Why I Love Roleplaying Games
I love many games, and in fact try to play everything at least once, but I always come back to roleplaying games. Today, I’m going to share my love for them.
RPGs — by which I means the whole damn penumbra, from Traveller to Apocalypse World, from Pathfinder to Fiasco — blend, in different ratios, playing a game with rules and determining a story both in the moment and afterward in our retelling. Some people call it “collaborative storytelling,” and it sort of is, if you treat the game itself as one of the folks participating.
And I totally do.
The frameworks of RPGs exist to make high moments uneasy, to make palpable the emotions influencing our characters, to create moments of triumph, fall, and (most importantly) cost. If this was just structured storytelling without a game element, we could describe those moments, but would we feel them? Probably not. Would we yearn to retell them? Doubtful. Would they affect us so greatly as they do now? I’m gonna say no.
That’s because these frameworks allow us to experience the story in a way that goes beyond telling it. That’s true whether the framework is adversarial like in traditional games or strongly structured resource games like in many GMless ones today. The game truly happens when our options becomes limited and when our decisions risk our avatar’s agency in the story.
One of the criticisms I’ve heard too often is that RPGs are (sarcastically) “the best 30 minutes of fun you’ll have in four hours.” I’ll counter that with my decades-long observation: Roleplaying games provide the best 30 minutes of fun that you’ll remember for years to come, as a shared experience your friends will remember and celebrate along with you — as people who were also positively invested in those 30 minutes.
At least, all that’s what roleplaying games mean to me, and I think that’s pretty awesome. :) It’s why I keep playing and making roleplaying games: I want to feel and encourage lifelong stories.
What about you? Why do you love these games? What do they mean to you?
(One down, Will.)