Thursday, June 18, 2015

On a favorite RPG

Today the question of: “Which game is your favorite Rpg?” was raised in a Norwegian Facebook group that I help moderate.

It was a good question. It became even better when I found myself unable to answer it. Then I figured I had to answer that question at least.

So, here goes: Why am I unable to name my favorite (tabletop) Rpg?

Qualities of games

Design choice: Dice or cards?
How important is it to how we experience games?
To answer that question I try to think of some quality that would set a game aside in my mind. Is there something about the rules? Is there something appealing about the setting or the physical (or even electronic) product? Or is it some experience with a game? Maybe it was the first game (or the last) or the games I played with old friends or even someone I had a crush on?

When I mention all these things, one thing strikes me. The experience of a role-playing game, at least to my mind, is not easily reduced to any one quality, or even a simple set of qualities. The experience of a game is subjective, not objective, and the amount of variables is close to incalculable.

I realize this is not rocket science. These are known thoughts.

The personal factor

A personal (for me) account of a tangential factor in the experience of games comes from being a gamer with social anxiety issues. My anxieties when playing with people I am not very comfortable with is almost certain to interfere with my experience of the game. So given the right context my anxiety issues are going to be a large factor in how I experience a game.

This is not rocket science either.

The community and the praxis of role-playing
The praxis of role-playing games
(photo By Diacritica CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

My experience of the current gaming community, online and elsewhere, are that the discussions about game design, various ways of playing role-playing (it’s in the word really) games and about game content are popular, vocal and sometimes antagonistic.

Geeks like to argue I guess, but I wish there could be more humility about the fact that generating a positive and meaningful game experience happens at the table. Game design and content can probably help, but it is the praxis of role-playing at the table that will determine the experience.

(I’m not going to touch on how this also relates to the ever-present debate about inclusivity in the gaming hobby, but I guess anyone reading this will be able to discern my opinion)

The award does not go to...

So, why can’t (won’t) I name my favorite Rpg?

Well, that award doesn’t go to any game, to any game designer or author. My favorite role-playing game is the game I play with my friends.

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