Why it’s cool, why it’s impossible to get into

September 15, 2007

Fandom is pretty much the same everywhere.  There’s something that geeks you and you become more and more aware of it’s context, it’s subcultural ideas, the in jokes, the references, the themes.

Right now I’m reading the Incredible Hulk, and even though I’ve been a pretty casual reader, it’s referencing it’s own history in such a way that I’m digging it deeply.  It’s building off of it’s own context, and reinterpreting it.

When we play rpgs to make stories, we’re making stories with context for us, meaning for us (and it’s easy, after all, we have a better notion of what’s meaningful for us than a stranger would).  We become fans of our own creations.

And that’s good.

On the other hand, after a point, you have so much built up there’s no easy jumping in point for the newcomer.   Unlike mass media, the new person can’t just sit down with a stack of books, DVDs, comics, and a few glances through Wikipedia and catch up.  All they get to work with is a fragmented history told through multiple voices, a few notes and maybe if you’re diligent some actual play reports or a campaign website.

Does this mean the creative part of the hobby is doomed to replicate the house of cards scenario I described before?

Not necessarily.

The meaningful context that once took 4 months to build by happenstance now can happen in 4 hours.  You don’t need to stick with the same campaign afraid to start over as if you’ve discovered fire and have to protect it with no means of creating it again.

While we might still end up building these intensely personal experiences and narratives as part of play, it’s easier to do now- new folks can get to the good part in 20 minutes, not 20 sessions.

It’s mostly just as hard to share outside of the experience (though podcasting helps), but it’s a lot easier to bring people into the experience of creating for themselves.

And I’m a fan of that.

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