Saturday, November 22, 2008

Labels, Factions and Grognardia.

One of the things that's been on my mind lately is the way we label things and a need for people to identify themselves with a label.

For example, there is the whole argument over what certain RPGs are for. What their purpose is, what is at their core. Depending on the label you wear, your view will be different...or will it?

Some of the hard-core Grognards recently are saying flat out that D&D is strictly a game of "Killing monsters and taking their stuff". The irony here is that for years theorists in the Indie Gaming "new school" line of thought have said the exact same thing. Ironic because the Grognardia "sect" has fought long and hard against theories and classifications from the "New School" folks...yet come up with the same view of their holy grail.

Now for my part, I've always held the view that these labels become a straight jacket, limiting a game to one view of how it is played...and from these perspectives these limitations and assertions become "TRUTH". My own belief is that these perspectives are just that...the perspectives of those people, from that fraction of the player base...not the whole.

I object to the very notion of "one true faith" when it comes to ...anything. Having "one true way" leaves no room for anyone else or anyone else's views, beliefs or practices.

In respect to RPGs, it means that game X is about Y and only Y...not anything else. The rules say so and there is nothing outside the rules.

In respect to D&D that means D&D is only about dungeon crawls, killing monsters and taking their loot. That-Is-All. That is D&D. Nothing else is. The way others play isn't D&D. THIS WAY IS THE ONE TRUE WAY.

Fuck that.

D&D, like any other RPG is what you make it. It's about imagination and going where you want and doing what you want. Ultimately it's about what the players want and where the players want to go...not a straight jacket.

I think part of this is due to the labels of groups of people.
I think Grognards are like Goths and Emo kids. They WANT to be Grognards. They want to identify with that and make an effort to become a sort of paragon of Grognardia by narrowing their view to the extreme. Like being a supergoth.

What is this accomplishing?
It reinforces an external stereotype. They do it voluntarily.
It's like geeks who go overboard trying to be the epitome of geekdom, or gamers trying to be the epitome of gamer.

I think it's a lack of identity.
Somehow here in the 20th and 21st Century we have a need to put ourselves in some sort of category in order to have an identity. We have few other ways to identify ourselves, so we shoehorn ourselves in to a label, a category, a perspective, and willingly slide in behind that pair of "rose-colored glasses".

In doing so, we reject the perspectives and realities of those outside our sect, subclass, category.

"I'm a grognard and grognards believe change and new visions of old things is BAD!"
People try so hard to conform in one way or another to a certain view, to a certain ideal. People want to FIT somewhere, and in doing so, blind themselves to the fact that that there are innumerable categories, views and perspectives. Innumerable pairs of "rose-colored glasses" to wear.

I think it's the ultimate failing of humanity that we seem to have this hard-wired need to categorize things as superior and inferior.

I understand the need for categories: it's a matter of defining things, placing them in relation to other things. It's how we store knowledge and memories. Everything is relational. My memories of how something works is based upon my perceptions of witnessing it or perceptions of learning it in relation to other knowledge/ memories. Memories are tied to other memories in a sort of almost web or matrix.

So I get the categories-thing.

What I don't get is the need to identify one's self with one or another of them.
I know why some people do, but it's not necessary. We don't have to be like that.

Why is it so hard for people to accept a more open view?
Why is it so hard for people to just be themselves, accept other views and perspectives as just as valid?
Why is it always coming down to "I'm right" and "You're wrong". Ultimately that is another version of "I'm better than you". It's arrogance and one of the things that has held humanity back from evolving.

We can be better than this.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...


The old skool vs. new skool is much akin to the Edition Wars. It just so pointless. Can't we all just say "hey.. RPG's are cool.. lets game on!" and get on with it? Debating the editions, or the "point of D&D" is like quibbling over marbles on the playground.

glad I found your blog. Subscribed and added to my blog roll.