I remember feeling at the time that it was a hopeless argument, that it would - and did - fall on deaf ears. It didn't. As I say, I still get views. But it didn't change the vista of the game either, which is a bit funny. All writers dream of writing an essay that will make everyone think differently. Pure nonsense, of course. That's not how change happens.
Take the I Have a Dream Speech by Martin Luther King. People speak of it now as though it changed the way people thought about black people and white people in America. Ferguson, recently, proved that very little has actually changed, but laying that aside . . . by the time King had given that speech in 1963, Montgomery had happened, the SCLC had been formed, Birmingham had gone down and King and his followers had been fighting that fight for at least nine years. The speech delivered on the steps of Washington was not his first reference to his dream, either. The march on Washington was simply the next logical step in a long struggle that still goes on - and the people who cheered when they heard that speech already believed before the speech was given. No one's mind was changed.
Not even mine. I wasn't raised a racist, so when I hear the phrase, "Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children," I continue to be stupefied that this insane idiocy continues year after year, when it is so plain that one human being is one human being, period. I never needed to be convinced.
I feel continuously confused by many things like this. Yesterday, I read the following on the Site That Shall Not Be Linked (from Scott who gave a pleasant, positive review on How to Run here):
"We have very different ideas about the necessity of taking games seriously - not saying that taking them seriously is silly or 'I could do that if I tried but I don't want to!', I have no idea if I could or not. I just don't think a lack of rigor renders the pursuit a farce."
I look at that and find myself immeasurably baffled. On the level of the Dream Speech. And yes, I'm using my writer superpowers to draw a connection between the ignorance of people in facing the question of race with the ignorance of people in facing the question about taking things seriously. Because I don't see any difference. After all, it isn't as if the mustard post doesn't make the point plain as day.
The reason that I feel this way is because I have played a number of games without rigor, and every one of them turned out to be a farce. I see utter, unmitigated shit posted by the WOTC as representations of game play and I think, this is a farce. I see the embarrassment in the faces of people who ask me, "What is your book about," the same disdain and unpleasantness that people associate with the words, "I am a born again Christian." I am ashamed of the culture that has sprung from the game I love, and I have plenty of reasons to be. Beginning with the sentiment among the participants who argue, "No, no I will not take this game seriously. And you can't make me."
I concede that for the rest of my life, no matter what happens, the world at large will not respect this game. Later generations may receive approval eventually for the game's attention to detail, the artistic measure in the game's creation, for the encouragement of life skills in the fields of research, drama, design, human resource management, therapy or team building, but I know that my generation - apart from those who play - will never think of this game as anything other than juvenile nonsense. Not because it is, but because the vast number of participants were first isolated, then exploited, then finally encouraged to behave like 14-year-old children. Who now argue vehemently that expecting them to act as anything except children is robbing them of 'fun.'
I quit playing because I could not find a game that met my expectations. I wanted to live out the fantasies, to take my intellect and conquer worlds through guile, risk and planning, to accumulate wealth, power, status, each of which were a means to transforming the world to suit me. This is, after all, what I do in real life. Only, in role-playing, I was hoping to do with with swords and massive amounts of strength and power, where the limitation wasn't my bank account but my imagination. I wanted to shake the pillars of heaven.
What I got were mealy, tired, dull as dishwater conventional DMs with narrow minds who felt threatened by my imagination, who put up nonsense machinations to ensure that, one more time, we were going to walk out to the same fucking dungeon and walk through the same fucking empty rooms until reaching the same fucking mindless fucking monsters that would leave us the same fucking treasure that we could spend on the same fucking trinkets in the same fucking town on the same fucking borderland.
Yeah. Real. Fucking. Fun.
What's wrong with the frivolous game? It is summed up in this portion of the comment from Algol on my PPK's post a few days ago:
"When we get higher level it always feels logical for me to use the massive wealth I have to create armies. Surely a group of 200 men at arms would be a better investment for combat effectiveness than personal magic items? Or take command of the city guard or any other way to increase power other than increasing the numbers on my sheet. Yet it's always a fear of large combats that makes everyone shoot down this suggestion immediately when I bring it up."
That is just sad. I read that and I just think, fuck people, you know? Fuck the people in this hobby, with their thumb on top of imagination, keeping it down. Miserable bastards and their lack of will or commitment or rigor, who can’t be bothered to try.
There are plenty of reasons to be ashamed. This is just one of them.