Sick days are good for video games and popcorn reading, and today I finally decided to take a swing at Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. It is, so far, inoffensive and enjoyable and it absolutely makes me want to pull Nine Worlds and Scion off the shelf and shake them up a little. And that twigged me to something.
I’d never given it a lot of thought, but I had always associated my love of RPGs with being a reader. Sure, there were fantasy and sci fi movies out there which I watched and loved, even some TV, but books had always been the centerpiece of the sort of adventures and stories I imagined that I wanted to capture in play. For a long time I just assumed that was universal, but I am less and less certain of that assumption these days. Other media have simply gotten richer, partly as a result of multi media, but in large part from the growth of cable TV and the evolution of storytelling in TV programming.
I think it’s safe to say that more people have seen the Lord of the Rings films than have ever read the books, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. The growth of anime in the states has opened the doors to deep, rich, fantastical stories of amazing depth. In short, I no longer have a problem imagining someone who might enter into the hobby with most of their imaginary touchpoints coming from something other than books.
Intellectually, this should delight me. Anything that grows the hobby is a good thing, right? But at the same time, I must quiet that voice inside myself which sounds a lot like my hardcore video game friends talking about HALO players. These are strangers; outsiders who are invading our space. Clearly they must be relegated to some sort of lesser status, condescended to, condemned and hopefully driven away so that we can go back to withering away.
So, yeah, I try to squash that instinct. And some days its made easier than others.
See, I can talk about a shift in media, but in some ways that’s less telling than the inevitable shift in touchpoints over time. The books and movies that were most important to me are going to fall by the wayside, and as time goes on people find new touchpoints: Jordan, Martin, Rowling or whoever else – it always changes and that’s a good thing, But it’s hard. There is a temptation to treat the bibliography in the original DMG as some sort of holy writ. To think that the problems people see with our games or our play would be solved if they would simply read those books and internalize them the way we did. And it’s easy to couch this desire in the noblest of terms, talking about respecting roots and acknowledging the giants who built these foundations of our play.
Except, that’s kind of crap.
This is not literary criticism. This is a hobby where people take imaginary swords and kill imaginary monsters while sitting around a table with their friends. It does not demand that you read the right books or buy into the right logic. It demands that you revel in imagination, and that you carry worlds within you. It demands that you find joy in things that can never be.
That is, to my mind, pretty fantastic. There is no need for us to be less than that.