Gaming Elitism Isn’t Dead
This probably isn’t news to you, but no matter how many times we sit down and have the discussion of “this is a game and there isn’t a wrong way to play it,” there are still going to be people who will be glad to tell you exactly how you’re having fun wrong. Most of what I end up seeing personally are hardcore roll players getting upset because people aren’t min-maxed.
Heaven forbid you roll a character that for role play reasons wants to do something they aren’t mechanically the best at. Oh no, someone didn’t put their best stat in the right place and isn’t doing as much damage as I would have if I had made that character, whatever shall we do? Someone call the fun police.
And role players, don’t think you’re getting out of this. It’s been a while, but I have seen you guys sneering about people who come to the table with no backstory to speak of and who just want to play the mysterious optimized stranger who hits hard and gets treasure.
Here’s the thing. It’s a roleplaying game. It’s a roleplaying game. It’s a roleplaying game. We wouldn’t have any of it without both sides, and if a player falls a little closer to one side of that descriptor than the other, who are you to tell them they’re doing it wrong? Who are you to insinuate they aren’t a “real gamer” because of it?
One of the most famous characters in D&D’s entire history was sub-optimally built. That’s right, I’m pulling the Raistlin card. More people remember him than anyone else who was in his party.
Here’s the thing: It’s okay to just want to make a character and play that character without worrying about what build is going to give you the best of everything. For some people, it feels like a more authentic experience. It doesn’t make you less of a gamer. either. How ridiculous is that concept? As though we’re all going to some bureau where little goblins with sharp teeth and sneers either stamp you “gamer” or … what? What else do you call someone who plays games all the time?
From where I’m standing, the implication is the rest of us are just pretending. That, my friends, is called elitism. Can we pause for a second and really think about whether or not our crowd has any right to engage in that sort of behavior? At its core, what we’re doing is sitting down with polyhedral shapes and letting what side of them comes up top (or on bottom in the case of some d4s) dictate what happens in an imaginary world. We get super worked up about it.
Gamers are the people that understand that draw.
If you know what it feels like to be on the edge of your seat waiting for a die or the computer’s RNG to come up and tell you whether you’ve failed or succeeded, you’re a gamer.
If you’ve felt rage, not anger but actual rage, at one of those outcomes, you’re a gamer.
If you’ve felt elation at one of those outcomes, you’re a gamer.
If you’ve felt nothing at one of those outcomes, you’re a gamer.
If you can sit there and name five of your D&D characters with loving memory and talk about them for more than fifteen minutes even though you know you probably shouldn’t but the memories just suck you down, you’re a gamer.
If you only have one to recall, you’re a gamer.
If your chosen medium is sitting with a controller with a mic next to your ear scoring headshots, you’re a gamer.
If you sit at a keyboard typing out posts and don’t use any RNG at all in your forum- or chat-based role plays, you’re a gamer.
If you are just really into chess, and have a strategy and prefer to either play white or black because you know what the difference is, you’re a gamer.
If you’ve played every Pokemon game since Red and Blue were popular, you’re a gamer.
If you’re playing games, you’re a gamer. Period.
There’s still that little unspoken, “the rest of you are just pretending.” There’s an underlying, “you are less valid and less valuable because you do not play this game the way I play it,” or “because you do not play the same games I am playing.” There is. And it’s rampant.
How dare you not engage the NPCs, how dare you be learning a system, how dare you want to charge in without a strategy, how dare you not be min-maxed, how dare you not make the decisions I would have made were I in your position. On forums and in chat rooms, it’s noise. At the gaming table, it’s poison.
I’m not sure if it’s because at the gaming table what you choose to do affects the whole party or if it’s a heat-of-the-moment kind of thing, or some mixture of both. I’m not immune to it. The best and worst things about Dungeons & Dragons are that it’s collaborative.
But that’s just it. This is a collaborative game. We aren’t playing against each other, we’re going in together to get something done, and a huge part of any group task is learning to take how someone else does things and bend with it. It’s important that you’re having fun, but it’s important that they’re having fun, too, and there’s more than one way to open a lock, delve a dungeon, bring down an orc horde.
There’s more than one way to roll a character.
There’s more than one way to enjoy gaming.
And let me reiterate this one more time for the people in the back, because this is really the most important part: If you play games and you want to be called a gamer, you’re a gamer. That’s the litmus test. Anybody who tries to put more stipulations on it than that is just pretending.
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