Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hm. Disrespect. Interesting.

"No, said the little boy from Thickington. Do you know where Thickington is? It's in Backwardshire twinned with Knucklehead on Dunce. What I'm saying is, you're stupid."

It surprises me that yesterday, in writing about finding one's personal worth in role-playing, I wasn't called on it. "Alexis, you miserable bastard, what is it you're doing except defining your worth through playing D&D?"

Alas, I confess. I gain self-worth from a game.

Except I don't really see it as a game. The other day I was reading this post from Raph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun, designer of the long-ago Ultima Online, in which he blathered on (even geniuses blather) about methods for balancing novices vs. experts in games. It is in moments like this that I feel my age ... for, even though Koster does at least mention the reality in passing (you have to read the post to find it, he's not putting it out there in bold face), I come from an age when, if you couldn't play as well as other people, tough fucking luck.

No, I didn't like it. Not as a kid, anyway. As a kid, it was all being the last to be picked and getting bulldozed by the big guys and all that nonsense - which might have been due to being born just before the cut-off date for my age, meaning that all the other kids in my grade were on average six months and more older than me. Still, we grow up, we get bigger, we stop being clumsy as all hell and we apply ourselves ... and if we find something we're good at, that we're admired for, we appreciate our abilities.

I sometimes wonder, given what I'm hearing about D&D Next now, and the rather ridiculous freakshow 4e turned out to be, and all the harping and crying out that Koster's article suggests is the world of online gaming, if what we have are a LOT of kids who grew up being the last picked for the football team, who have NOT, in fact, developed any admirable talents. Who now, in the shattered remains of their coming of age, only want (in the wonderful Age of Entitlement) to be given the right to compete equally with everyone else, regardless of ability. For the sake of self-worth, understand.

For, if the reader can remember, it was determined by a host of social reformers in the late 70s that the future of universal education would be to impart, beyond question, a tremendous load of self-esteem into the fetid pool of every child's mind, ensuring that they would, forever and ever, feel that their worth was beyond question. This was understood to be a good plan.  I think perhaps it was, particularly for the gaming/escapist industry, that is there to ensure that if you have a sufficient amount of money you've managed to collect with phenomenal IT skilz or the money left behind by dead parents, it's possible to apply all the pent-up rage one has towards ensuring that a) you can become a GOD at video mayhem, or, failing that, b) cash money and loud voices can ensure that every game ever produced be squashed, juiced, swallowed and flatulently dumped again in a manner that will ensure that NO ONE need ever feel inadequate while playing.

Not that long ago, I lost my temper with a player.  I shouldn't have done it.  It was rude, it was abusive, it was an unacceptable breach of the contract between DM and player, and it was entirely because I felt compelled to judge the player's actions and choices.  There's no question it was something I shouldn't have done, and in fact it's something I try hard not to do - have struggled with that bad habit for years now.  Still, you see enough raw stupidity ... well, you're in Dunderhead-on-Dimwash, and there's just so much you can stand.

Being told, from time to time, that we suck at something is good for us.  It's a whole lot better for us than praise ... so long as the people saying so aren't shit worse at what you're doing that you are.  But criticism from someone you can respect; that's gold.

I'd like to be respected.  I get messages on line that say I am.  I sometimes wish, however, that I could be disrespected ... which would, unfortunately, need to be based on something better than the occasional typo I make, or my perceived pretentiousness, in order to mean something.

Bah.  I just haven't had a reason to change my mind lately.

I do get my self-worth from D&D, though.  I think I understand the game.  I think I do good work in design.  I like how it fits together and how it looks when I'm finished.  Makes me proud.  Even if 'pride' is one of the seven deadly sins.


Oddbit said...

I'm not going to lie. Some people are REALLY bad at games.

Like REALLY bad. My only stance is to do what I can to help. To teach how to learn and grow, or just to improve them when I can.

But yeah, if you never know something is wrong, you are never going to get better.

I learned on Monday that I think I say no too often. I should change that.

Dave Cesarano said...

So you garner some self-worth from a game. So do professional football, hockey, soccer, and baseball players.

As you discussed awhile back regarding GMing not necessarily being fun but instead focused on the players' fun, it reminded me of how being a good GM in an RPG is hard and sometimes downright not fun and frustrating (but rewarding nonetheless) and how a person should get self-worth from accomplishing something challenging.

Yeah, so you give a small group of people a lot of fun once or twice a week. I don't see any difference between you and some guy with a Super Bowl ring except the paycheck. Let's be honest, you're not making history... but neither is he, really. Sports history, maybe, but nothing he does has any impact on national policy, unemployment, dramatic cultural or demographic shifts in a region, a summit of multinational corporations, the price of coffee in the Yukon, or whether or not China decides to go to war with Japan in the forseeable future--the stuff of which actual, real history is made.

So, yeah, if he is allowed to have all kinds of self-worth garnered from a game, aren't you?

Lukas said...

I think the best part is that it could.

People in good games can be forced to reflect on their perceptions of the world around them. Just as good writers can make books that make people think.

The audience is just smaller. But if politicians were playing, or doctors or psychologists or someone who DOES make the decisions, it can make a difference.

Forgive me if I fail my novice football reference, but I doubt a politician will change their views because the fourth defensive lineman believes something or says something.

The DM makes the players feel and grow in intentional ways if done well.