Thursday, December 29, 2005


Why Play?

This is coming off of a question posed by Mike Mearls at the end of his latest LJ post, as well as some of my thoughts about my goals.

I hear people say that D&D is all about killing monsters via teamwork, and WoW is the same thing, but I don't think that explains *why* people play D&D. I don't think I've ever heard anyone tell me they play D&D because they like to kill stuff and gather treasure. That's an expression of the game in motion, but it doesn't necessarily explain why people play the game. People didn't play Pac-Man because they liked clearing mazes filled with dots. They didn't play Super Mario Brothers because they liked jumping over turtles. And people don't play D&D or WoW simply because they like killing stuff, gathering treasure, and becoming more powerful.

Why do I game? which is the same as What are my goals as a gamer?, I think. It's not that easy to answer.

To have fun, yes. But not enough. Too vague.

To spend time with friends who have the same interest. Still too vague.

To use my imagination. To make up something (creator) that I enjoy watching unfold as well (participant). I just...really enjoy the process of roleplay. Of making characters, putting them into relation with each other and a fictional world around them, and then taking the input of everyone at the table and pulling that together into a coherant narrative. That's kind of the GM answer, I think. As a player, I enjoy exploring my character, and asking what makes sense for him to do in this how about this how about when he has this background that comes back to haunt him...I like to build a backstory through actual play, and be able to look back on it and see the characters journey.

Does that answer the question? Maybe. But it's back to the wierd self-definitional issues that roleplay has. I enjoy roleplaying's roleplaying.


For me, it's an exercise of creative juice-glands that would otherwise atrophy in service to the beast of corporate American employment. It fills a void, and I hunger for it when I do not game.
I enjoy creatively collaborating with friends. Roleplaying is a structured way to do this, but it provides the same sort of enjoyment that I'd get when I planned and built a garden or hiking trail with friends.

WoW is not creatively collaborating with friends; it's collaboratively competing or collaborative acheiving with friends and strangers. It's certainly similar, and I'm sure there are people who play RPGs in order to collaborative compete or achieve. And hands down, it's that part of the RPG market that's being "lost" to online gaming. (Ironically, the collaborative competition/achievement is what D&D does best.) However, assuming that people will only choose one activity to satisfy their collaborative-achievement desires is an oversimplification.

I play to test myself. Can I do a better job at (whatever) than I did last time? Can I master this new style of playing? What can I learn about gaming from X game? That's how I look at my rationale for playing.


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