2005-11-28 : Closeted

As one occasionally ought, I'm rereading a random some of The Infamous Five at the Forge. Particularly I'm rereading Gay culture / Gamer culture [Social Context].

Compared to three years ago when the thread was written, I'm much more public about my interest in games. My two bosses, a few of my coworkers, and some of the people at All Souls know that I design games, where three years ago they certainly did not.

However, here's a sample conversation.

Me: I design games.
Sample Person: Oh yeah? That's cool. Computer games?
Me: No, real games, like card games and board games.
Sample Person: Cool! I love playing games!
Me: Me too.

So I'm not, y'know, lying - the games I design are real games like card games and board games, and I do occasionally design a board game too. But I'm surely not saying the whole up-front truth.


Me If I Were Gay: I have a hot date tonight!
Sample Person: That's cool. Who's the lucky lady?
Me If I Were Gay: Oh, not someone you know. We're going to the Delaney House!

1. On 2005-11-28, Iskander said:

Well, as a big homo (TM), who's totally gay out at work, I've been coming out as a roleplayer for a while, too... and it's not so hard. One thing's for sure, though, the news about being gay gay travels way faster than the news about being roleplayer gay, so whereas with the gay gay thing, you pretty much only have to come out once for the whole 20,000 person company to know you're bent as a spring, with the roleplayer gay thing, it's everytime I have a casual "what did you get up to this weekend?" conversation and I decide not to gloss over Polaris being a highlight.

Another point of distinction, though: when you say "I'm gay" these days, most people know what you mean. When you say "I spent 24 hour writing a roleplaying game for fun", they immediately think you wrote a CRPG or a boardgame, or don't get it. Every conversation therefore gets a loaded frame of reference right of the bat:

Me: I wrote a roleplaying game this weekend.
Them: A computer game?
Me: No, y'know, like D&D, only...
They run away
Me: Wait! Let me explain about Dogs in the...

- Alexander


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Chris go "Not like D&D..."*
Isk go "What else, then?"*
NinJ go ""No, y'know, like putting on a leather maid's outfit.""*
Chris go "Well..."*
RE go "Ha ha!"*

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2. On 2005-11-28, xenopulse said:

My current roleplaying group was in existence when I joined, and my coworker is the main player in it. It still took us a while to bring it up and figure out that we could play together. It's a little strange; I don't think it's the geek factor as much as having to explain, like Iskander said, what this weird thing actually is.

Case in point, my friend and I were talking about our game in the lunch room and our new secretary overheard us. She was curious, and we tried to explain it to her, which wasn't very successful. Of course, he came from the "it's like a wargame" side (he's a hard core, old school Gamist), and I tried to explain it from the "collaborative storytelling" side. The only reason she sort of figured out what we were talking about is that she had played "Choose Your Own Adventure" books in her youth, and that served as a "Yes, like that, only with us making up the adventure together" spring board.

So some people here at work know, but aside from the one who's playing too, they can't quite grasp what it is. I don't hide it, but I'm just not successful in relaying the activity to others.


3. On 2005-11-28, Vincent said:

Alexander: Another point of distinction, though: when you say "I'm gay" these days, most people know what you mean. When you say "I spent 24 hour writing a roleplaying game for fun", they immediately think you wrote a CRPG or a boardgame, or don't get it. Every conversation therefore gets a loaded frame of reference right of the bat...


It's not anybody's hostility I fear - it's their indifference and/or bafflement.

Me: I had the best weekend!
Sample Person: Cool. What did you do?
Me: I pushed pigs up a ladder!
Sample Person: ...?


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4. On 2005-11-28, Vincent said:

Oh hey, this just occured to me: I bet that very few of you know how much I enjoy working with paper as an artistic medium. I make paper things.

But when I show up at the make-paper-snowflakes table at the kids' holiday shindig at All Souls:

Sample Person: How come yours are like a hundred times better than mine?
Me: Well, um, y'know, I take my paper craft very seriously.
Sample Person: You what?
Me: Yeah, I mean I've like read books about making paper snowflakes.
Sample Person: ...?
Me: [ashamed, embarrassed]

Similar problem.


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VB of Kirigami-A-Day Calendar
VB of Search for "kirigami" at Amazon

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Isk go "I bet you like..."*
JEL go "Paper is good!"
JAK go "Snowflake Books? Please tell!"*
RE go "Gasp!"*

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5. On 2005-11-28, Chris said:

This is one of the reasons I think our style of gaming needs its own name.  Granted, it'd take a bit of education and time to really gain meaning, but it'd certainly work better than, "Well, it's sorta like D&D, except X, except Y, except Z, oh, yeah, and this too."

Mostly because then when that person goes and tells someone else what you do- they have a name and a context which make it easier to explain, than to try to explain 2nd hand what is a nebulous communication.


6. On 2005-11-28, Matt Wilson said:

Now that I avoid games like D&D, I have a total cop-out.

Me: I'm into roleplaying games.
Sample Person: What, like D&D?
Me: Fuck no. Not fucking D&D. Cool stuff.
Sample Person: Oh, well I guess I won't kick you after all.

Well, not exactly like that, but kind of.


