Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gaming as a Model for Life

I never read the New York Times. I don't live in New York, and it just seems a bit pretentious. Except for yesterday. I had to wait for two hours in the Reno airport, and it was the most interesting looking thing in the newstand.

What I found was an op-ed on Gary Gygax and his contribution to culture that amused me highly. Following that link will require you to create an account, but it will no longer cost you any money, like it used to.

It's humorous, and proceeds on the thesis that the roleplaying geek gave its' socially inept players a model for understanding the social world.

We geeks might not be able to intuit the subtext of a facial expression or a casual phrase, but give us a behavioral algorithm and human interactions become a data stream. We can process what’s going on in the heads of the people around us. Through careful observation of body language and awkward silences, we can even learn to detect when we are bringing the party down with our analysis of how loop quantum gravity helps explain the time travel in that new “Terminator” TV show. I mean, so I hear.

I laughed out loud at that. Roleplaying wasn't the least bit mainstream when I started. And, well, I'm not normal. Living for 3000 years will do that to you.

Roleplaying for me has always been social. With people who had qualities that I admired, whether it be imaginations, or skill with math, or the ability to quote at length from "Soylent Green". These qualities weren't always admired by mainstream culture, and the people I played with often had shortcomings that were all too evident. But I liked that. I liked how tolerant they were of MY shortcomings. I've never been around gamers that seemed racist or bigoted or misogynisistic. And, contrary to what's in the New York Times, there were always at least a few girls included. In fact, I've never been involved in a tabletop roleplaying game where there wasn't at least one woman involved.

I realize that not all players have that experience. Many young men who roleplay are reluctant to disclose that to women that they meet, as they fear the wrinkled nose of "what do you want to do THAT for?" Being known as a roleplayer will really cut back on the sex appeal, at least in their minds. You know, I kind of get it. Roleplaying isn't something the "beautiful people" do. It isn't the "in" thing.

But let's face it, most of us aren't those people. We might be smart, strong, and good looking; compassionate, brave, and thoughtful. But that doesn't mean we're "cool". Roleplaying has taken over the world now. There are many of us, and we're just folks. Soldiers, doctors, nurses, major-league ballplayers, and action stars. They all do it, and have fun with it. Why not reveal yourself as a roleplayer to a woman (or a man) you've met, and be proud of it. Not to exclude them, but to affirm yourself, even show a little courage. That's attractive, in men or women. Almost as attractive as fabulous red hair.

Millions of people play MMORPG's now. They aren't a retreat from being social, they ARE social. By using an avatar with a carefully designed appearance, we cancel our bad hair days, and can play in our underwear. We are judged by our strength, skill, wit, compassion and grace. But not by our appearance. We are the cool.

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