Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Yesterday my partner Tamara commented after reading the sandbox post, "What you're really trying to say is that D&D can be whatever anyone wants, no matter who they are.  It can allow anyone to do anything."  When I agreed, she added, "They don't get that, do they?"

No, I think for the most part, they don't.

If the sandbox thing gets under my skin as a sort of diminuative description of a game that is far more complicated and varied than that sandbox, then something that really digs into my spine is this eternal declaration, "It's only a game!"

Which would mean, I presume, that it's not important.  Or perhaps that it isn't complicated.  Or maybe that I shouldn't put any thought into it.

All three of those possible meanings piss me off.

Right off the top, surely we can at least agree the game is complicated.  Even the original crappy
Simple Simon stuff
rulebook, the White Box, is five or six times as much text as it took to describe RISK.  And the three original volumes of AD&D contained more text than the gawddamned LSAT.  Since there have been hundreds of books, and hundreds of different associated roleplaying games, all of which have contributed in some small part to the fundamentals of the way the game is both played and conceived.  I think it has to be acknowledged that being fully aware of all the rules of this game is not exactly something someone does rolling out of bed.

Not important?  Let's see, there are an estimated 20 million people who have played the game, according to Darren Waters of BBC News; more than a billion dollars has been spent on the game.  It has spawned movies, a huge publishing industry, and influenced the creative minds of vast numbers who have gone on to inculcate the ideas spawned in the game into countless video games.  Even where people do not play D&D, the effect of the game's popularity has been enormous.
Evidence of something that
lacks importance

Or is it that I'm just thinking too much.  D&D is a children's game (I don't see any children in the crowd there, but they do tend to shortness) and therefore it's wasted effort to apply adult thinking to something that's just supposed to be 'fun.'

Really.  Like the lack of thinking that goes into, I don't know, chess maybe?  Where uncounted millions of dollars have been invested in simply producing a better automated chess opponent?  Or perhaps we're talking about the total lack of thought that has been applied to other "children's games" like baseball, monopoly, the aforementioned RISK and the recent Settlers of Catan.  I'm sure there aren't groups of people sitting around bitching on the Catan boards about people inventing new strategies and posting them.  Is that because Catan is so much more complicated than D&D?

Just look at the rule book on this sucker

Maybe its none of those things.  Maybe saying "It's just a game" means something else.  Maybe what it really means is, "I'm such a fucking dumbass, that's the first thing I say when I feel stupid.  Which is most of the fucking time."

Generally, the phrase, "It's only a game," seems aimed at avoiding the ideal named by Tamara at the outset - that perhaps not everyone should do what they can do, or that they shouldn't try to make the game "more than it is."  That seems to be about as dumb as the first declaration.  What the fuck is the game that it can't be more than that?  Who decides what the game is?  Gygax or Arneson?   Lorraine fucking Williams?  You?  Me?

You know, really ... seriously ... fuck that.  This game - any roleplaying game - can be all that it wants to be, because there are no limits on imagination.  There are no limits on what freedoms or opportunities players can seize while applying their imaginations to a setting that is without question limitless.  Trying to impose limits, either through stupidity, or the ridiculousness of philosophical certainty - or cynicism, if that's what it is - is a pointless, wasted effort.  Yet it is an effort practiced by so many people - for the love of kobalds in green trunks, SO MANY PEOPLE - that one must begin to wonder what the motivation is for attempting to kill everyone else's motivation?

Yagami, who posts here, likes to argue that people who hate work hate workers.  And I've argued that people who hate thinking hate thinkers.  Perhaps its really that those who are hopelessly, bitterly, resentfully unimaginitive hate imagination, in anyone ... and are passionately driven to destroy the smallest little growth of it whenever that imagination dares to raise its little head.

