Michael Abbott of the Brainy Gamer has a nice reminder of why we play RPGs (well, those of us who play RPGs), based on some of his undergraduates' writings on their experiences in Fallout 1 and 2. Michael notes that the exercise — writing autobiographies of their characters — is often used in theatre, but it never occurred to him that it would be useful for his students in his RPG seminar, until "we began discussing the characters they had created .... The sense of ownership they clearly felt, and their remarkably vivid descriptions of their experiences in the games, made the assignment a no-brainer." Which goes to one of the reasons why people make the investment in RPGs:
What we're really talking about is pretending. Make-believe. "Role-playing" may bless the activity with a marginally more acceptable moniker, but when we play RPGs we summon our most primitive urges - the ones we've had since we were children - and we tap into something about the human psyche that inclines toward empathy.
We love pretending because we possess an innate desire to understand (to know and to feel) what it would be like to be *this* man or *that* woman. To mold a character through our own choices and to walk in his shoes, with as many in-world consequences and as few real-world consequences as possible, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
We know all this, and we've known it for a long time...but sometimes it pays to stop and take a another look. Sometimes we're jolted into knowing something in a better way than we knew it before.
It's an interesting look at (a) an interesting pedagogical tool (I am so hoping I can teach seminars on RPGs one day) and (b) a reminder of why (some of us) love RPGs.
The glory of the amorphous hero [Brainy Gamer]