Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Third Rail of Gaming

Telling someone that you're a gamer says a lot about you, but are you sure it says what you think it does?  I've said it when people ask me why I'm going to something like GenCon or PAX East, but if they don't know what those cons are then you still haven't explained anything.  More than a few times when I've said I like gaming people have thought I have a fondness for slot machines and roulette.  They'd be wrong because my game is craps and I'm terrible at it and only bet the smallest chips possible, but that's how I roll.  Really, when I say I'm a gamer I'm talking about things like computer games, boardgames, and card games.  People understand those things, but if you add in miniature wargaming, they may look at you funny. And if you say RPGs they may also take a step backward and hold up their fingers in the sign of The Cross.  RPGs are the Third Rail of Gaming.

Although most everyone plays games like Candyland, Monopoly and Sorry as a kid, at some point games become something just for kids.  We all go through that phase when we want to be seen as adults, even though we aren't, and the best way to do that is to cast off things from our childhood.  That usually means getting rid of GI Joe and Barbie, ditching the coloring books and giving away the little kid games that fill our closets.  Often things swing back in the other direction once we realize that games are still fun, and although you may never want to play Candyland again, you might play Scrabble and the occasional card game.  This is about as far as most people go when it comes to reviving their childhood love of games, but for many the appreciation goes deeper.  They start playing games that most people have never heard of like Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan.  Pull these games out of the closet and most people are likely going to give them a try, but not so with RPGs.

Just mention that you play RPGs to your average adult and they're probably going to make some assumptions.  You're a nerd.  You're antisocial.  You don't have a lot of friends and you live in your parent's basement.  Oh, and you possibly worship Satan and may be a serial killer.  I know, you think I'm joking but as someone who's played an RPG or two, I can tell you the reaction is not that far off.  Dungeons and Dragons has been around for over 30 years and people still have ridiculous preconceptions about how you play.  Players are pigeon-holed into a certain image and despite the fact that millions of people play, it's still seen as an anti-social anomaly by those that aren't familiar with the game.  As a result, a lot of gamers don't like to say that they play RPGs and have become closet players.  It's a dirty little secret.

A couple of good friends that I've known for years recently admitted that their co-workers don't know they play RPGs.  They keep their Dungeons and Dragons games a secret because they don't want to be put in the "social outcast" box.  Sadly, I think by hiding what they enjoy, they put themselves in that box all on their own.  Here's my challenge to all of you.  If you play RPGs, then tell people.  If they look at you funny, then explain to them why they are wrong.  RPGs are the third rail of gaming.  That's where all the power is and it's about time players embraced that power instead of hiding it in a tattered box in the back of a closet.

6 comments:

  1. Fantastic points Nichole. I wear a proud gamer badge! I dismay my inner geek everyday. If I freek the mundanes, well, so be it!

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  2. I'd happily say I like DnD to everyday people... with gamers I'm more concerend... as they may think I'm talking about 4th Edition. ;)

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  3. @Dann bwha-ha-ha!! We still play 2nd Edition. We own all the new ones but never found a compelling reason to switch.

    As you know, Nicole, I'm pretty "out" with my geekosity. But I find that even when I try to be upfront when answering the question, "How was your weekend?" with "Great! We were gaming!" that most people still just don't quite get (or want to know) what I'm talking about. Their loss.

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  4. I love your responses!

    @Gobbo You are a model citizen, sir!

    @Sue It is definitely their loss if they don't get what you're talking about or take the time to find out.

    @Dann I'm pretty sure no one will hold it against you if they think you're playing 4th edition...but no guarantees ;)

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  5. Testify Nicole!

    I always saw RPGs as getting you even closer to the action who read LOTR and didn’t want to ride into battle with Eowyn – until the films I didn’t see what Aragon saw in the dippy elf princess 

    I started with traditional wargames but remember making my first ever trip up to london on my own to buy the original boxed set of DnD.

    And RPGs do allow you to have fun playing with different roles and behaviours - though I did get a pissed of email from one of the originators for White Wolf for my rather trasgressive Black Fury (a metis rights campaigner).

    I still have a bit of an old skool Wargames approach what paladin isn’t going to want a Carrier Battle Group . Channelling Adma and using a handy planitir to issue orders from Paladin Actual (well Sunray in UK terms) for the Hobbit Komando to goto Bikini State Red .

    And as you have spelljammer as part of the DnD universe – it makes sense for him to have high guard to provide an orbital CAP.

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  6. I think this trend is waning - that of the "closet" RPG player. I've recently opened a brick & mortar game store outside of Chicago and have seen a multitude of those "I used to play D&D" types come through our door. We run Wednesday D&D Encounters with an average of 20 players each week (divided amongst 3 DMs).

    But the most exciting thing about this for me is the amount of younger players who are embracing RPGs. It's wonderful. We have a regular group of 10-13 year old boys AND girls who attend and are an integral part of the gaming group.

    In fact, I just wrote about my feelings on this trend in RPGs on my store blog which you can find here: http://fairgamestore.com/2011/03/has-dd-finally-come-of-age/

    Long live THAC0!

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