"On the other [hand], people are allowed to enjoy pastimes that are not the one you like, and I don't really understand why you take issue with that. In particular, I don't understand why you dislike the idea of freeform RP / games with rules other than OD&D derived rules."
On another post, also this morning, Archon also wrote,
"I'm sorry if you see this as another person trying to tell you what the "real" state of gaming is, but I don't think many of the things any of you are saying are true for some of my local gamers ... we mostly play urban fantasy politics games with WOD. I think the vast majority of players agree that they can't make compelling and original characters on the spot - the default character making strategy is to take an existing fiction character from a similar situation, and try to replicate the things that make them good without replicating too many of the details (or things that you can't control as a player)."
Good. I'm trying to encourage this sort of push-back, so let me treat the general sentiment with dignity and respect. I don't doubt that many players who don't read this blog dislike the content herein for precisely this reason: because I am disparaging the game that these people like to play. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this, Archon.
My contention all year has been that "D&D Now" is an activity in which persons invent expositional descriptions of fictional characters for the purpose of enabling interplay with expositional descriptions of other fictional characters. This activity, while potentially absorbing, while including a participant who self-identifies as a Dungeon Master, and participants who self-identify as players, is not a game.
I have been arguing this since June. I wrote more than dozen posts for a six-week period through June and July, defining games, using professors and experts on game study as my sources, describing at length how games work and why they have to work that way in order to produce the best possible experience. I have since added many posts in which I have argued that while many participants of the WOTC's recent non-game organized activity, promoted on their website as an "adventure," have self-chosen to describe themselves as, "playing a game," it is markedly evident that this is not what they are doing.
People self-identifying as D&D players are taking part in a weekly non-theatrical performance acting symposium, in which dice are rolled to give the semblance of a "game," while those same dice have their numbers changed, arbitrarily adjusted or otherwise disregarded, an action which is consistently defended as right and proper on a widespread basis, providing further evidence that whatever the WOTC and its associated participants are doing, it definitely is not "game-play."
This is my contention. Where you, Archon, refer to "freeform RP/games with rules," I don't think that you are using the word "game" in the context for which it was invented. Games are not "freeform." They are defined as rigid systems in which there is an amount of play that gives the experience meaning. If you increase the "freeform" aspect of the activity until the rigidity ceases to have meaning, then you're no longer playing a game, you're just doing stuff. You're acting. You're playing make believe and pretend.
The so-called "real state of gaming" that you invoke is a lie. There is no gaming taking place there. Where you refer to your local gamers, I believe that you have gotten used to using that term, because it is habit, but in fact you are playing make-believe characters talking to other make-believe characters, in a simulation where everyone expects a guaranteed eventual success for participating, with a guaranteed gained level every time you show up to the event. We're not talking about "gamers." We are talking about make believers.
When you say that you play urban fantasy politics games, I challenge you, Archon, to prove that these games have rules to which every participant must adhere, regardless of cleverness, experience, presence at the table, self-identity or moniker.
Character making isn't a "strategy." A "strategy" is a choice of managing play between rigid guidelines. Where are the rigid guidelines in character making? What are the rules that manage and control the characters that people make, and how do those rules make it an equal and measurable playing field for ALL the participants?
I have yet to see a shred of evidence that argues the opposite. I do hear many people say, "This is a game that I enjoy," when clearly they don't mean "game," they mean, "activity."
All of this reminds me of Dickens' Christmas Carol,
"Nephew!" returned the uncle sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."
"Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew. "But you don't keep it."
Over the last 40 years, steadily, the various editions of D&D have done everything they possibly can to wash the actual "game" out of the activity. They have advocated the DM's cheating, they have reworked the rules to please those players who don't want to die from a bad saving throw or who don't want to face the possibility that a giant rat can kill their precious 5th level character. They have shifted and adjusted every rule that dictates you must play a particular anything, because no one wanted to be forced to play a game where the rules didn't allow them to play make-believe, when they should have been playing a game. And now, after all this time, all the words that have been around since the beginning have been co-opted to describe a shambling, undead faux-fakery ego-contest, in which it is argued that we who want to play the actual game should be silent, lest our words irk those people who just want to play their game in their way.
I won't be silent. I will be the Ghost of D&D Past, arguing that you're not playing a game, that you're deluding yourselves ... and that, most importantly, the delusion is keeping hundreds of thousands of participants from finding out how much more fun this actual game is when played as a game and not a bunch of make-believers patting themselves on the back because they remembered to "strategically" decide that their first level character is actually the son of a king or that their mother has an army at her beck and call.
Archon, I tell you in all sincerity, I do believe that your "gamer" friends are having a great time pretending to play a game ... but I feel strongly, with great resolution, and the unerring passion it requires to fight and fight for this point, that your friends would spit on the activity they are participating in today if they could really experience the game they could be playing.
That is why you're not allowed to enjoy a past time that I don't like. Because, like the ghosts who sought to reclaim Scrooge's soul, I want to reclaim yours. Your life, though you think it rich enough, could be so much richer, if you would only open your eyes and see the chains you are laboring upon, the writing on the stone, and the patient endurance of all the Cratchits in your company who are waiting to be given a real Christmas.