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7. On 2005-11-28, Iskander said:

A further thought directly taken from Ron on that thread:
Everyone, one of my key points on this thread is to state that gay people were able to gain some recognition, and most importantly legal protection from bashing, when they were able to enlist support from straight people who had voices in the power structure

I have a good friend at work who is more of a boardgamer, but totally validates my RPG-ing, mostly because she used to live in Seattle and know game designers there. She's the project's lead designer (of a big old corporate money web site), and has much cool cachet, which she generously spreads to me... because I'm a homo who can talk handbags with her in a way that nobody else on the floor can. So being out as gay is a double-plus-good help to coming out as a gamer. Whodathunkit?

- Alexander


8. On 2005-11-28, Jay Loomis said:

Though I work among computer geeks, I still find it hard to talk about gaming. Other weird things that I do have connections to things people relate to.

I can talk to my boss about black powder because he likes guns and can relate even if he doesn't get it.

I can talk to most of my coworkers about blacksmithing because it is artisinal craft, which they can relate to.

Nobody who isn't a roleplayer can relate to it. Even those who are can often be a bummer:

Me: I played a roleplaying game this weekend.
Sample Geek: Oh yeah? Dewd, I've got this 18th level elven ranger with a +4 sword of wankity wank. And he's sooo cool because...


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9. On 2005-11-28, Andy K said:

Yeah, my interactions are like Matt W's pretty much.

However, just to test the waters every now and then I drop a big RPG-bomb and watch what kind of fish I hook.

Ex: We have this internal engineer chat-room thing for actual questions and daily fun BS at work.  Anyway, every once in a blue moon I drop a reference to D&D or something to see what kind of replies I get. Like:

Andy: Hey, I'm having problems going through this CIFS packet trace, can someone tell me what's wrong here?
Person X: Hey, you seem to be looking at the wrong folder. The packet trace you want is in this other folder over there.
Andy: Aw fuck, I totally fumbled my perception roll there.*
Person Z: LOL
(Andy: "Aha!  Person Z might be an RP-er.  Must investigate further").  At my last job I found that like 6 people in my 30-person department were active RPers. In my current job I already found about 3-4 people that way, but I stopped doing it because I'm already inundated with gaming, thanks to the efforts of Clinton, Jason M and Erik in Chapel Hill...

-Andy K


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10. On 2005-11-28, John Harper said:

I think Ron is really onto something with Story Now.

"What did you do this weekend?"
"Oh man... I played this great Story Now game with some friends of mine. It was so fun."
"Story Now? What's that?"
"It's like a boardgame where you roll dice and stuff, but instead of moving pieces around, you tell a really cool story together. We made this awesome little story about revenge and duty and stuff. Like Reservoir Dogs, kinda."
"Hunh. I've never done anything like that."
"You should try it with us sometime. You'd be good at it."



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11. On 2005-11-28, Sven said:

Well it's hard to be that secret if you at the same time want to keep a roleplaying presence at this net-thing.

So, here I move from Sweden to Turkey to escape my past (ok, so that wasn't the real reason, but anyway). After two weeks at my new job the PhD student that sits next to me say "Sven, I found your homepage." and show my rpg-page with old baldy me (more hair now).

"Well, hrm. Oh, *That* one. That's *one* of my homepages. It's nothing." It's easy to be open about it over the net. But looking someone i the eye and say, "I roleplay."... Well, I'm getting better at it.

/Sven Polyfem transformed (now living!)


12. On 2005-11-28, Vaxalon said:

Most of the time I'm pretty "dont ask, don't tell" about RPG's in general, but I've pointed a lot of people to my book on RPGnow.  Most people understand it when they see it, to the extent that they need to.


13. On 2005-11-28, Roger said:

It's not anybody's hostility I fear - it's their indifference and/or bafflement.

From where does this fear stem?  Is it simply a matter of social acceptance, or is it something else?


14. On 2005-11-28, Matthijs Holter said:

I'm way open about it. Recently, I got a job (wahey!) - and to the interview, I brought my CV and the two RPG books I've written. So when they asked "So... what did you do for the last two years?", I said "well, temp teaching and oh, I wrote these two books", and put them on the table. It's amazing - really _amazing_ how much cred you get for having books published (at least in Norway); people who usually think I should be doing worthwhile stuff with my life now congratulate me and show real curiosity about RPGs.

In general, it seems people usually have a confused idea about RPGs being either LARPs or D&D treasure hunts. It's a bit too much effort to explain how what I do is different from that, and to most people - it really isn't.

And this is a point: We should be humble about what we do, I think, because to most eyes, there's not that much difference between playing RIFTS and Sorcerer.

I present what I do as a hobby that I see as very valuable, but I don't expect people to get it. That is, of course, mostly their problem, not mine, but it's a pity nonetheless.


15. On 2005-11-28, John Kim said:

Just to add to the successful "out" stories—I'm highly out at this point as a roleplayer.  I recently talked with the VP of my department over dinner and found out that he used to play Twilight 2000 (though doesn't anymore).

I find it much more comfortable than trying to keep silent about it.


16. On 2005-11-29, Nathan P. said:

I mostly get a "huh, cool" response from non-gamers, then the conversation moves on. Real example from the weekend!

