Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ed posting cause God forbid I work on things I'm being paid to work on

Ron has a post up where he talks about some games about religion he's working on, and talks about a "type" of gamer who came from a religious background. I first heard him discussing this on the Walking Eye podcast.

I've been going back & forth about how much I fit into his typology, and thought I'd post here rather than drop what is basically just personal musings into a forum thread about his game.

Here it is with comments interspersed:
The following points aren't intended to describe any single individual, but two or three per person do seem to show up again and again among the role-players I've been thinking about.

i) A strong tendency toward rebellious-looking attire and hair, frequently hippie-pagan but also sometimes punky - and completely divorced from the original political context in which these looks originated.
My hair is long, but I don't think it's rebellious-looking. My attire is more "slob" than "rebel." I would probably look like an extremist in 1960. By the time I was born, in 1969, all the rebel value had worn off long hair eons ago. I do in fact have far left politics, as it happens. But it's got nothing to do with my hair. So yeah, I don't know whether to say this one applies. I'm saying "no" in general but giving this one a 10% "yes" rating cause I do in fact have hippie hair and I don't think of it as a political thing.
ii) A strong tendency toward prudishness in RPG content once you get past the original rebellion of playing RPGs at all. It's a weird kind of Victorian prudishness, though, perfectly accepting of extreme porn when it's "in its place," i.e., available in private and quite distanced from anything resembling ordinary or public human interactions.
Partially. Depends on context. I think "prudishness in RPGs" is the default among most of the people I've played with, historically, but that's not always so anymore. Calling this one 50% cause the tendency is there in my gaming history, it's just not always in play anymore.
iii) A strong tendency toward saving and helping others especially in anonymous masses, often in the full assumption that one knows exactly what to do and think better than they do. (i.e. despite breaking with one's natal church, retaining and even elevating its presumption of secret spiritual insight over that of humanity; i.e., not joining the ignorant mass "down there" but rather elevating above the church to a third plane of super-insight)
I dislike elitism. However, I do think that most people including me could use a lot more "saving" and "helping" than is available to us in our society. (Far left politics, remember?) I don't think I have secret knowledge that makes me one of the few people who can do it though. But I think it should be done. So... I don't know, I'm giving that one a 25% application.
iv) An overwhelming need, even anxiety, regarding being liked, as opposed merely to operating in one's own terms and letting being liked find its own level.
Oh FUCK yes. HUGE problem of mine. 41 goddamn years old and I still am stuck with this bullshit. True and I hate it. 200%.
v) Bright as hell, full of ideas, but often choked-up and anxious when it comes to implementing them.
Nope, I have no ideas. Doesn't apply. (Or does it apply because I'm so choked up and anxious I have given up on even having ideas anymore, and strangle them in the cradle?...)
vi) Surprising tolerance for militarism in details and even in full-blown political content, both in fiction and in life, to the extent of occasional fetishism and not recognizing military criticism or satire.
Jesus, no.
vii) A very strong commitment to a new name representing their break with their old upbringing, whether legally changed or a username or whatever.
No, never been able to stick with an alias or username or whatever for very long.

Oh, here's the intro:

For a couple of years, I've been thinking a lot about how many of the role-players I've met in the last decade had strict religious upbringings. Many although not all of them come from the American evangelical tradition. Maybe "strict" is misleading; I've found that people will say, "Oh, it wasn't strict" and go on to describe hair-raising guilt trips and routine practices which are best described as behavior-mod indoctrination. In fact, I don't mind telling you this up-front, the main thing I've found is that many role-players flatly lie when it comes to admitting how they were raised in these terms. Or they deflect into what might as well be a lie when they go on and on about their current free-thinking atheism or exceptionally fuzzy feel-good alternate church, as a way of not actually saying how they were raised.

I was going to address this point before I posted, but I don't think I can. My family's relationship to religiousness and irreligiousness was a complicated one. My father's side of the family had no religious inclinations whatsoever; they were a prosperous working-class-risen-to-middle-class family, whose highest aspirations ran to vacations and appliances and hobbies. Stable and soulless. My mother's side of the family were the children of a rural truck driver missionary's kid, and a woman from a very strict Calvinist family who went to church twice every Sunday; the family as a whole stayed working class, with very few having very much money; there was drama - divorces and remarriages; religiosity in the family tended to be concentrated in a few intense women, from whom it extended to everyone else. My mom was unusually intellectual and intelligent among her siblings, and transmitted the family's faith to us in only a very kind and thoughtful manner -- but we *were* sent to Christian schools, which were a whole constellation of influences on their own, with a variety of different emotional and social tenors. (My father was physically and, increasingly, mentally disabled by hydrocephaly, which went undiagnosed most of his life until CAT scans became common and one was done to him. He died in a nursing home when I was 19. Because of this, his influence on me in religious and other matters was much less than my mother's.)

