Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Gaming and All Things Good...

As we remember the awful events in Orlando this past week, we utterly fail its victims when we don't examine our own values in a world where this is possible.  The gunman was the worst sort of humanity, and his hate-fueled actions should stand in stark contrast to anything we claim to hold dear in this life...

But for every horrific event, there exist many others of sheer goodness.  The bad guys are outnumbered, something apparent watching the lines of people, blocks deep, waiting to donate blood in the wake of this terrible tragedy.  Thankfully, this human solidarity underpins our society, and we need to understand why it happens and how we can make MORE of a plainly GOOD thing.  

And when I think about it, I realize that role-playing was as important as just about anything else in helping me, and my gaming friends, explore our values via SIMULATED EXPERIENCE:

Gaming exposed us to other races and cultures, albeit clearly imaginary ones.  How many adventuring parties counted dwarves and/or elves among their numbers?  And how many players recognized the idiocy of racism after negotiating with squishy and many-tentacled Rigelians at some neglected spaceport?   

My point here is that the hobby allowed us, sometimes at a very early age, to evaluate issues of culture and race while operating within the safety of a fantastic simulation.

In games, our choices have consequences.  And cooperation and negotiation are absolutely essential to success and survival in an imaginary universe.  But this universe reflects our own reality, mainly, that when people don't care about one another, things start to break down, and rather horribly.  Play imitates life...

Now, your fighter might be at the top of their game, but a single critical hit could change everything, and your companions will doubtless remember how you treated them on and off the table before charging in to save your now-helpless character!  

This is because role-playing is an inherently HUMAN and SOCIAL endeavor.  You have an imaginary world of varied cultures and races working together towards a common goal.  And GOOD role-playing absolutely requires embracing cultural and/or racial differences and looking past them.  Moreover, these are SUPERIMPOSED over the real differences between the players themselves.

Gaming was (and remains) an EXCELLENT social experiment!

Count morality among gaming's lessons.  The (very) philosophical alignment system in AD&D forced us to consider the meaning of good beyond just fighting the bad guys because, eventually, prisoners would be taken, and a gentle cleric would have to balk at killing helpless captives.  But what about evil?  Gaming allowed us to experience being a scoundrel within a fantasy context where no one got hurt, but with consequences otherwise INTACT. 

In short, gaming allowed us to experience the inter-dependency of danger short of war and the consequences of good and evil as a simulation conducted in safety.  It gave us a chance to examine our humanity and nurture our budding values.

But let's talk about the "real people" these fantasies were superimposed over.  They were friends and fellow gamers from a variety of backgrounds and racial, cultural, and/or religious traditions.  But our shared hobby led to FRIENDSHIP and recognition of our shared HUMANITY.  And we experimented with basic trust and tolerance within our games and applied it to our LIVES.

Now to be clear, imaginary worlds can only tell us so much and go only so far in dealing with our problems.  But when young people can get together to experience fictional worlds with actual cause and effect, much good is accomplished.  And when we learn how to unpack important issues and examine them closely, the seeds of authentic morality are planted.  Oh, and the friendship and real human bonding that results can only make the world a better place for all...

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