Friends Parents Friend: So, I'm curious, do any of you [younger college-going folk] have a blog?
Me: Yeh, but it's not like a "my-life" blog. It's very focused on a specific thing.
Her: Oh, what do you write about?
Me: Well, one of my big hobbies is talking about and writing games. Not, like, computer games - pen & paper games. So it's pretty much a game design theory blog/development journal.
Friends Parents Friends Daughter, who evidently doesn't have good listening skills: Do you need, like, electronic equipment to play?
Me: No, it's just pen, paper and people around a table*.
Inattentive Girl: Oh, that's cool.

Conversation moves on.

Later the husband asked whether I did "hex-based" games, and we got into a conversation about Avalon Hill, which was pretty cool.

I've actually had a lot of conversations where I say "do you know anything about D&D", and the other person says "no" and I say "ok, good" and then go about the explanation. It's kind of an indicator as to whether they have a kind of framework for me to use for my explanation or not, but recently I've been running into less and less people who do know anything about D&D. I don't know whether that means anything.

*Incidentally, I think I'm going to start using "Pen, Paper & People" as a tagline of some kind.


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RE go "Great tagline"*
NDP go "Spread it like the wind!"*
BL go "PenCIL"*
SDL go "Ditto on the Tag!"
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17. On 2005-11-29, Ben Lehman said:

I'm still way too embarrassed about being a game designer, or a gamer, especially given the number of positive reactions I've had.



18. On 2005-11-29, eef said:

We need codewords.

For instance, when a guy says "My partner and I saw a movie last weekend ..." it's a pretty good bet that partner is another guy.



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MB go "Vomit :)"*
XP go "In German..."*
NinJ go "Meg, that's where we live, don't forget."*
JBB go "This is the default in Vancouver"

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19. On 2005-11-29, Keith said:

I usually say.  Do you know what a computer RPG is?  Okay like that without the computer and so much better.

I like watching my dad try to explain it to people...

Mr. S: My son Keith wrote and illustrated a book.
Random: A novel?
Mr. S: No a game book.
Random: Ummm.  Like one of those game guides my kids like for the Nintendo.
Mr. S: No.  Ummm.  It is kinda like a board game, but not.  Do you know what Dungeon & Dragons is?
Random: Umm.  No.
Mr. S: Well he makes extra money for vacations and stuff cause he does all the work himself.  Got that from me.


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MS go "So's yer old man"*
BL go "Middle-aged and older woman"*
MB go "Dude..."*
XP go "Women..."*

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20. On 2005-11-29, Tim Koppang said:

The more I work on designing games, and the older I get, the less I worry about "outing" my gaming self to the world. Nonetheless, I still feel the occasional twinge of fear. What helps me is my girlfriend. She's very supportive, and also totally oblivious to the fear so many roleplayers harbor. So she openly discusses the projects I'm working on. Sometimes I take it all in stride, and I'm happy to make an attempt at describing the hobby to non-gamers. Other times I want to slink away. Still other times, I find myself worrying that her explanation (or my own) of what roleplaying is doesn't quite convey the message; and then I fear being labeled as some whack-job D&D player. Either way, it helps to have someone else blaze a trail where you might otherwise be timid.


21. On 2005-11-29, Curly said:

A fellow player, named Steve, came up with a brilliant deadpan line:

"So I was playing Dungeons and Dragons yesterday...  with Liv Tyler."

Repeatedly now, I've borrowed Steve's line...

The first time, I was at a downtown party.  Telling a fashionable chick that I play D&D.  She looked so appalled; embarrassed for me.  I thought of Steve's joke and went for it.  The results were perfect.  I spun some bs about playing-with-Liv, until I couldn't keep a straight face anymore. When I admitted it wasn't true, the chick admitted that she was about to ask if she could join the game!

So there you have it.  All we gotta do is have Liv Tyler tell everybody she plays rpgs & all stigma will evaporate.  Or else, you'll have to be willing to lie.

"yeah, I was late to the game yesterday. And there was this new player. We weren't introduced. Everybody assumed I knew her.  They only called her by her Elf's name. She did look familiar.  I tried not to stare, but she was so sexy. Then she got a cell call & had to leave early. Somebody said "Goodnight, Liv", and it hit me:  Liv Tyler!?!  Turns out she went to college with ________. While on location in New Zealand, she joined the Expert Set campaign that Peter Jackson DM'ed for all his actors.  She got hooked..."

Months later, I really-did see Liv Tyler in a restaurant & tried to slip her a business card with "Do you want to play Dungeons and Dragons with us?" scrawled on the back.  No response yet.


The moral of this story is that the Lord Of The Rings made so much money, that Hobbits & Orcs are now taken seriously.  No need for the closet anymore, if that's what you're into.

But if your games are about raw emotional thematic collaboration/  that still sounds kinda pansy.  Better claim you're an evil half-orc wizard in your spare time, instead.


