Insight Bonus; Why Role-Playing?
by Edward Le Prieur
Why not just play computer games? the most frequent response I get whenever I bring up the idea of tabletop gaming. A lot of people don’t see the benefits and opportunity that come with engaging in this kind of game. Well I believe that game is too short a word to describe the experience that can be gathered from a successful role-playing experience. Another thing I often hear is that people are often “no-good” at imagining things; it seems like our minds are lazy these days and we want all the adventures to be written, beginning, middle, end. Already set out without any of the need for thinking about the deliberations of characters and such like because miraculously someone has already decided them for you! How easy is that!
Well unfortunately for most people the idea of “imagination” has been all but destroyed as it’s something that is to be considered childish, and we should not think of childish things once we are grown adults! So, you’re going to need to put your brain on the treadmill for a bit and work it out. It’s easier for some than others but it’s painless I assure you, and you will feel much more confident about imagining things afterwards. Despite what the outside world thinks about imagining things, in reality it’s something we do every single day. You think about future interactions with other people, taking the bus, going to run an errand. Without imagination how would we be able to analyze our future decisions and the multiple resolutions that come from each? This is one of the core aspects of tabletop role-playing.
This combined with the innumerable possibilities is the thing that makes this kind of game most appealing. There are rules of course; every game has some boundaries. No productive aim in art, music, or theatre can be without some sort of basal framework. The framework is the creation of the person who writes the world, the inhabitants and the legends of that world. The idea is to fill that frame within the extremes of the environment and the conditions of that world, and hope to make it immersive and entertaining. It’s the GM (Game Master’s) responsibility to make the environments challenging, decorate the worlds through speech and create problems for the players to solve.
Beyond this there is nothing standing in the way of your mind. It might be arduous to comprehend for many of the people who have grown up with computer games with very meticulous rule systems; such that your actions are very restricted. Once you get around the idea that your options are so vast it’s difficult to often comprehend all the causation of each and every possibility. They are as the roots of a tree, and each and every bit as numerable.
There might be a computer game that is as enveloping in atmosphere and the myriad of actions that are possible in tabletop role-playing ten years in the future; or even more distant… In my time of role-playing my characters have started villages, burned villages to the ground, constructed temples, and razed the temples of our enemies, we’ve started virtuous and criminal endeavors, had celebrations and battles among monsters and men. All the adventures are real, because they are real to your mind. Your brain will attempt to resolve the problems you have to solve in the same way as the problems you encounter in reality.
In this aspect you’re training your mind to become better at resolving conflicts, or taking up the challenges that you have to face. Only the challenges you get to face in these worlds are much more entertaining than the ones we do on a day-to-day basis. They are none the less learning opportunities, problem solving, creativity, math, logic, and interpersonal skills. You’re not just leveling a character on the sheet, you’re also improving your own mind. ; )