I have not made a secret of my long time playing tabletop roleplaying games and things very much like them–RPGs, generally. Indeed, I recently discussed yet another game in which I participated and which has drawn to its close, and I’ll be discussing another in a more formal context, as well. So it might well be guessed, and rightly, that I am fond of the RPG. More than two decades of persistent play show as much, as do the hundreds–perhaps thousands, at this point–of dollars I’ve spent on the hobby.
(That’s part of the reason I am so envious of gaming streamers and professional players as I am. I never thought to monetize the hobby, and I think I’ve missed my window. That I have the other things going on that I do doesn’t help, either.)
I’ve remarked, following Mackay, on the nature of the RPG as a storytelling activity. For a tabletop game, the storytelling is extemporaneous and (generally) ephemeral; without recording devices–and most of the tables where I’ve played haven’t had them, although I know they’re more and more common–the stories being told exist only in the moments of utterance and are lost but to memory. For the online forum games I have played most in the past many years, though, there is a lingering record. Absent server failures and data loss–always perils, to be sure–a player can go back years later and look over what they did in game, find the character’s voice again. Or a new player can stumble into and through the intertwining stories left behind, grow enamored of them, and come in to participate in making new ones.
As much happened in the game I discussed in the previous post. The player in question swiftly became something of a favorite in the community, and I join several others in hoping to see that player in future games. (There are more games coming. I’ll be running a couple, at least.)
Part of why that player became a favorite, and part of why I continue to engage with forum-based RPGs to the (excessive) extent I do, is that they generate as much art as they do. The player was a fairly prodigious writer, not only narrating character events and thoughts at some length, but also drafting a collection of poetry as supplemental material for the character. I’ve done similar things for games, not only doing the background work of detailing milieux and characters for others to play in and with, but also producing my own characters’ materials. For one, for example, I wrote a fight song and alma mater for his high school–the character is a bandsman, if on a different instrument than his player. For others, I have written dozens of poems in a variety of forms. For still others, I have done other things yet–and the players with whom I have played have done no less, and often more.
While no few of the things that were made and shared have gone away–data loss is ever a peril, as noted–no few others remain, in memory and elsewhere. Because I have gotten to play, I have gotten to experience that art, and I am the better for it.