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22. On 2005-11-29, Peter Dyring-Olsen said:

I think there are several things involved here. First and foremost, I try to be very open and honest about all my geeky interests. Yes, goddammit - I used to play and enjoy the hell out of D&D - I don't anymore, but I treasure the memory. Most "non-gamer" people will not understand the subtle - yet important - differences between D&D and PTA, though. So what? I mean, I have the exact same exp. with playing original, slightly experimental music: I can choose either to be accurate (and then people lose interest) or I can say: "Well, it's sort of like Radiohead". At the end of the day it's all good: some people will then listen to the music and understand (or not).
You see, around here (Copenhagen, Denmark) there are so many people in cool jobs that are also roleplayers. Or musicians. Or both. Hell, my boss used to play Gurps and D&D, he is an avid fantasy fan and recently published his own fantastic children's book. A whole lot of popular culture is so close to a lot of the rpg exp - and it's just not that very uncool to be a roleplayer anymore. Actually "geek" is the new cool ;-)
As a matter of fact, I often have the experience that my "non-gamer" friends are interested and intrigued when I tell of my latest rpg experience - and, dare I say, slightly jealous.


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MW go "Danmark er fedt nok!"*
PDO go "You really should..."*

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23. On 2005-11-29, Jason M said:

Everybody at works knows that I am an avid player of FPS computer games, so I get a free pass whenever I answer "gaming" to the "what did you do this weekend?" question.  They just nod and move on.  That said, I've become *much* more open about my enthusiasm in the last year.  Like other folks in this thread, I find it extraordinarily difficult to explain what I'm up to with D&D as the primary touchstone.

Me:  I'm designing and publishing a roleplaying game.
Some Guy:  Like D&D?
Me:  Sure, but you play it to completion in one evening.
Some Guy:  Cool.
Me:  And it takes place on a college campus in 1919.
Some Guy:  Uh...
Me:  And there's this telepathic Sumerian roach that crawls into your sinus cavity.  It's hilarious.

This matter-of-fact approach consistently fails for some reason!  I need to work on that.


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AD go "Better con write-up than MACE's though"

24. On 2005-11-29, Clinton R. Nixon said:

My work is my printer, and I've got one of the top selling books there, so I'm pretty out in the workplace. It's still amazing how many people here don't know exactly what I do with my spare time, though.

I'm curious - is what we do so different from any cultural touchstone that it's difficult to explain, or are we just making it that way? I usually have no idea how to explain it, as it sounds schizophrenic:

"We sit around and tell a story together, except we each can veto each other's stuff, and then we have characters who may or may not get to do what we want them to do based not only on everyone else's say-so, but also these dice we roll, which I guess are like an invisible player who gets a say-so."

Seriously, what the hell?


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25. On 2005-11-29, Vincent said:

Seriously, what the hell?

Yeah, seriously what the hell.

Would we have better luck if we talked about it by the outcome of play, not the procedures of play?

Of course then we have this problem: Walt Freitag's What does role playing gaming accomplish?


26. On 2005-11-29, Brand Robins said:

I have never gamed with a celebrity.

However, people in my group did used to play D&D with Vin Diesel—mostly while he was dating one of the girls in the big LARP everyone used to play in.

As with the Liv story, it does a pretty good job of quashing the dork image. "Yea, so I used to play D&D with Vin Diesel, but now I only play with the chick that dumped him because he wasn't man enough for her."


27. On 2005-11-29, Troy_Costisick said:


Telling my girlfriends (now fiance) made my life a lot better.  I was much more able to be open and free with her.  She still doesn't get it entirely, but she does help me proofread and supports what I do.  It's a big step for her b/c she had a negative stereotype of those "DnD Game" thingies. I'm thankful for her input now and thankful I outted myself.




28. On 2005-11-29, James Nostack said:

1.  It was a huge, huge deal to come "out" to my girlfriend.  Like, I remember being all worried about it, and, telling myself, "Look, I like this girl, I like gaming, it's time to bring up the subject."  I even remember being kind of tense when mentioning it.  I don't know why.  She knows I'm a dork and doesn't mind, and I knew that, and for what it's worth I think gaming is something I ought to be proud of.  But there you go: I've been socialized into fearing other peoples' reactions.

2.  She totally didn't even bat an eyelash.  I'm like super nervous and tense, and she's like, "Really?  Okay, what do we want for dinner?"  It was funny.

3.  Do Europeans have this problem?  I get the impression that gamer culture is different outside the States.

4.  I totally think the whole "roleplaying game" phrase itself is a mess.  It's pretentious, it's a mouthful to say, it has lame connotations, and the substance of a game like D&D or GURPS is nothing like PTA or Universalis.

I'd propose describing most Forge-style games as "Story Games," or—if you don't like using made-up terms in casual conversation—say, "brainstorming a story with some friends."  And if they ask how that works, explain that there are some formal rules, depending on the story you're aiming for.  And if they ask if you intend to publish or anything, just say, "Nah, we just do it to do it.  It's like playing a game."


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29. On 2005-11-29, Vincent said:

"I guess it's like being in a band, but we make fiction instead of music."

Because, y'know, Ron really did think of everything already.


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RE go "Uh Huh"*

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30. On 2005-11-29, ScottM said:

I'm out at work; I get eye rolls when I mention gaming.  I'll often leave what I'm doing exactly unclear, but I've mentioned "roleplaying" in specific a couple of times to pretty much everyone.  No bites.

