Today on Save Vs. Rant, we’re going to talk about the kinds of people who play RPGs. No, this isn’t a dissection of gaming culture (although we may yet rant about that), but a discussion of the different motivations people have for playing RPGs. We also touch briefly on the classification of RPGs and Tabletop Games in general, but that’s yet another topic for a future podcast.
Your reason for playing games is valid.
Don’t laugh – I’m trying to tell you something important. Something that really does mean something and has a real and healthy application to your life.
Your reason for playing games is valid. And so is mine. And so is his, so is hers, so is theirs – all of us play games the way we play games for a reason, and we all want that reason to be respected and considered when we come to a table. If we’re Actors, we want an opportunity to act. If we’re Explorers, we want something to explore. The Instigators want things to do. The Slayers want challenges.
And ever since the bad old days when games were photocopies sheets stapled together by hand, people have played games the way they found satisfying. They changed and applied the rules the way that brought them and their friends the most enjoyment. They designed challenges and rewards that would satisfy and tantalize their players. They schemed plans to get a leg up on their crafty DM.
Over the Tabletop Gaming hobby lurks, at all times, a specter – the specter of gatekeeping. For many years, gamers steadfastly considered themselves a persecuted minority that kind of existed at the fringes of society, and there was some truth in that. The hobby was poorly understood and the well heavily poisoned by popular culture and the Satanic Panic of the 80’s and 90’s. Some of us let that make us resentful. Some of the bullied became bullies themselves. Some of us learned to cope with being ostracized and mocked by punching down.
As a community, gamers need to be better than that. We need to be inclusive and welcoming. While individual play styles might not be for everyone, while certain games might not be for everyone and while, indeed, roleplaying games themselves might not be for everyone, those should all be choices people make for themselves, not because they’re told they can’t be included or that their interest in gaming isn’t valid because of what parts of games interest them.
Someday – probably very soon – we will rant about prejudice in the gaming community (sadly, a rant that is both sorely needed and probably a drop in the bucket). For now, I’d like to say that for many of us, gaming has been a way to let off steam and get away from lives that saddled us with difficulty, unfair expectations, humiliation and isolation. Through gaming, we made friends, learned to face our fears, exercised our imaginations, practiced reading, writing and arithmetic and found reasons to educate ourselves on topics we may have never otherwise explored. Gaming has been a source of healing and solace for so many of us, and to deny someone else the opportunity to discover that because they don’t play the “right” way should be anathema to all of us.
If nothing else, consider playing with someone outside your usual play style as an opportunity to exercise skills you may not have yet developed. For me, one of the most satisfying things about being a DM is having the opportunity to entertain my friends – to collaborate with them to tell a story. I’ve frequently told people that DMing is really a weird sort of performance art where you try to trick a room full of people into believing that they’re playing a game, and there’s some truth to that.
Make them believe that they’re playing the game they want to play.