it is all free for my players. It costs them nothing.

If we’re going to compare the time spent in terms of my time, the time I don’t spend working but which I could spend working, if I felt the need to hunt up other publishers and produce more freelance material than I do—which I don’t because I’m working on D&D—then all told I am losing approximately $26,000 a year in potential revenue.

Do I give a rat’s ass? No, I don’t. Do I think my D&D world is worth any money? No, I don’t. I don’t think so because if I chose to charge my players they would stop coming. BUT they would rather come and play and spend their time and effort and passion destroying imaginary dragons and building imaginary castles. And if there were someone at the table making some fetid point that none of them should get up in arms about it, that someone would be told to kindly fuck himself with the nearest broom handle—and not by me.

Whenever anyone tries to ascribe VALUE on the basis of a thing's social importance, it is invariably a propagandistic attempt to curb opinion in favor of one’s own skewed perspective. The assumption here is that because your life does not depend on D&D, because no one’s life—cancer victims or politicians or what now—depends on D&D, it isn’t very important.

Which is one huge steaming pile of bull's shit. What right does someone have to tell you, or me, or anyone what they should or should not feel passionate about? What right does someone have to tell you that because it is “meant” to be fun, it isn’t ALSO very, very important to you? Important enough to shout about, and condemn those who are perceived to be dismissing it or ruining it? What right does someone have to tell you how passionate you’re allowed to be about something?

Isn’t the most annoying person in the world the one who, when tempers flare and people get excited about something they care about, asks plaintively, “Can’t we all just get along?” Don’t you want to beat that person repeatedly for failing to “get it?”

Life is not about getting along. Life is competition, conflict and the desire to challenge other people’s beliefs and to be challenged on the basis of those beliefs, to smash away at one another, using our minds without fear to choose the right course. Because passion is fearless. It is not simpering, begging cries of “Enough,” it is pounding one’s shield with one’s axe and shouting, “MORE, MORE, MORE, BRING IT ON, COME ON YOU CHICKENSHIT MOTHERFUCKERS!”

Christ I love this game.