I just went to GenCon SoCal; they were all confused at why I'd want to go hang out and play games, but they all knew what I was up to.  That is different; enough Forge threads about not shrinking from self-identification as a gamer had an effect.


31. On 2005-11-29, Matthijs Holter said:

James, yeah, perhaps there's a difference between the U. S. and some European countries. Most people here don't really have a stereotype of RPG's - they probably think it's a bit weird, but if they've heard of it, it's usually because they know someone who games. I've told the teachers at some of the schools I've worked at, and one of the most common responses was "Oh, my son does that, too" :)


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32. On 2005-11-29, James Nostack said:

Vincent - I hope this isn't off-thread, but does the closeting thing apply to other areas of Geek Culture, and if so, does that have anything to tell us about gaming?

For example, I loved comic books as a kid.  I still have a nostalgic soft spot for superheroes, but mainly when I read comics these days they're "serious" things like Maus, Jimmy Corrigan, From Hell, Ghost World, etc.  And I'm kind of closeted about that too, if only because I don't want to go through the rigamarole of breaking down their misconceptions.  If I say I like comics, then I have to qualify it, and that makes me self-conscious, and I'd rather not bother with it.

Sometime in the 70's or 80's, people who were all into "serious" comics tried calling them graphic novels, to distinguish them... but I'm not sure it worked.  So, maybe my earlier idea of calling Forgey stuff "Story Games" wouldn't catch on either.

(sorry if it's somewhat off topic.)


33. On 2005-11-29, Matthijs Holter said:

It just takes a paradigm shift. When all the old people who don't understand it are dead, and all the young people who used to love RPGs are old and in power, RPGs will be an accepted art form.


34. On 2005-11-29, Meguey said:

I think it (gamer shame) ties in to two things:

Work ethic:
If we had as our shared hobby model trains or fly fishing or paint-by-numbers, we'd have something tangible to show at the end of the weekend. If we had hiking or snowboarding, we'd have clear health benefits. If we had going to concerts or movies or book signings, we'd have recognized self improvement/social enrichment. The fact that we can basically sit around and just talk all weekend, with nothing concrete to show, no acknowledged health benefit, no proven enrichment, means we hit up against the serious 'make your time pay' work ethic in the US. What? You *wasted* all that time?? How silly of you, how deranged, and how it secretly fills me with envy!

Loss of storytelling:
Once you scrap the web and TV (video/dvd/film), you hit radio shows that whole families listened to each week. Go back a bit farther, pre-radio, and sitting around telling tales was what everyone did in their free time. I think there are ways in which our whole desire to roleplay is filling a need for the sort of rich imagined life that also comes from living in a culture with active and frequent storytelling. If every night after dinner, we told tales in our homes, we'd not think it strange at all that the kids would play them out, and we'd welcome the kids as taletellers in their turn as they grew up. Would it look different that what we do? Sure. Would it overlap much more than 'what we do'overlaps with broader western culture, esp. US culture? I sure think so!


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35. On 2005-11-29, Blankshield said:

I'm fairly "out" at work.  A bunch of factors in that, but the two big ones are:

1)I book off Gencon every year about 10 months in advance.  People see this, and ask, and I tell them I'm going to a gaming convention.  "Role-playing games, board games, card games, improv theater-like stuff.  50,000 people.  It's huge.  I'm going down to run [and sell] some of the games I've written."  The "and sell" is new this year - previous years it's just been Brick Battles, which is free online.  This approach totally gets me past the awkward "it's kinda like D&D thing."  People seem much more willing to give something credibility when it has big conventions and finished product.

2)I've been working for the same company for 6 years now, and with a lot of the same people for about a decade.  Hobbies get outted over that much time exposure; it just happens.  The (local) newspaper article with my picture in a big pile of Lego was stuck on the bulletin board for months.

But I also don't typically get into describing what they are, because 99% of the time, they aren't really interested beyond knowing "James writes games" as a neat tidbit.  If they do seem interested, or don't need me to explain "role-playing" or say "GenCon!  Damn, I'm jealous." then I'll get more involved.  But otherwise, i'll leave it at "I design games" the same way that I appreciate it when other people leave it at "I watch sports." instead of getting into the boring details about balls and pucks and seasons and stuff.



36. On 2005-11-29, Chris said:

I wonder if part of the general reluctance aside from shame, might also be a backlash against "that guy" who always spends 3 hours talking about their character...  Not wanting to be that person, people might be reluctant to go into any detail about their hobby.


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37. On 2005-11-29, Charles Wotton said:

Most people I work with, at least those about my age (36) and younger, have at least heard of D&D, but they seem to associate it with that thing people they knew did when they were kids.  It, and by extension all rpgs, is considered childish.


38. On 2005-11-29, Charles Wotton said:

For some people, I think, it might be useful to have a big category that includes such things as sometimes shopping in local stores instead of big chains, walking / riding a bike instead of driving everywhere, sometimes playing rpgs instead of watching TV.  RPGs as part of a conscious attempt to live less impersonally, more convivially.


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39. On 2005-11-29, Vincent said:

Charles W.: RPGs as part of a conscious attempt to live less impersonally, more convivially.



