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Why do we do what we do?
There are many reasons why people role play, some do it for the stats, some just like to get together with friends, but mainly they all share a common interest; and that’s to play in a setting that entertains us, like being a part of your own TV show or movie. It’s a brief respite, a social escapism that gives us a chance to ignore life and assume a desired role.
For me it’s to escape also, but it helps me set my mind into a vast world of unknown. I have a big imagination and when I run a campaign I always aim to fill my imaginative worlds to the brim with history and lore. But It also shrugs off an ever prevalent but frustrating truth about the world; the internet. The internet is a brilliant work of intelligent design to an extent, but at the same time it’s quashed that sense of wonder we all once had about the world as a whole. Earth an space were wonders to us as children and for those older generations; teens, we could dream and guess about what lay beyond the tree lines of the vast Amazon rainforest, would create our own fantasies about ancient tombs and long forgotten cities.
George R.R. Martin, writer of the famous ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ book series stated in a concise biography of himself at his website:
“I graduated from Marist High School in 1966, and headed off to college. I had been accepted at several local schools, but after spending my entire life in Bayonne watching the big ships go up and down the Kill Van Kull and dreaming of distant lands and far horizons, I was eager to finally see a bit of the rest of the world.”
He has later stated that one of the key ideas behind the myriad of banners in the world of Westeros was thanks to his watching of the ships coming into port as a child. We have lost this wonderment of the world, the internet all be it a miracle has shrank the community of the world so much that we no longer need to dream about the world we live in, we can just Google it.
I think this is one reason why we game, I know it’s why I play because it helps you enter a world of unknown and wonder once again. You can do anything you like; you can hang out with your friends, explore a new world together and wouldn’t want to experience that? To find lost tombs, discover long forgotten cities, meet new races, do battle with war bands and absorb new cultures. The most amazing thing is all this is possible through the mind and voice of a good game master.
Now granted, you can do all this with a video game, but in what video game do you feel that the emotional barrier can be set aside and you can interact with people and such a physical scale? In what video game can you kick a barkeep in the privates and burn his inn to the ground?
I think this is why traditional gaming has survived and why we do what we do. I inspires to feel wonderment in our own world so it feels just a little bit less mundane than usual.