I’ve come to understand, through a deep intellectual insomnia, why tabletop gaming can be a force for good in society. The elements of person-to-person interaction and the social contract of a game setting reflect principles onto the lives we live off of the game board.
There are some issues I have with people on the internet, said everyone ever. But seriously, I have a major concern. It’s terrifyingly easy to ignore or lose track of your sense of common humanity.
We have used internet culture to divide and conquer the seemingly infinite amount of persons and personas we come across as we scroll through our daily news. The purpose of these feeds are to compartmentalize information that you may want, and to feed it to you in the most digestible fashion that your user data provides.
Memes. Short videos. A few articles. More memes. Like, love, favorite, emoji, LOL, move on. The concept is intelligent and is designed to save you time, so its success in that is appreciated. My issue is that real human people, just like you, are often boiled down to a blip on your news radar.
In most cases, person-to-person (PTP) interactions are replaced or limited by internet interactions. And on the web, we usually spend our time invested in what is easily digestible.
Quick likes and short comments to share that we appreciate the same things. Discourse on the other hand, is a beast of burden.
They feature long paragraphs of conceptual disagreement, lightly valid experiences, and more than often just nothingness. Maybe you give in a bit and reply, but internet conversations are messy by nature. It’s difficult to read tone and to perceive the depth of their perspective when it’s not right there, in front of you. But that’s how we communicate most of the time. Bearing the weight of the medium.
My biggest gripe is that people who disagree don’t have to deal with each other. Ever, if they’re so inclined. Censorship can be a good thing, and can be a great tool for those who need to control their atmosphere and keep their peace of mind. I’m all for it. But using it as a way to distance yourself from reality is self-harm. Many choose to run from the truths of others, even though facing that challenge is the best way for us to greater understand one another.
Rather than connecting over what we share, we fight over what is different. That which we care about becomes ammo for otherness, seen in the usage of “hive mind” terminology. Instead of a singular person, you become a banner-bearing representative of “the opposition”. All of your complex experiences and ideas, traded in like GameStop credit. Worth far less than your true value.
We should be able to accurately assess social issues with clear minds, allowing us to communicate. Because the common enemies are truly only concepts and ideas based in inequity and inhumanity, which only widen the gap.
In most discussions, the point of break down is dehumanization. You’re only “this” or they’re only “that”. Returning the complexity of human existence to the mindless army of drones that stand against you on the internet. It’s the easiest way to discredit honest discourse, or to divert from… actual thinking. Any proper discussion or debate should end with a mutual respect of disagreement, further experience and learning, or direct change. We rarely promote those cycles of processing. But tabletop gaming? It’s home sweet home.
The first principle of tabletop gaming is that you and those around you are unified for a single purpose: the game. Your goal? Beat the game. Regardless of how you do it, you’ve signed that social contract. Each player is striving toward their goal, and you’re going to be right along side them. Their play style, ideas, and personality all come out in the game. You have to deal with the real live human being in front of you in order to progress. Sometimes it’s by conquering them as an enemy, and other times it’s turning them into a friend. But the basis is always respect for the player, because they’re doing their best, just like you.
As an avid Dungeons & Dragons nerd, I absolutely love early levels of the game. Parties of characters usually have very little basis for understanding each other at first. They’re thrown into a situation that they can’t manage to handle alone, and have to rely on strangers and teamwork to succeed. Maybe it’s with swords and magic, or with quick-witted thinking. Either way, they grow to learn about one another, and respect their accumulated talents. Characters tussle and learn and grow from each other for the better, overcoming differences for the greater good, and realizing that their differences are foundations for new found strengths.
They work it out.
Because there’s no running away from the challenges that face us all, regardless of where we come from or who we are. It’s about who we need to become. Those who will not stand for hate. Those who can change and bend and grow through the acceptance of unifying oneness, as well as our unique differences. Champions in the reflection of all peoples.
We’re all just humans.
That at least deserves common decency and respect.
Because we’re all at this table together, doing our best to succeed.
David (DC) Collins