40. On 2005-11-29, Roger said:

Maybe it's just me, but I think we're missing something important here.  I tried to bring it up earlier, but failed, so maybe it is just me.

Vincent Baker.  This is the guy who wrote a game about eviscerating cute little puppy dogs in order to gain occult powers from Satan himself.  The guy who wrote a game about gun-toting Mormon thugs who roll into towns and stomp out heresies like homosexuality and empowered women.  (I know I'm making wild and inaccurate generalizations here—bear with me.)

Why does he care what other people think of his hobby?

(Vincent, sorry to talk about you like you're not even in the room.  Dramatic effect, and all.  I'd like to hear your answer too.)


41. On 2005-11-29, Curly said:

I don't buy that generalization, Charles.

I see the same people celebrating music, fashion, slang, fads—from their childhood era.

That's the very reason my group started playing this year: as an ironic retro activity.  A hip thing to do.

It's the non-retro gamer; into more-recent games; who is viewed with more suspion and confusion.  Who is harder to catagorize, and therefore more threatening.

And who doesn't have the social sense to laugh-off what he's doing as related to harmless childhood fun.  But rather tries to claim it's heavy adult stuff.  Heavy Adult Stuff of all sorts is a smalltalk taboo.


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42. On 2005-11-29, Vincent said:

Roger: Why does he [Vincent Baker, alleged game design badass] care what other people think of his hobby?

(Vincent, sorry to talk about you like you're not even in the room. Dramatic effect, and all. I'd like to hear your answer too.)

I want to hear everyone ELSE's answer.

Why do I care what other people think of my hobby? I do care. Why?


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MW go "wait, I'm confused..."*
VB go "I want to hear why you think I care."

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43. On 2005-11-29, Brand Robins said:


I have been playing RPGs for 26 years, since I was 5 years old. I played with my brothers growing up, I even played with my parents. Almost all my friends have been gamers—either when I met them or after I 'converted' them. (I once had a bishop tell me he wished I'd convert people to the church as fast as I converted them to gaming.) I also write for RPGs, and am currently helping my wife design one.

The result is that I've spent a lot of my life and a lot of my self in gaming. I don't think I've pushed as far or done one half as much as someone like Ron, for example, but gaming has been a big thing in my life. It is also something that has occasionally cost me in my life, that I have had to give up other things in order to keep at.

So why do I care what people think of my hobby?

Because I'm a human being. A needy, clingy human being at that. I spend so much time doing this, loving this, that if others spit on it then, no matter how wrong it might be, I feel as though they are spitting on me. When they look blankly it tells me very clearly that the sky in my world is not the same color as the one in theirs.

I want people to like me, or at least to respect me. I want to feel connected with other people, and like I and they are close enough to understand each other. When those things seem to be taken away, I care.

It is, ironically, similar to (though generally less than) the feeling I have about the church after growing up Mormon in South Texas.


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44. On 2005-11-29, Matthijs Holter said:

I care because I've spent so much time and effort on this thing that has meant so much to me and others around me, and I want people to recognize that it's meaningful, and respect that. If they do, it means I'm not just jerking off.

Acceptance is a big thing. Why do we have Nobel prizes? They say: "What you've done is important to us all".


45. On 2005-11-29, John Laviolette said:

here's something I haven't seen anybody say yet.

I, like many introverts, keep a pretty firm barrier between people I like being with (friends) and people I'm forced to be with (co-workers.) sometimes, a co-worker may turn into a friend, but in most cases, when I go to work, I just want to get my job done and get home. I don't want to talk to co-workers about RPGs. I don't want to talk to them about their goddamned ski trip, either. I'm just not that interested in them as people, unless I recognize some kind of commonality of interest.

it sounds harsh, and really I'm nicer than that, but there's a lot of things I don't talk about with co-workers or anyone else I don't feel connected to, like random people on the same bus/plane I'm on, or strangers on the street corner. it's not fear of being judged, it's ME judging THEM.


46. On 2005-11-29, Sven said:

Brand Robins:

"I once had a bishop tell me he wished I'd convert people to the church as fast as I converted them to gaming.)"

One parish of the Swedish church is actually also quite famous as creators of rpg:s. They arrange roleplaying 'confirmations'-camps. (I don't think it's called that in English, but it's the thing that protestants (in my part of the world) tend to when they are around fifteen to 'confirm' their faith. Or somethin. I did it, and I had np faith to prove. My bad.)

The games are supposed to be good though and one is even translated to English I think. (Some of you might have read aboout this at Jonas Bark??s blog).

/Sven ( Polyfem Transformed


47. On 2005-11-30, Charles Wotton said:


Yeah, I grant you I probably wouldn't get into deep gaming philosophy in the staff room.  However, I made my post based on a snippet of recently overheard conversation:

the subject of D&D came up, was affirmed as something people had observed other kids doing years ago, then someone mentioned with something like scorn (I thought, though I may just have been feeling insecure) that not all the people she'd noticed playing it were children.

I'm not sure if I can generalize from this one case, but I do get the sense sometimes that 'geek-pursuits' are sometimes looked down upon as kind of immature.  Genre fiction, for example, especially sci-fi / fantasy is rarely considered 'real literature.'

