In the beginning, it is always dark…
Several socially dead, introverted, painfully single, male geek-o-phile teens gathered around a table a dimly lit basement. Posters of scantily clad movie and game vixens adorn the walls. The air is thick with the smell of Mountain Dew and Cheetos. The Highlander plays on a old Zenith 27 inch TV with no sound is coming from it. The images dance across the screen to the tune of Master of Puppets playing in the background. Amidst all of this the tension is high. Some of the teens are clad in paraphernalia ranging from gauntlets to weathered helmets. A mint condition Scottish claymore hangs on the wall behind the most elaborately costumed nerd draped in a dark cloak. They stare at him with a stoic intensity hanging on his every word. The table is littered with documents. Important documents. In an instant, the Head Geek barks out a command and one of his subordinates quickly responds. The sound of rattling interrupts the heated exchange as the Lesser Geek casts his dice along the table…
Welcome to the perceived world of RPGs (Role Playing Games). Before Xbox. Before Playstation. Before Sega. In the days of Collecovision and Atari gaming often referred to those ridiculed few who enjoyed playing role playing games – not video games. Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, Vampire: The Mascarade, Palladium Megaverse… these are just some of the thousands of role playing game systems out there that people have enjoyed for decades. Ever since the first Game master cracked open a book and ran his or her first campaign gaming has been the butt of endless jokes, non stop criticism and a source of contention to the masses. Why is that? Fear of the unknown is the basis for prejudice and that seems to be the case with gaming. Gaming has had such a stigma cast on it that I doubt anyone can ever truly and proudly admit that they like RPGs. I figure I’ll do my part for those repressed masses who game in clandestine locations and have long suffered because they can’t come out of the Dungeon.
Let’s start off first with understanding what a Role Playing Game is exactly. Wikipedia defines it as the following:
A role-playing game (RPG) is a broad family of games in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting, or through a process of structured decision-making or character development. Actions taken within the game succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.
In order to understand gaming you have to understand that there are two forms distinct forms. You have the Classic RPGs (often called pen-and-paper RPGs) that involve (you guessed it) pen, paper, character sheets, and dice. The often gather in a comfortable, preferably indoor, setting with and basically get involved in an interactive verbal story.
The other form of gaming is called Live Action Role Playing (or LARPs as they like to be referred to as). Here people often dress up elaborately and perform their actions physically. Although both use a similar base format in having an arranger (or Game master) who serves as pseudo-referee that conveys the storyline, setting and progression as well as establish the rules these two forms of gaming are often dumped together in the same category to the chagrin of both parties.
I too suffer from the prejudice of not knowing what LARPs truly are. I’ve never participated in one and the only exposure I’ve had to them comes in the form of the movie Role Models (which paints a not to flattering but seriously hilarious portrait of the LARP world). I solemnly admit to poking fun at them behind closed doors. Again that stems from not knowing. Many LARPers take their gaming seriously and to piss on their Cheerios just because I am uninformed makes me no better than the people who bash Classic gamers. So, my apologies to thee, O’ LARPers of the world. Please enlighten me so that I can see the whole picture.
The best way to dissuade the stigma of gaming is to play Mythcrusher. I’d use the other myth title but I fear being sued for making reference to it without their permission.
- Classic Role Playing Gamers and LARPers are the same damn thing.
False. Don’t let either side hear you say that either. Gamers rarely get up in arms about criticism but mixing the two up is liable to get your stabbed in the throat. Both are very proud of their respective ways of gaming and while there are crossovers the general relation is in name only. To each his own, as it is said.
- Gamers are all male teenage douchebags with no lives and no girlfriends.
False. You’d be surprised at how many over-18 active gamers there are out there. In fact there are probably more young adult and middle aged gamers than teenage ones at this point in time. Mainly that’s because all the formerly teenage ones in the 80’s and 90’s are all old now. Once a gamer always a gamer. RPGs are all about creativity and it’s a perfect outlet for those who simply like to write. Women comprise a huge portion of the gaming community. In fact, female game masters tend to have the most elaborate and detailed campaigns ever. Don’t fool yourself. Hot chicks do game. It’s true.
- Gamers dress up and take that shit too seriously.
True. To an extent. LARPers dress up. Classic gamers don’t. Both do however take their crafts seriously when playing. It’s like any video gamer out there now. Try to interrupt a person playing his or her Modern Warfare 2 or Halo and see how serious they take it. As mentioned earlier gaming involves a lot of creative input from all parties involved therefore people tend to feel a bit of ownership with regards to the story itself. It’s like owning stock in something. As with anything in life there are those who do go to the extreme but those are few and far between.
- Gaming is too expensive and complicated to get into.
False. This needs a bit of clarification though. Role playing isn’t hard. It just takes getting used to. It’s no different than playing a role in a movie. You pretend to think like someone else. Equipment is another story. Gear can get to be expensive for LARPers from what I hear. Depending on how intricate or detailed you want to dress it can run you a pretty penny.
For classic gaming, as a player, your tools are inexpensive. Typically all you need are your own dice. The system you’re playing determines what dice you’ll need but generally speaking they’re cheap to purchase. As a game master though, it can get to be quite expensive. Game systems often have Source books and Compendiums that are often needed in order to run a detailed campaign. These books can run anywhere between $20 USD and $60 USD each. Only the truly dedicated (and financially comfortable) are able to load up in that department. In any case though the books (especially the source ones) are very entertaining reading material on their own. If you’re into the whole True Blood vampire craze try reading some White Wolf RPG books. They’re highly entertaining and insightful. If you’re into that Vampire Diaries or Twilight crap, leave my blog now and never return.
Despite the reputation gaming has received over the years the majority of the criticism stems from people who have never gamed a day in their lives. They’re often narrow-minded individuals with little imagination who get off on building themselves up by putting others down. Gaming inspires creativity. It promotes imagination. It’s for writers who want to express themselves and regular people who just want to get away from the ills of the world – even if just for a few hours. It makes me laugh when they lament how socially challenged gamers are when in fact gaming promotes social interaction more than anything else. It was the original social network. If more young people got into gaming we wouldn’t have the grammatically devoid cesspool of a “writing community” known as Twitter.
Let them call you nerds and geeks. Let the naysayers spread nasty stereotypes and pontificate how you have no lives. I always say, if it’s not true then why get offended? If gaming makes you happy, then game on my brothers and sisters. Unite with other games under a common banner as you have for decades now. Continue to do what you do.
My name is Ian… and I am a Classic Gamer! Hallelujah!
This entry was posted on September 9, 2010 by Ian the Zen Assassin. It was filed under Commentary, General Thoughts and was tagged with dice, dungeons & dragons, game master, gaming, geek, halo, larp, matrix, modern warfare 2, morpheus, nerd, palladium, role models, role playing, role playing game, rpg, social network, the highlander, twitter, vampire, white wolf, zion.