FriendshipAugust 16, 2008
Since I’ve been a kid, competitive games just have never been the big thing I’m into.
Like, I dig a few, but for the most part, I prefer co-op games. Not because of “ZOMG! I FEARS THE COMPETITION”, as much as, most of my life the experience has been that competitive games tended to be blow-outs one way or the other. Either I’m whomping someone, or someone’s whomping me. Which doesn’t really do much to fulfill my challenge kick. (Hell, even when I took judo at 14, I was either up against 7 year old kids or full grown adults with brown and black belts.)
I know, that this isn’t a problem of competitive games. But that’s basically been my experience of most of them.
Whereas, with, co-op games, I get to enjoy hanging out with my friends and doing things to mesh our strengths together, instead of trying to apply our strong points to each others’ weak points. If they’re better than me, I get to learn how to play better, if they’re worse than me, I can teach them.
This is a major reason I fell into RPGs- a bunch of us get together as friends, hang out and have adventures in the face of adversity, working together. (Ok, yes, one of my ideal RPG experiences is Avatar, the Last Airbender.)
Though I have to say, through all the game groups, and folks I’ve played with, this is still pretty rare. I’ve seen tons of adventuring parties, tons of Vampire clans, etc. etc., but not so many where the characters are actually friends- just allies, at best.
It’s as if the unspoken rule amongst most traditional gaming is that it’s “bad roleplaying” to let your characters mirror your real world friendships too much, too “Mary Sue”. Games where I have done that, we’ve had more fun, been more effective in the fiction, and had much more memorable times.
Meanwhile, I read game advice like “the rules exist to prevent bitterness amongst the players” or hear first hand about folks getting into fist fights at the gametable and I have to wonder if this “good roleplaying” that people keep talking about is all that good.
We use fiction all the time to mirror real life- we do it through stories, songs, poetry, video, anything. It’s how we feel about real life that provides the context to make anything moving or powerful, or just a neat splotch of color on a piece of canvas. If anything has moved me, it’s always been because of what it touches that is real.
The emotional brain is stupid. It can’t tell the real from the false- you cry at the movies, you jump when there’s a monster on screen, your heart swells at a tender song, you get angry reading a fictional book. It’s the reason we do high stress simulations for paramedics, firemen, and the military- fool the brain until it’s close enough to real that it reacts the same way under pressure.*
Is it more dangerous to reference that we’re really friends, or is it more dangerous to pretend that we’re not?
No, flip that.
Is it more fun to remind ourselves why we’re friends, or is it more fun to pretend that we’re not?
* Footnote for stupid:
“I don’t want to be Elfstar anymore!” is not what I’m saying. You’re not -really- doing the fictional stuff, but you are REALLY sitting at a table interacting with your friends. That’s really happening. What your brain emotionally takes from that, well…