It's complicated, as is clear even from that bare and brief overview. (And in that, I've only described influences on me, not my own response to those influences -- whether and when I accepted or rejected them.) So I don't know if I'd qualify for a "strict religious upbringing" from Ron's point of view, but I'm probably a lot closer to that than I am to his own completely secular upbringing.

BTW, the ironic "God forbid" in the title was a total accident -- I wasn't trying consciously to be clever at all. :)


Unknown said...

While I'm tempted to go and analyze myself as completely as you just did, I think I'll go with something shorter.

I think that his post fails to fit me at all. I'm sure he'd find my religious background stricter than his, and my games more "prudish," but the overall picture doesn't.

So it goes.

The fact that I don't really know a lot of people like that either may show something (dunno what) about differences in the sort of people he and I hang out with.

Ed H said...

I think the people he's talking about are, on the whole, about a decade younger than either of us.

I think "child of the 80s" vs "child of the 70s" might make a big difference on some of these issues.

Unknown said...

Could be.

I suppose it could also be that I didn't play with a lot of people who were playing RPG's as an act of rebellion against their religious background.

While there were certainly people out there arguing the D&D was the spawn of Satan, the hysteria wasn't that bad in my personal life.

I knew of people who were playing RPG's and experiencing the direct disapproval of all religious figures around them. By contrast, I was often playing RPG's with my pastor's son in the parsonage...

Ed H said...

(I should point out that this group would not be bad company to be in. Ron mentions, in this context, Vincent Baker and Clinton R. Nixon among others of the most creative & talented indie RPG designers out there.)

Matt Wilson said...

I grew up almost completely without religion. Nothing in that post fits me very well.

Ed H said...

Not too surprising, Matt -- you always came across as a classic Humanist.

Ron Edwards said...

Apologies for the lateness of the post.

Ed, did you see my specification that the *entire list* was not likely to apply to any one person? Rather, that in many gamers I've known who share the background I've described, any two or three were likely to be observed?

Would you or would you not prefer that I provide my own interpretation of how the issues I described apply to your list and your described history?

JZ and Matt, I'm not sure what the point of asking "does this fit me like a glove" is. If it doesn't, then it doesn't. Are your comments supposed to be refuting me in some way? If so, I don't see it. Matt's post strikes me as actually confirmatory.

Ed H said...

Hey, Ron, thanks for dropping by!

I can't speak for Jim and Matt, but when I wrote this blog post, I wasn't intending to refute anything; the list provoked me self-reflection, and I decided not to do it in the original thread because I hadn't read all your games and I didn't think I'd necessarily be contributing anything constructive to the discussion there.

My thoughts on it changed some in the course of the comments thread.

I first heard you talking about this pattern on the Walking Eye podcast, and I was thinking about Kevin Weiser when I was talking about "people younger than us." I think I was thinking in terms of a small group of people who manifested most or all of the characteristics on the list (this may or may not be true of Kevin; I don't know him that well, I just assumed it to be the case).

Later in the comments I realized I was probably being too restrictive, and that in your original post you had specifically mentioned that only a few items might apply to any particular person, and it was with that in mind that I mentioned Clinton and Vincent (who are not that much younger than me or Jim, and who also clearly do not demonstrate all the characteristics you noted.)

I think that from the items on the list I did say "yes" to, in retrospect, and in contradiction to my earlier post about it applying mostly to younger people, I probably do in fact fit it as much as anybody you were talking about. The fact that some items didn't fit me as well as others isn't a disqualifier, it's part of the pattern.

I'd be interested to hear your take on my fit to the pattern, not because I need it to be proven to me one way or the other where I fit, but because it's always interesting hearing somebody else's impressions of you. But I think I'd just as soon hear it in email or in person as here. For purposes of the discussion I'll be happy to stipulate that the number of points on which I outright admitted that they fit me is enough to qualify according to your original post (and contrary to my "it's about people much younger than us" comment.)

Ron Edwards said...

Cool! I hope to see you at GenCon. If not, we'll follow up by email.

Ed H said...

I'd still like to get in on any games of Sorcerer you'll be running. :) I'll drop my cell number in email -- if you are going to be running any Sorcerer at GenCon and could use another player, give me a call!

Unknown said...

Ron: I can only speak for myself. I read your thoughts because they were interesting. I just didn't think it applied to me personally.

For what it's worth, though I'm a web developer, I spent a fair amount of time doing graduate work in sociology (with an interest in religion), so my thought process on the subject goes like this:

1. Anecdotal claim about gamers' religiosity and its effects.
2. Personally, I don't think it applies to me.
3. Have I read or do I know anything that supports or refutes it in general? No.
4. Then I don't know enough to comment on whether it's generally true.

It's still interesting though.