Archive for October 28th, 2008

Roleplaying vs. Hanging Out

2008 Oct 28

Brand mentioned that people oriented towards the social rewards of roleplaying don’t just view roleplaying as a way of hanging out with their friends. I responded:

I just wanted to “hell yes” this as a social socket person (with a minor in aesthetics). I’ve often said that, to me, a roleplaying game is chiefly a way of structuring social interaction to create more interesting results (for whatever definition of “interesting” you like, mine generally leans towards “aesthetically interesting”). As such, while hanging out is socially rewarding, playing games is socially rewarding in a variety of manners (depending on the game and playgroup) that are much harder to achieve in the social activities that are generally performed in contemporary middle class American society. It generates the same intoxicating social vibe, in my experience, as cooperating on some onerous project together: climbing a mountain as a group, putting on your own play. That feeling of collective accomplishment and what it does for interpersonal relationships is unmatched, I think.

Roleplaying (again, for me) is anthropology in reverse, a pro-active attempt to create ritual communities. The closest I corollary I can think of is designing worship services or planning the activities of a cult (in that sense, Dark Dungeons was spot-on). In what other hobby can you get a group of people to do almost anything by designing a rewarding social and creative experience around it? Only the kinds of postmodern art circles that I wouldn’t want to be a part of, probably. So, for people interested in human behavior and societies — how they work and how they could conceivably be designed to work — roleplaying offers an environment for enjoyment, learning, experimentation, and camaraderie that is unmatched. Hanging out is great, but it can’t do that.