For those who may not know, Drance is a commentor from time to time on this blog, though the gentle reader may not have seen his comments. I find most of the time I have to delete them. They're not generally relevant and at times they are flatly abusive. But I'd like to make a point about free speech here ... that while Drance may be deleted from this blog, he's quite free to write what he wants elsewhere. Case in point, the comments below, which are part of a comment he made on this post, on a blog I rarely read.
"Not to name names, but someone needs to tell some guy named Alexis at Tao of D&D to get over himself. Every time I look at his blog, hoping against hope he’s stopped being an elitist fuck, I’m continually disappointed. I don’t care how well he can write (and it pains me to say that I think he’s pretty good) or how articulate he is or how profound he can be…his delivery fucking stinks. Just because you hand me a gold nugget wrapped in pigshit doesn’t mean I’m going to be grateful!
Alexis, take note: you’re being a know-it-all about a pastime that can, on it’s most basic level, be described as “playing pretend.” Now I don’t say that to belittle the hobby. Read my blog and you’ll see I am in love with RPGs. No, I’m being critical of the killjoys who need to, as the kids say these days, “get all meta” about the hobby. Dude, I don’t care how much you know. If you keep talking to people like we’re fucktards, you will reap nothing but disdain."
Yes, I am quite familiar with this round hole, and with the use of the hammer in Drance's hand. Let me start by saying that no, I'm not going to go off here. But I would like to use the above written critique to address some points about this blog, and about my personality in general.
There's a lot of substance here; I think probably I'm not going to try handling it in the order it's written. I'd like to start with the words, "playing pretend," since that's less a shot against me personally than it is a shot against anybody and everybody who takes D&D seriously.
I have written a post about this. The game is not only pretending to me, it's an authentic presentation of an artistic design, weaved together in a complex and resolutely considered fashion, constructed both from my imagination and from researched sources. It is no more "playing pretend" than is writing a novel, where a created character is devised, placed in a given situation and that situation resolved in order to present both entertainment for the reader and a thematic purpose.
It isn't so much that the words 'playing' and 'pretend' are substantially wrong in their description of what D&D is, or what a novel is. I know, and the reader knows, that the words are put together here in this context in order to denegrate the activity and reduce it to the lowest common denominator. The words are chosen because of their association with kindergarten and preschool surroundings. They hurt because as adults we feel our maturity is deserving of recognition - we have lived long, and through a great deal of trouble, to become the age we have reached, and it hurts to have that denied ... even when the denial is the pairing of words which we first learned at that very young age. We were told to 'grow up' ... and when our effort to do so is challenged, it stabs like a nail. But the reality is that creativity is a virtue, certainly one of the greatest virtues, and to be labeled with it is no great insult. We age and the words 'playing' and 'pretend' are replaced with more meaningful words like 'designing' or 'conceptualizing,' but the principles are the same. At the board meeting your boss does not sit down and say, "Let's pretend that this airplane we're playing with exists," but prior to the actual existence of said airplane it is of this that most design meetings consist.
Drance says he does not mean to belittle the hobby, and that he loves RPGs, as evidenced by his blog. He has chosen to name his blog from a quote by Shakespeare that denotes a moment of war, wherein Henry V strives to take the city of Harfleur. Prior to speaking the words of Drance's blog title, Henry has been knocked back and back again, but he is undeterred. Regarding the substance of Drance's personality, I choose to believe that he identifies with this aspect of Henry, and that - undeterred - he is waging a war against things he does not believe in favor of that which he does. He will take the city, and therefore he will plow once again into the breach. I get it. And I accept that his purpose in this quote is not to rank the hobby, or those who are playing in it. I am Harfleur in this play, and it is the breach he perceives in my character that he takes arms against.
But he says he cares nothing about what I know. My personal feeling is that my knowledge of Shakespeare, Henry V and Harfleur ought to be very important to Drance. I don't believe he threw out the title of his blog in a random fit of disinterest - I'm certain he struggled with the decision. How much better is the title, then, when those out here in the world who are reading it know the source of the reference? And how much worse is the title when it is met with ignorance and disinterest? The title is improved with knowledge ... in this case, my knowledge. The same knowledge I carry around with me and apply to every creative, pretending effort produced by those who have taken the time to be clever.
Ah, but here the context is not so much that my knowledge is useless, it is that it is clothed in a mass of disapproval, abuse, awful delivery and elitism. The delivery, Drance says clearly, is a mess of pigshit, so that all that knowledge is worthless when buried in it.
