Tuesday, May 31, 2016

MK Q&A: What is it Really Like to Play a Game Like D&D?


Today we are doing our first MK Q&A! I have been meaning to do this one for a while as many people over the years, and quite a few recently, have asked me:

"What is it really like to play a game like D&D?"

Let's start by getting the obvious myths out of the way. The game has drawn people of high intelligence and creativity to it for as long as it has existed. We all know that people who are above average in the brain department have a reputation for being... well let's just say not as popular as the kids playing sports.

The "Freaks and Geeks"

This leads to the early misconception that all D&D style players are either Nerds in Junior High/High school or Geeks who are 30+, single, overweight and live in their mothers basement sucking down Hot-pockets and Mountain Dew. The satisfying part of this unfortunately common belief is that those bright minded adolescent people are honing their brain to function on a higher level and will almost always be more successful in life than the "Jocks" who bully them.

The Truth

Admittedly, when I was younger I did play with a group or two that meets the stereotype of hormone driven acne covered Dorks. But the majority of the groups I have played with, are actually made up of highly successful, average adults. Here is a picture of a few famous folks who either played growing up, or still play D&D today. From Tech-Heads and Game Designers to Marine Biologists and Business Owners, I have only found a handful of RPG Tabletop Gamers who are not at least above average in their chosen career. I won't go into why I believe D&D or similar games played a huge roll in their success as I have already written a blog on the benefits of Tabletop RPG Gaming.While that blog was focusing on children, the added skill sets are ageless and always available to learn.
The only reason I bring this up is to help you to remove what you think you know about the people sitting around the table. The question is what it is like to play the GAME, so please remove your ideas on the people who play.

The Basics

When you get together with a group of close-knit friends on a regular basis, over time you truly get to know the people you hangout with. Playing with the same people regularly allows the seeds of friendship to grow and the roots of companionship take hold. You actually get close to the group. This is no different than the "hangin' with my Peeps" kind of stuff that you are familiar with.

 The only difference is the activities you decide to participate in. If you are already playing Tabletop Board/Card Games with your selected group, than you are only one step away from knowing what it is like to roll the dice. If you normally just watch a movie or play a video game, you can enhance your social experience by actually looking at and interacting with your friends.

The rules can be a bit intense depending on the system you choose to play. There are rules-light Tabletop RPGs out there if you don't want to do too much math or reading ...however, it is good for the brain! ;)

You have your group of friends. You have a game to play. This much you understand. Now let's talk about the rest. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to swing a sword in defense of those unable to protect themselves, or make shots from your bow so precise that your arrow could swat other arrows out of the air, or even call upon the forces of nature to conjure up a ball of flame and throw it at your enemies; the Fantasy realm is your playground. If you have always watched Star Trek or Star Wars and wanted to grab your Phaser or Blaster Rifle and face off against a Klingon or maybe a Sith; the Sci-Fi realm awaits. Have you ever wanted to have a super power? Be a mutant in the Marvel Universe? Be the next Batman? There are modern day equivalents written with you in mind.

The system itself is not of consequence. The idea of stepping out of reality, taking part in something bigger than yourself, these are the very concepts of an RPG. You and your group of close friends get to remove the stress of the daily grind. Leave all of your worries about what you need to do at work tomorrow behind you. Forget that you have five finals to study for. You get to actually stop thinking about anything that exists in the real word and take a moment to create something all of your own. You get to become something that never would have existed without you, you are being a part of the creative process. I think of it as a very important thing for a consistent and sane me.

"Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

Sometimes you just need a mental reboot. Take a moment to let your brain stop hammering away at the current issue an give it a distraction. Most of the time when I return to the problem I was trying to solve it is much less daunting. This is a side effect of allowing yourself the freedom of creative thinking. You are not you. You are not confined to the same situations and solutions that you have had set in front of you every day.
You are what ever it is you want to be. You can do whatever it is you want to do. Sure, there are rules. These rules are only guidelines. This is your story. You and your friends get to tell it however you want. Seriously. How often do you get to do that?

Getting to the point

To attempt an explanation of the freedom of mind involved in playing an RPG is to try to explain why Pablo Picasso painted the way he did. It is trying to tell you how Jimmy Hendrix wrote his music. It is giving detailed reasons behind the acting choices made by Johnny Depp as he plays his roles.
This is not an idea I can easily download and transfer into your brain like a data file that makes a connection to the server giving full access to any needed information.
What I am attempting to explain is the true freedom that comes with dropping everything that binds you to this reality and allowing yourself to roam in the dream worlds.
So you (the editorial you) have asked what it is really like to play a game like D&D? I am not sure if I will ever have an answer that will satisfy the part of your brain that needs everything quantified.

What I can say is this: there is no other experience in the world short of being an artist that will come close to the experience of cognitive independence. I have said in the past that everyone should try playing an RPG at least once in their life. I lay that down as a truth right next to everyone should try to play an instrument at least once. Everyone should try their hand at drawing or painting at least once. Everyone should take to the stage at least once. If you have been searching your entire life for the proper creative outlet, maybe it has been sitting right in front of you this whole time.
Is it possible that the stigma of being a Dork has kept you from one of the most satisfying hobbies you might ever have known?

If you ask me ...yes.

The Wrap Up

As I have pointed out earlier there are many famous people who have openly endorsed the game. Many who have sung their praises of the Dork Side. Are you going to call Vin Diesel a pencil-neck geek because he loves to roll the dice? I seriously doubt that.
...at least not to his face.

So do yourself a favor. Let go. It might not be D&D for you. It might be music. It could be dance. Whatever it is, I encourage you to listen to the words of Simon Pegg. Liberate yourself. You never know just how free you can be until you cut those ties. Allow yourself to "Geek Out" regardless of the outlet. Stop worrying what the rest of the world will think about you. Start living your life, for you.

I for one have claimed my place in the social arena. I don't care if you think you are above me. I sure hope you don't see yourself as below me. I am just like you. I am human. The only difference?

I am proud to be a Dork.
Until next time ...Game On!