Welcome to the Fold: Go Go Go Said The Bird Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-10-27 14:00:00 No comments

I suspect this has more to do with my own ignorance of the subject than anything else, but from what I can tell there hasn't been a whole lot of literature -- in the sense of fiction -- on the subject of role-playing games as a social and psychological phenomenon. I further suspect a big part of why I haven't delved too deeply into this was because one of the most visible examples of same was Rona Jaffe's fairly terrible Mazes and Monsters. (If you have recommendations for better works in this vein, make them.)

Welcome to the Fold features role-playing games as a major component of the story, but not, I hope, in a bugaboo sort of way. They're not the source of anyone's problem; they're an arena in which a number of different conflicts are enacted. What I'm trying to do is show how that's the case without making it seem like the game is the problem, or the way the urge to escape into a world of the imagination is the problem.

Those things are not by themselves the problem, despite me taking to heart Ian Johnston's words about dreams not being the real stuff of life. A real life without dreams is sterile and colorless, but dreams without real life -- dreams that cannot be fed back into any way to realize them -- are just as arid. But the dreaming itself is always happening. Not a moment of our lives goes by that isn't in some way riddled with dreaming, from the simplest what-if to the most elaborately engineered (sand)castle in the sky.

If there is a problem, then, I suppose it's all in how we go about managing the boundary between the two. I remember Brad Warner once saying something to the effect that while Godzilla isn't real, Godzilla movies are, and that was more than good enough for him. We don't want to bring Godzilla to life -- okay, maybe I don't, who knows about you -- but we do often, say, look at the heroism that goes on in any such movie and attempt to emulate it ourselves in our own limited ways. The real world doesn't give us much in the way of arenas for such a thing, but to the extent that it does, we have to make the most of it.

The lure of being neck-deep in fantasy is not by itself the problem. It's when you get hung up in comparing how the fantasy and the reality don't measure up to each other. Using fantasy as a way to see what's possible is one thing; using it to frustrate yourself, maye not even knowingly, with the limits of what's real is another things altogether.

If this sounds like I'm constructing an argument against escapism, hold them horses. Again, it isn't escapism that's the sole problem. It's when the urge to escape isn't given anything to do except that. If my life seems colorless and hopeless, and the fantasy seems far more interesting than anything I could actually be doing, that's not because of reality having any shortcomings. The point of going into the fantasy at all is to be able to come back out of it again, not lie down in it and sleep.

T.S. Eliot once again: "... the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

Tags: Brad Warner T.S. Eliot Welcome to the Fold escapism psychology