Well yes, I'm not going to deny it. I have never denied it on this blog. I am a terrible person. I am unkind. I am an asshole. And I do speak to a great many of my readers as though they are fucktards. I am on record over, and over again, that I have no use for fucktards. And I am on record as recognizing that I can't keep fucktards from reading this blog, though I wish it were possible. I look around the D&D online community and I observe that everywhere message boards and comments sections under brilliant posts are filled with the comments and non-comments which either piss on the material or fail to add anything. This is not the world as I would want it to be. This is my Harfleur. I wage against those who are ignorant and disinterested in things like the title of Drance's blog. And in fighting my way through that breach I've struck and hacked and cut with my sword, because to battle for anything you believe in is unpleasant, cruel work. Battles are won with swords. I cannot win over the fucktards, this I know, but I will not renounce the sword and give them the day. So I fight.
I can't quite believe that my behavior has caused me to "reap nothing but disdain." In fact, any quick analysis of the internet (which is how I found Drance's comment in the first place) yields many, many positive, impressed comments, suggestions to others to read my blog, praise for my blog, links to my blog and so on. There are very, very few statements of disdain ... and those that I do see tend to include phrases such as "I think he's pretty good," occasionally couched in something that says the writer is unhappy that its true.
There is something telling in being dismissed, attacked and hated while at the same time gaining respect for the actual work-slash-writing I'm producing. I suppose it has something to do with my not being "over myself." I must tell the reader, I quite like me. I like the things that I say, I like the life that I have made for myself with my friends, my wife and my daughter, I like the creative road that I'm on and I like the opportunity that exists to make a fair bit of money and be comfortable in my living arrangements. I have several opportunities to produce good work, I am generally respected both offline and online, and I have few - if any - negative people whom I must tolerate in my daily existence. For these reasons, no, I'm not really over myself. I feel I have my feet firmly enough on the ground in that I'm aware I'm not always pleasant to people. I don't delude myself that I'm well-liked ... I know that I am not. But I am well respected. And I know from many years of experience, many of which played out before the Internet, that in the long run it is more important to be respected than to be liked. People who will like you today may or may not change their minds when the wind changes; but people who respect you today, for something that they themselves cannot do, will respect you tomorrow.
It is that whole process of performing an action that not everyone can do that creates the virtue of elitism. To make the point, I quite like to watch the Tour de France. I will never race in the Tour de France. At no time in my life was there ever a chance that I would. But I respect the limited number of world competitors who ride those twenty grueling days because they are doing something I cannot do. They are the elite of the bicycle world. They know it. The crowds know it, the reporters know it, and every cyclist in the world from 9 to 90, who ever dreamed of competing, knows it. Some of those riders are assholes. Some are very definitely not over themselves. But no one cares. It isn't relevant. The crowds have not come to watch more than a hundred likeable fellows cruise by.
They have come to see gods ride.
I am not a god, no. But I understand the principle. And I understand as I work and create and devise and write, the wheels of the universe may turn this way and that, and I may present something to the world that sells this amount and is read by this many. It is a question of opportunity. I've had opportunities, and at moments I've felt I've come close to having the wheels align just so, but not yet. I don't worry about it. I concentrate on my work, and not on being liked ... and as it happens, I'm liked anyway.
What Drance cannot understand - what many cannot understand - is that all people are either liked or disliked for innumerable reasons. We either satisfy the requirements of another person, or we do not. We are either the dinner company that thrills the host, or we are not. And in the process of discovering which dinner parties we should be attending, we find ourselves having to decide if it is all that important that people who do not like us for who we are like us at all.
That is undoubtedly glib. I've come to a place where I've reconciled with not being liked. I'm quite content to know that if I enter a room with a hundred people, perhaps one or two will like me enough to talk to me. As it happens, those persons will like me A LOT. They will want to talk to me, and only me, for the course of the evening. And I will want to talk to them, because I will like them, too.
That's how it goes. We like whom we like, and we are liked upon the whims of those we meet. I cannot satisfy Drance's hope that I will somehow cease to be me. I presume he has located people whom he can like, and who can provide him the gold nuggets he desires. I cannot be that person. More to the point, I do not want to be that person. I am busy being me.
And so we come to the end of this post. I shall continue to contribute to D&D in the way that best suits me. I shall rely upon the gentle reader to continue reading here if it suits his or her tastes, and to seek elsewhere if I fail to meet the requirement. It has always been so. None of us are so good that we will not be dispised by someone ... and none of us are such failures that we are measured by the number of those who love us.
Love is such a sweet, rich thing that being loved by one person in the world is enough for anyone.