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The Stigma of Role-Playing Must Die!

Greg Tito | 18 May 2010 22:10
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But that's all ancient history. It's 2010, the year we make contact for chrissakes. We have celebrities from all walks of life who proclaim that they play D&D, from Robin Williams to future basketball hall of famer Tim Duncan to Rivers Cuomo of Weezer (if In The Garage is any indication). Why, then, does the stigma still exist?

I think one big reason is that the game spreads as slowly as a Black Pudding because there is one huge bottleneck: the Dungeon Master. There may be many people out there who would be content to try something new as a player, but DMing is something wholly different. Even though it can be very rewarding, it's hard to ask someone new to the hobby to run a game for a group of new players who may or may not be interested. Therefore, if you do start playing, you are most likely playing with someone who proudly calls himself a gamer.

But perhaps that's the problem. The amount of gamer pride has increased in recent years but that may not be 100 percent healthy for the hobby. To say that tabletop gaming has created an insular culture is an understatement. It almost seems that in order to be called a gamer means that you must wear tee-shirts depicting d20s, speak only in terms that other gamers will understand and be fully invested in "gamer culture." By wearing our hobby literally on our sleeves, we might actually be perpetuating the gamer stereotype and preventing someone else from participating in the game. "Well, I can't play D&D because I don't know the lingo, I don't get the jokes in Knights of the Dinner Table and I'm not wearing a tee-shirt that decries the virtues of a well-placed fireball." Damn straight! You're not a gamer if you don't own that moniker. I played D&D before it was cool. You? You're just somebody who's moderately interested in my hobby. Screw you!

Role-playing has two problems. For whatever reason, we possess a negative image in the public spotlight. But, also, if someone is interested enough to try to play roleplaying games, there is a huge barrier of entry that prevents them from fully engaging. The first problem we can do little about, but the second is certainly under our control.

It might create a more inclusive environment if we didn't identify ourselves with a hobby so strongly. Perhaps there would be more people who enjoyed tabletop roleplaying if doing so didn't mean that they had to buy in so heavily to the culture. Maybe we'd be able to kill the stigma that surrounds D&D if we didn't immediately ostracize people who don't play by erecting a wall around what is our hobby.

Even though we may call ourselves gamers, roleplaying games are just one facet of our lives. It may be a big part of who we are, but it doesn't have to define us as individuals in order for us to enjoy playing games. Or as The Lone Amigo at Rocket-Propelled Game put it, "Roleplaying is not a way of life, it's just a way of having fun."

Greg Tito is totally rethinking his tee-shirt choice this morning.

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