Of course we make exceptions for movies that make fortunes at the box office—supporting Meguey's point about 'Work ethic' in post 34.

I seem to recall Ursula K LeGuin talking about something like this in her essay "Why are Americans Afraid of Dragons", but, tragically, I can't put my hands on it.


48. On 2005-11-30, xenopulse said:

I guess I forgot to mention that I met Lisa through "freeform" roleplaying online—traveled 5,000 miles to propose to her—and have been in an amazingly happy and fulfilled marriage ever since. So you could say we're out to each other :)


49. On 2005-11-30, Curly said:

Gay nightclubs in Manhattan often maintain a certain Exclusivity.
This is self-marginalization as a way of keeping out the straight 'mundane' hordes.

The closet becomes a VIP room.

Who-here doesn't tell their dayjob colleagues what they do in their free time—because the colleagues aren't worthy of knowing?

'Acceptance' is precious to those who wish they had it.
But, having attained acceptance, Privacy may be more prized.


50. On 2005-11-30, ffilz said:

Interesting discussion. I am slowly getting less uncomfortable with telling people about my geeky hobbies (though I've never been ashamed of telling people I read fantasy and science fiction, and definitely not about model railroading). For me, part of my reticence is that as a kid I was the one who was always teased about things (and even into adulthood my parents teased me some about various things). I also grew up in New England, where askign people about personal things is a lot less common than other places (not like in North Carolina where grocery store clerks ask you what church you go to without any particular provocation). Working in a conservative, though open minded company (IBM) is also a factor. I'm very slow to share my personal life at work.

On the other hand, I've never been self conscious about having guests see my RPG stuff on the bookshelfs (and it's hard to miss...). I got a little self conscious when I started having LEGO around the house, but I have to admit, other than my mother, I have not had a negative reaction to seeing my LEGO room... (and no few compliments about how neatly it is organized), well ok, one of my friends keeps suggesting I get rid of it (he's probably jealous though...).

I'm sure I'm missing lots of opportunities to meet other gamers and get free LEGO though...

Though there's a perfect opportunity to be more open about the LEGO... A few of our break areas have LEGO tables (inheritted from the Informix offices)... I've yet to even sit down at one (and have yet to see anyone at one).



51. On 2005-11-30, Dave said:

Maybe only Vincent will get this example - hopefully not. For me, being openly gamer is sort of like being openly Mormon. I mean, like every week at church, they're encouraging you to "share the gospel with a friend or a neighbor" but dude, it just isn't that easy or cool. Those conversations go:

...conversation lead-up
Me: I'm Mormon
Them: You mean those guys on the bikes? The ones with the multiple wives?
Me: Look man, its not like that...

Which is totally the same conversation as
Me: I'm a roleplaying gamer
Them: You mean like some kind of D&D cult?
Me: Look man, its not like that...

Both cases being examples of the awkwardness/bafflement I think Vincent is talking about. So, without really making this about RPG-evangelism, I thought maybe I'd borrow a page from all those "spreading the gospel" pep-talks I've been in. Some ways to be open about your status as a gamer:

-"Build on Common Beliefs" take some time to talk about their hobbies, why those things are interesting to them. When something comes up that reminds you of something you like about your game, identify it and share a little of what your experience is.

-You can be quietly open about it by, for example, having a printed out copy of RPG Design Patterns on your desk which you openly read during lunch. Eventually, someone will ask you about it



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52. On 2005-11-30, Roger said:

I have, once again, apparently failed to be sufficiently clear.

All I meant to ask was a fairly straightforward question:

Why does he [Vincent Baker, alleged game design badass] care what other people think of his hobby?

I intended that question to have this emphasis:

Why does Vincent Baker, alleged game design badass, care what other people think of his hobby?

So far I've seen very few people try to answer that question, and instead offer up:

Let me tell you about my reasons for caring what other people think of this hobby...

Don't get me wrong—that's a perfectly interesting line of discussion too.  But they're not really the same thing.

I shall therefore attempt to lead by example.

It's hard.  Surprisingly hard.  I've read, what, probably somewhere on a hundred thousand words written by Vincent.  So it's a bit shocking to realize that I don't really know anything about him.  Nothing important, at least.

Sure, there are a few clues.  In this post (well, the first comment) he states:

Somehow it survived in me that what matters most is family and friends, and what matters next most is guests and hosts.

Which certainly confirms that he cares about the opinions of others, but doesn't, in itself, offer much in the reasons why.  It just becomes circular—look, he cares what other people think because other people matter to him!  Well, yeah.

Possibly more revealing is his post on courage, in which he discloses:

My confidence in my skills, I find, doesn't survive contact with an actual problem. Sometimes, reminding myself that I'm pretty good at what I do helps me face doing it.

So we have a self-professed insecurity with respect to his mad ninja elite game-designing skills.  Which is not rare by any stretch.

Is that the whole story?  I think there may be more, but I need to get a bit more speculative.  It is good, no doubt about it, for everyone in the world to think you're the best darn game-designer, or afghan-knitter, or Mesopotamian basket-weaver, ever to have walked among us.

