Monday, May 9, 2016

My Life as a Gamer: The Benefits of the Medium

Tabletop role-playing games have a way of cutting through a lot of trope-based narrative bullshit. This is not surprising, as they are wargame derivatives, so things that have no basis in strategic or tactical concerns gets discarded as irrelevant bullshit.

We began to see this decades ago, when ruthless pragmatism that arose in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns migrated to science fiction (Traveller, initially) and then other genres. Naturally, when gamers arrived at superheroes many tropes got chewed up and spat out to fuel the campaign. Until Champions came along, sweet fuck-all was normal practice but the same pragmatism that rules D&D campaigns.

Villains died. Minions died. Henchmen died. Authority didn't matter because "We're walking nukes. You can't do jack to us and we know it, so sit down and shut up."

You won't see that in a videogame, not even in the most PVP-friendly MMOs, because that sort of experience requires liminal space and flexible fast-thinking that only a human Game Master provides. Natural language and emergent gameplay without fixed boundaries is still something only the tabletop RPG medium offers, and will be so for years to come yet.

Game designers had to come up with bribes (in the form of power boosts for desired behavior) to begin approximating the source tropes, and the stupidity they spawn. Eventually this mutated into Storygaming because too many frustrated novelists didn't get the memo that RPGs are not a fucking narrative-experience medium, and therefore did not fuck off to write fiction like they should have done.

(Yes, you can reliably judge a TRPG by how much frustrated novelist bullshit is in it.)

Tabletop RPGs are a medium of virtual life-experience. The tropes of storytelling do not apply. Real life's "tropes" apply, even when you would not think so. You literally have to warp the rules of the game to make trope-based decisions happen because they are not viable course of action in the real world, and by default the environment of the game--no matter what genre it claims to be--is the real world with only those exceptions that the game explicitly postulates.

This is why we gamers get the results that we do, and learn the things that we learn. Those of us with the courage to do so take the chance to experience virtually things that are otherwise impossible to acquire, and because we use our avatars to do so we put ourselves into it far more than anything short of the real thing. In retrospect, it is clear that gamers would be the ones that break SocJus; we've fought these monsters for generations now, so once one of us made the connection it spread fast and all of us soon picked up the practice.

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