Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Filler: Sometimes a D20 is just a D20

"Ja, unt now tell me about your relationship with your first GM"

So, way, waaaaaay back in 2005 while my entire life felt like it was collapsing around my ears and I was an absolute emotional disaster, I manned up and called the mental health number on the back of my insurance card. The catalyst for the call was, of all things, an Iron Kingdoms game that I was running, or, well, failing to run because I had the attention span of a crack-addled hummingbird. Anyway, I was sick and tired of the way I was feeling, the way these feelings were affecting my marriage and my friendships, and just generally feeling like shit all the time. So fast forward to today, where I'm still in therapy with an excellent therapist who I credit with saving both my marriage and, well, my life. What does all this have to do with games and werks you ask? Read on...

As I've gotten further into my therapy, which is much like going further down the rabbit hole, I've become more and more interested in psychology. Specifically, psychology and how it relates to gaming and gamers. See, when I became a full-time RPG writer type, I had a few therapy sessions where I felt I needed to explain the hobby and all its associated quirks to my shrink. She, being astute and never one to let a good analytical tool sit idle, seized on it and has been encouraging me more and more to use gaming and characters to further my own understanding of my, admittedly strange and unusual, psyche. It's fascinating to be lying there talking about your character and his motivations and personality and from out of nowhere your shrink associates that with a comment you made three months prior about your parents or something. Anyway, ever since then I've been thinking more and more about why we play.

Now, I've talked about this before at length here. Why do we play? Why do we choose the characters that we choose? What is it that motivates grown-ass men and women to sit around and play pretend for a few hours of a Friday night? What are we looking for? What do we need? What are we running to? Running from? These are questions I want answered. During my time with my shrink, whenever I ship out to a con I always tell her the same thing, "I wish you could come with me, so you could see" because a  con is the pure distillation of the hobby. A crucible in which excitement, fun, camaraderie, loneliness, anxiety, longing, desire, and sexuality mix to form a potent kind of glue that bonds of all these disparate nerds, among whom I proudly count myself, together in a strange, largely functional community. 

So, because I'm so goddamned fascinated by this, I want to write a book about it. I've got this idea for a non-fiction book about the psychology of the hobby wherein I want to explore all those questions I listed earlier. I also want to further develop this theory I have that there are, broadly speaking, two kinds of gamer: Those running to something and those running from something. Another way to say that is that there are gamers who play to pretend to be someone else for a few hours, and there are those who play to pretend to not be themselves. It's a fine distinction I know, but I believe it's there and it has merit.

I've got a long way to go on this project. Right now it's in the rough planning stages and I'm kind of hung up on some points. What's stopping me? Well, there's the fact that although I've been in therapy for five years, the last two being intense psycho-analysis five days a week, I know dick about the actual science of psychology. What I feel I need is a co-author, a trained and licensed therapist that can sort of help me filter my cockamamie ideas through actual science and established schools of thought. Someone who I can take to a con and say, "Look, what do you see?" So, yeah. this is harebrained scheme 847,520, but I think it has legs. Stay tuned, Gentle Readers. You may actually see me finish a project!


Atraties said...

I think your distinction of gamers running to something and running from something is dead on. At least in terms of those who get into it for themselves, not to be social with others. (Example, my girlfriend who is gaming to share something fun with me.)

As someone who'd been both, I'd be very interested to see a book on the subject. If for no other reason than to hand to the gamers I play with who are running from.

Jack Philpott said...

Sounds like a fascinating idea for a book. I hope you find your partner and write this! You might try looking at a college where perhaps there's a doctoral candidate seeking a thesis topic.

Levi said...

This could be a very interesting book. I can’t decide if I am running to or from anything. Some of both?