That doesn't really help answer the deeper question—the one which E.B. White alludes to in that perennial classic, The Elements of Style:  "If you write, you must believe in the truth and worth of the scrawl."

That, I believe, is the burning question.  I respectfully hazard a guess that Vincent's answer is "The measure of the truth and worth of the scrawl, my scrawl, is what other people think of it, and thus of me.  Not merely my family, my friends, or my peers, but all other people."

Why he might believe that is a question too deep for me to consider, nor do I have any right to judge the fitness of his answer.  It is a question I suspect we all must face, and I've no real advice on how to do so.  Perhaps no one does.


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53. On 2005-11-30, Dave said:

Sample Person: How come yours are like a hundred times better than mine?
Me: Well, um, y'know, I take my paper craft very seriously.
Sample Person: You what?
Me: Yeah, I mean I've like read books about making paper snowflakes.
Sample Person: ...?
Me: [ashamed, embarrassed]

Roger, it seems like any legitimate answer to the question you are posing must cover not only Vincent's game writing, but also his papercraft. What I mean is, it doesn't seem to be just about what other people think about the scrawl itself; there's also the dimension of what they think about _the fact that_ he's scrawling about RPGs at all. Maybe that's what you meant and I misread you. But either way, I think Vincent doesnt like being in awkward social situations for the same reason most people don't - it just isnt fun. I'm not sure how much deeper your question really goes beyond that.


54. On 2005-11-30, Joshua BishopRoby said:

My writing credits in RPGs helped get me my current job.  At my last job, I used printed copies to show my (non-publishing) boss what a "margin feature" was.  I find presenting it as straight-faced and serious as you can works wonders; show that you don't think it is strange and they'll generally pick up on that.

On the other hand, I mock the Fantasy Football guys at work.


55. On 2005-11-30, Vincent said:

Roger, thank you. It's a pretty good answer, better than I could've done. Can I give you a couple more pieces to fill in?

Piece one: Family and friends, then guests and hosts, amounts to maybe 100, 150 people in my life. That's counting all you all as guests.

Piece two, from this post about kill puppies for satan:

Killing puppies = being a geek.  It gives you power in your own marginal circle, but alienates you from actual society.  I think that many of us have to balance that in our lives, I know I do all the time.  Most games offer wish fulfillment—in fantasy I'm powerful! I'm rich! I'm sexy! I'm immortal! they fear me now!—which is appealing, but not that good for me, right?  Puppies is more like American Movie, genuinely sympathetic to me and my problematic geeky life.


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56. On 2005-11-30, Vincent said:

And here's some photos of problematically geeky:

In my defense, my sister commissioned the latter from me for Halloween, and by the time I finished it I was sick to death of the thing.


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jrs of Paper Forest

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57. On 2005-11-30, Curly said:


You're a bully.

Rubbing their noses in "look what I can do, and you can't".

Shame on you, for making your co-workers feel bad about themselves.

They're all terrified that you'll steal their women, with your seductive paper baubles.

Not to mention flaunting your economic prowess.  That big dragon would go for, like, 200 bucks on eBay.  Turning paper into money.  That's like—counterfeiting.

And then you have the nerve to not-even bother to sell the damn things. I bet you just give 'em away.  The rest of us are at the mercy of money. But you just can't be bothered to feel the same pain we do.  Jerk.

I'm gonna denounce you as a satanist geek.




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58. On 2005-12-01, Curly said:

Abracadabra: You're gay!

There's nothing inherent about that status
which absolutely dictates
whether you'll feel ashamed/uncomfortable/shy about it.
Some people do.  Some don't.

There are factors which -tend- to make you feel
one way or the other.
Such as a climate of intolerance in the society you inhabit.
But some people won't feel shame,
even with the climate in effect.
And some people will feel shame,
even-when the climate is tolerant.
Thats just how different people -are-, and it's impossible to definitively pinpoint why they're that way.

Abracadabra: You're ashamed!

Likewise, I can see factors which would tend to make individuals feel reticent to admit they play rpgs.
And factors which tend against reticence.

But I'd caution against mistaking such factors for
absolute 'reasons' which dictate 'why'
any individual does or doesn't feel reticence.

I suspect the real, unknowable Reason Why or Why-Not lies within each individual.  Not in external factors.

It's intra-personal.  Whereas the "Seriously Social Issue" thread is about inter-personal discomfort.

The common advice for interpersonal rpg misery is Don't Play With Those Particular People If You Don't Feel Good About It.  The intrapersonal corollary would be Don't Do Anything You're Ashamed Of.  Right?  Quit playing rpgs.

Either the play or the shame has got to go.

I don't know whether I've said something inanely obvious/ or something useful. Truisms are often also banalities.


59. On 2005-12-01, Vincent said:

Actually Curly you have said something interesting.

Give me a bit and maybe I'll front page it.

Meanwhile, I've come to my own concise answer to Roger's question:

Social awkwardness validates my self-loathing.


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60. On 2005-12-02, Curly said:

If this self-examination leads to understanding [theory], which in-turn is applicable to design; the result will be games which are relevant to the human condition.  In other words, Art.


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BL go "That's the plan"
RE go "'Plan' my patootie"*
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BL go "Did anyone say it wasn't?"

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