Saturday, 9 April 2011

Fantasy vs Sci-fi vs Fantasy vs Reality. What?!

Failure or mindset?  Looking back, this is the question I ask myself.  Why was I unable to garner interest in people to 'try' science fiction based role playing?  I think the answer lies in identity.  For some odd reason players I have gamed with have a difficult time connecting with a science fiction driven universe and all its modern trappings. Whereas its opposite number, fantasy, no problem.  Could it be an historical thing?  Or the fact that, as children, we are more often told and read stories firmly rooted within the 'traditional' fantasy setting of witches and fair young maidens, or of dragons and brave knights?  As opposed to battle-suited, laser-blasting troopers versus homicidal space amoeba within the depths of deepest, darkest space?

If so, I think the page has turned.  Fantasy is now, I feel, regarded as the 'soft' option for gaming.  Today's gaming youth are all about blasting the living crapola out of other players by every method possible, and I'm not trying to be mean or derogatory towards the gamers of tomorrow, but given the exposure facing them, be it pop culture, news reports, Hollywood's latest flopbuster or game releases, the big bang is King.  Long live the gun.

Stop and look at the console/computer games market.  Look at its content.  What is the most dominating theme encountered?  War. Conflict. Killing. Even games involving driving now incorporate an aspect of violence, and the sad part about this is the fact we, as gamers, are slowly becoming desensitised and oblivious to it.  And I say this from a personal viewpoint.  I look at my pc games collection and 90% are shooters of one form or another.

What does that say about me as a gamer?  Am I secretly psychotic?  I don't think so.  Am I living out a desire to be a saviour turning the tide against overwhelming odds through a gun?  Maybe.  Or should I put it down to 'just-being-a-guy-kind-of-thing'?  I can't say.  I do know one thing, it's nothing to do with age.

Okay.  I know what you're thinking: 'He's just contradicted himself.'  And I suppose in a way I have.  But my reasoning behind it is this - I have, due to my age, experienced games across a wide plethora of subject matter, and from this I have formed choices based on the progressive development of the gaming arena.

I've gone through the Tertris, Crazy Marble, Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Centipede era, and thoroughly enjoyed them.  Then came Asteroids, Tail Gunner, and Battle Zone.  Things were now starting to get interesting, especially with the release of Tron in 1982:

And I can't mention that without showing the updated film trailer for a comparison:

But back to my point - the advent of the console and pc game boom has drawn the attention away from traditional pencil & paper games.  I know, like myself, there are many p'n'p gamers out there who also love their console/pc games, but generally I feel p'n'p rpg is on the decline in terms of maintaining the influx of new blood to the mix of existing player numbers.  You only have to look at the age demographic on rpg forums and blogs to see this.  Possibly I'm wrong?  I hope so.  And bear in mind, these are my own ramblings and thoughts being thrown up for discussion, so do not be aggrieved by what I say, just take it away with you and use it as a basis for a topic of conversation with your rpg peers.  I would most certainly be interested in the feedback on these thoughts of mine.

Ultimately, for me, no amount of CPU power or GPU muscle will ever replace the gathering of friends round the gaming table and the combined input of the collective imaginations for a really good role playing session.  That, I feel, is the strength of role play games; each individual makes it their own - no limitations to how the character is created or developed, no linear paths 'forcing' you to follow this route or none at all, dialogue is fluid and can be adapted on the fly, and combat is unpredictable in the best possible way.  The game sessions can be whatever you want them to be; dark, intense, light, humorous, sinister, threatening or even romantic.
This, for me,  is the magic of traditional pencil and paper role playing compared to that of console and pc games.  You have the warm companionship of friends and true social interaction, whereas console and pc games leave you isolated or, if online in some multiplayer experience, left typing to virtual strangers and internet 'friends'.

Though I have done, and still do, enjoy online games with a circle of long standing friends met via some of the more popular MMOs out there, I would still prefer to run a p'n'p session for them any day.

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