Is it simply because they are fun?
Could this be the World’s shortest blog entry?
I’m afraid not… sorry.
Let’s explore the concept of fun for a moment, without resorting to dictionary definitions if at all possible. What constitutes fun for one person is rarely identical to another person’s idea of fun, while there will obviously be overlap across like-minded individuals and especially within the closed system of a social group or hobby, there is still enough variety in what they get out of any given activity that their answers may well fall under the following categories:
Real-life is hard, sometimes it’s just plain boring. For many of us, the chance to escape the bounds of our own reality and explore a fantastical setting or undertake a grand adventure is the perfect way to take a break from it all.
Creative thinking, writing or discussion is often enhanced when performed as a group activity. The saying ‘Great minds think alike’ doesn’t always hold true but being able to build on the ideas of your peers to create a truly wonderful gaming experience for all is a real joy… when it works.
I have to admit this isn’t one I fully understand but I also recognise that I’m definitely an exception to the rule on this topic. For many people, a gaming session is a perfect time to get together with friends and family and catch up on events since they last got together. In some cases, the game almost becomes secondary to the experience but provides a great scheduled get-together.
Some people do Soduku, others opt for a classic crossword to get the old grey matter working, in either scenario the act of trying to work out a solution to a problem is the element of fun that they are pursuing. The same can definitely be said of a well-run RPG, even a heavily combat-focused one, presenting players with puzzles and difficult choices are a DMs bread and butter and creative solutions are often rewarded no matter how unlikely they would work in the real world… and rightly so. Of course, if you really want to stump your party of high-level adventurers, just give them a door to deal with… it doesn’t even have to be locked!
While I’m definitely not denigrating the sterling work of paid professionals who help a LOT of people deal with very real issues, there is a lot to be said for the catharsis of an RPG experience. Being able to explore emotions and ideals beyond your normal externalised personality helps to provide a depth of understanding that many people might never realise without actually investing in a therapist. The addition of a group setting can often help people to come to conclusions about their own thoughts and feelings in a ‘safe’ environment akin to that of a support group… and all within the anonymity of a fictional character portrayal.
I know, I know, it’s an obvious element of the whole ‘fun’ package but I reckon I could easily list 7 out of my top 10 comedic experiences as being the result of an RPG situation. Even the most serious, dark, or tense RPG game will often result in hilarity… especially with the way my dice treat me!
And many more…
I haven’t covered everything in this post, I’m simply not qualified to do so, but hopefully, I’ve opened the door for you, dear reader, to explore your own reasons for playing RPGs. It could be one, some, or all of the above and to varying degrees which may even change session by session!
By understanding what we are wanting to get out of an experience better we can better understand ourselves, and more importantly, better be able to find a group of similarly minded individuals to share that experience with.
Collaboration and problem-solving are my chief reasons, I love to organically grow a story or idea through discourse with my gaming groups. On the rare occasions I get to be a player, I love to try and outthink the DM like a game of chess I can never win.
Deep down, however, it’s more likely that I engage in RPGs for the free therapy… although feeding my RPG addiction might end up being more harmful than good!
Until next time…
What are your motivations? I love reading about the reasons that people get into RPGs and how that might change over time. Have I made some glaring omissions in my list above, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!