One of the most enduring annoyances I have with blogging is the speed of its “news cycle”. Topics and threads appear quickly, gain--or more often fail to gain—momentum over a day—perhaps at best lingering over a second one or spawning follow-ups. But quicker than their mercurial rise is the even more abrupt disappearance. The topic drops down the roll, the comments trail off—and that energy tends to dissipate into the ether.
Part of me revels in the immediacy, but a larger part of me rebels at it. By nature I ruminate, at the healthier moments I like to savor ideas—letting thoughts glide over the tongue for a while. I like to pick things apart and see if they hold up. I like to plow into readings to back up the sand castles in my mind. It's a long and pleasurable process for me, especially when it gravitates around fantasy world-building.
So chances are if you have left even a half-way interesting comment on this blog in the past I have thought about it; mulled it over at least few times; perhaps even debated it in my head with a straw man you.
Case in point is a comment made a half a year ago by the ever-perspective Bombasticus on a post I made asking about people's experiences playing at the domain level:
For our gang, the tween years--10 to 12--were the developmental "sweet spot" for this kind of domain creation. There was something hugely appealing about the construction rules at that age and we all spent many hours outfitting hidden valleys, cloud castles, secret undersea lairs. I wonder if that's why we were able to be such dedicated dungeon masters in those days...I wonder if more adults don't do more domain management because we can get a lot more of that kind of thing at home, so to speak--maybe for some of us the responsibility of running the roost is part of the problem.
This comment has stuck around in the comment chorus of my brain, in the main because I have swung violently in my opinion about that last sentence. Something just kept nagging me about it as I have been toiling away trying to get the Domain Game out the door. It struck a deep nerve as it pointed to a deeper question about why we are all here in the broader sense.
What drives us into speculative fiction and fantasy gaming? What keeps us there, book after book and game after game? What are we escaping from. Does that escape always neatly map to something opposite from what we are enduring in real life?
My gut has a hunch that many of you reading this, like me, are quite comfortable with the notion that our hobby is an escapist one. I have seen Tolkein's famous quip that the group most bothered by escape are the jailers quoted on several occasions in our circles with great relish, and approve of its spirit. Life in our madhouse of a world necessitates some kind of safety valve, our hobby is perhaps a bit saner than most by virtue of its honesty.
To be sure there are boulder-sized specks of truth in his statement specifically about the mega-stage of kingdom-running. When I drifted back into the hobby three years ago it was consciously as a revolt against the stress, frustrations, and boredom of a life running “domains”: both in real life as a managing editor of a small-circulation national magazine and in gaming even as someone highly addicted to the most complex of computer strategy games.
The old, comfortable package of D&D fit very nicely for me. It was “coming home” as Arky aptly put it on his own blog, Rather Gamey. The smaller scale of rootless adventurers tramping around a mostly unmapped blank slate of a world unmediated by the flickering light of a computer screen—and filled with the laughter and groans of flesh-and-blood players around a kitchen table—was like getting thrown a life preserver at that time.
My life shifted, and the work became more of a roller coaster since leaving Detroit to come back to Texas. There were two lay-offs and two long stretches of getting my sea legs in very different, challenging work situations. The above feeling of escape attached with that kind of gaming never let go through it—it's still the tent-pole of the HC tabletop campaign.
Almost paradoxically I did find, however, my appetite returning for the larger stage games, especially as the blog evolved and took on its own momentum of things it wanted to explore. My real life was just as complicated with as much of the burdens of leadership as before, even more so with the complexities of my personal life thrown in, but that old itch was there. Weirdly, even I found myself not just loving some of it, but loving the most granular parts of it.
But I also have found that I have a hard times with pieces of it, they don't feel like “escape”. I loved the hustle and bustle and ambition of the play-by-post experiment but hated feeling like the organizer trying to keep it all on track (my day job). (Sorry Domain Game players here is my colossal pokiness in that area laid out straight.) In writing the game I found my mind thrilling on some subjects and not others (taxation, legal systems, yawn).
In other words, I have noticed that my love of escape is highly selective, topical even. I may love resource management and tough choices in the game, but I personally hate keeping track of encumbrance both as a player and a GM. It reminds me too much of packing my car for a trip.
What pieces of games you love do you rebel at or feel conflicted by? Not just dislike because of this or that game mechanic, but the deeper things that feel like the parts you want to get away from? What are you running from, dear reader?