A crash course in changing the world.
Most game books have a section where it attempts to describe what an RPG is. I guess they do this in case
someone who has never heard of gaming has somehow found their book. I
think this is silly because if someone is under a big enough rock to
not know what gaming is they're unlikely to ever find your book.
Well, I’m really expecting you not to know immediately what on
earth I’m going on about. I’m not even sure I know where I’m
going with this. And I’m not talking about gaming in the usual
term, I’m appropriating many of it’s terms and tropes for a
different use. So for once, this section isn’t a waste of space.
This is a book about finding adventure, exploring, problem-solving, defeating epic evils, and having a good
time with your buddies. This is basically what any RPG is about. You
create stories with your friends that appeal to you, using systems
that you or someone else have created to support that determine who
gets to say what happens when. Essentially, it breaks down into
“role-playing”, the story part, and “games”, the system part.
But unlike gaming books, in which you exercise these skills a
(mostly) mutually constructed fiction, I’m going to talk about
using them in real life.
What I’m talking about is changing our self-definition, as people, to being “Adventurers” or
“Players.” Player can be kinda a loaded term, and I’m going to
accept that baggage and have fun with it. That’s what a player
does. They play with whatever they have at hand, whether that’s a
stick, a language, or a society. Playing is the conversion of your
environment into experienced fun.
I also want to start looking at society as a “System”. The system is the portion of the environment we
craft that reacts to our presence. It isn’t the story but the
medium the story is told in. This term almost means the same thing as
game, but has a somewhat wider context. When players craft a system
they make it a game. Other people make different sorts of systems,
like tax codes. But any system can be “gamed” by a player. The
important thing about systems, in this context, is that they are or
can be designed, and with goals in mind.
Right now, the dominant way of thinking about people in a society is “cogs in a machine,” or maybe
“consumers in a market.” Once apon a time we were “animals in
the wild.” But as children we all started out as players, because
play is how we explore the world. Play itself is rewarding. It’s
only because the system we’re in punishes play that we stop. Even
then, it takes decades of dedicated work to snuff out the player in
all of us, and in many even then it isn’t altogether successful.
Systems that aren’t games have to destroy the player, because the
player turns any system into a game.
I don’t want to be a cog or a consumer. I sometimes want to be an animal, but probably not all the
time, and I suspect animals are players anyway. I want to be a
player, and I suspect that you do too.