It's frightening to think what sort of parents these people would make.  It is sad to think what sort of parents these people have had.  The course of the world goes on its way, and we have to expect that even the most dispossessed, chronically dishwater-minded obstinate stale hacks are going to float into Dungeons and Dragons like so much sewage dumped from every other useful occupation, where they can pollute our gaming space on the way to the next misery they can impart to whatever group they next happen to latch onto.  The wasted and used-up must so often grow weary and tired of the vapid perspective they attach to everything they see that they must systematically work their way through dozens of hobbies - and hobby communities - in their lifetime.  They enter, grow weary within minutes of lackluster examination of the local passion, deride that passion mercilessly for their own benefit, then crawl away after their fruitless familiar tune becomes a bit too familiar ... so that they can go through that process once again to the next hapless crowd.

Which is why it is SO important to divide between those who clearly produce nothing but fetid air, and those who are diligently working and striving to create something.  The various creators need not agree, but at least they are all creating, the very thing that makes life matter.  These other voices, who create nothing, who advance nothing new and who risk nothing, only exist to strangle to death things that might grow.  These other voices are weeds.

Let's not confuse them with vitality.


ravencrowking said...

Good post. Don't be a weed!

Martin R. Thomas said...

Yagami, who posts here, likes to argue that people who hate work hate workers. And I've argued that people who hate thinking hate thinkers. Perhaps its really that those who are hopelessly, bitterly, resentfully unimaginitive hate imagination, in anyone ... and are passionately driven to destroy the smallest little growth of it whenever that imagination dares to raise its little head.

I feel like this might be the best summation of what a lot of your blog is about. Not to speak for you, of course, but I feel what you said above very concisely summarizes what a lot of us have to deal with - being mocked and teased and worse, just because we work hard, think, and use our imaginations. I've even encountered it in the corporate world where, as a manager, I was mocked and criticized by my subordinates for correcting their grammar and spelling in emails and documents that were sent to clients.

Ozzie Pippenger said...

I really don't understand these people. They pick a game as hard to learn as D&D, when there are so many easier and more socially acceptable forms of entertainment, manage their schedules so that the exact same people can come every single week, take the time to read blogs about the game or even start blogs of their own, all of this presumably taking up a large portion of their and their friends's free time, then not only refuse to put any real effort or thought it into it, but actively put even more time into seeking out people actually working hard at the game and trying to bully them into stopping, either out of jealousy, or some left over middle school urge to seem cooler by picking on a kid a little bit nerdier than you are, that seems to still exist in the minds of very insecure and poorly adjusted people.

It's incredible to think about how much time these people must waste. Incredible, but mostly just sad.

YagamiFire said...

Awesome post and not just because I'm mentioned in it (though that does increase the awesome quotient by a good margin).

I've seen this attitude at work all the time thanks to my background in fighting games. They're a notoriously tough style of game to get even marginally "good" at but people get so used to playing them in their shitty way that when they run smack into the wall of someone with even a modicum of actual ability they FLIP OUT. And what is their first response? To start frothing about how the other person is "clearly" too invested in what is "just a game"...

Naturally there is no awareness of the irony considering how angry they are getting over "just a game" because that is how their brains work. When they recognize superior skill or effort they can only attack it and try to invalidate it...because to do otherwise would require criticizing themselves and their own efforts. This is why people online will scream things like "You're not even good! You're not even good"...while losing...as if that makes sense. Yes, clearly I suck and you are better despite the reality of what is happening in the game.

D&D is no different. When someone shows superior effort there are those that wish to tear it down rather than saying "Shit, that's impressive. I better step my game up or just get comfortable feeling a bit inferior"...and the funny thing is that EITHER of those responses are healthy. I've seen people do stuff better than I do all the time...I mean, damn, I see it on this blog often enough, don't I?

And I either adopt it (steal it!) or recognize that what I'm doing works for me (for now) but is inferior to what I could be doing. I put that away in the back of my mind and add it to my "to do" list of things I want to improve on.

Excellent post. I'm sure someone somewhere is feverishly working on a vitriolic attack upon this post...probably wasting hours on it as they desperately try to squeeze words together to form something coherent...writing it on their blog...about D&D...that they have spent hours upon hours writing about...which they will call "just a game" and "not worth so much effort".

They're dipshits.