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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on November 15, 2002, 01:49:12 PM

Title: Social Context
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 15, 2002, 01:49:12 PM

This is a companion thread to the Mainstream: a revision ( and Actual play in the game store ( threads. I might as well give the game away and reveal that I'm slowly presenting a total of five threads as a linked family of concepts, of which this is the third.

With any luck, everyone is up to speed on what I mean by Social Contract. It's the sum and the internal interactions of how the members of the role-playing group interact as human beings. It includes logistics (who's bringing the beer, who hosts, etc), standards of courtesy (don't pick on Steve, he's fragile), sexual interactions (who's with whom, etc), standards for gaming activities (it's OK to borrow Mario's dice but not Ron's), how games are chosen to be played, how rules are to be handled or interpreted, how talking or moving around relates to role-playing stuff, who is being shunted out of the group by miscommunicative "accidents," and pretty much anything else.

Social Contract isn't unique to role-playing; rather, role-playing, like any other social activity, has to occur within a Contract. I maintain that a great deal of the Contract is not verbal and indeed would be embarassing or upsetting to people to bring into the verbal realm, but clearly a great deal of it is also verbally negotiated as well. All aspects of role-playing are conducted in the matrix, or perhaps embedded in the folds, or perhaps floating in the mists, of the Social Contract.

However, this thread is not about the Social Contract. It's about something I'm calling Social Context, which is (gasp) even bigger. The Social Context of play concerns how one's role-playing relates to all the other socializing in one's life.

I'm interested greatly in this issue, and I think discussion about it will benefit from simply starting with some questions to ponder, presenting some answers among one another, and then moving into issues or critically-constructed questions and debates.

1. Consider yourself and the people you role-play with. Do you ever socialize with them without role-playing? If so, which type of socializing is the more frequent one? That is, do you occasionally role-play with these general/whatever friends, or do you occasionally socialize with these fellow role-players?

2. Consider yourself together with your fellow group members relative to other role-playing groups in your area. Do you talk about your play experiences and share information about play with members of these other groups? Do you socialize with play members of these other groups without role-playing being involved as an issue? [Please note: these last two questions are not alternatives, but independent of one another. One could, for example, conceivably do both, just at different times.]

3. Consider yourself relative to people you know who do not role-play. Do they know about your hobby (that is, that you do this)? Do you discuss it with them to any degree, and if so, how often?

4. Consider your own entire history of role-playing. Have any of the answers to the above questions changed for you, over time? From what to what?

5. Consider yourself and your fellow group members again. Do you all share similar answers to all of the above questions, or do you represent a range of diversity?

This thread isn't intended to be a Profiling survey or an anecdote-bank. I'd like people to answer the quesions, yes, but the real point is to get a round of points and discussion going. I have lots to say about Social Context, but I suspect that my starting point (my answers to the above questions) is not especially typical. I'd like to see what other people think of it - and how they experience it - before presenting some of my principles-based conclusions.

My answers are as follows:

1. In both of my regular groups, we socialize outside of play to a slightly less frequent degree than we actually play, but we do so consistently.

2. I socialize with and discuss role-playing with members of other groups regularly. As a rule, I also socialize with these same people regarding non-role-playing issues as well.

3. My friends who are non-role-players all know about my hobby and occasionally express interest in it (much as I would express friendly interest in how "bowling night" might have gone for one of them).

4. My answers to #1-3 evolved into their current form during college, which would be ... 15-18 years ago. Before that, my #1 would have been "socialize more outside of play" and #2-3 would be answered in the negative.

5. Most of the people in both my groups tend to have the same profile for #1-3 (not sure about #4), I think.


Title: Social Context
Post by: Jonathan Walton on November 15, 2002, 02:51:54 PM
Nice issue, Ron.  Here's where I stand, currently.

1.  Most of the people I roleplay with I knew as roleplayers before they became my friends.  I was getting a game together and they responded, but they only later became people I did other social things with.  Currently, our time together is more often spent socializing than roleplaying.

2.  I have little-to-no contact with other roleplaying groups (or even individual roleplayers) in the area.  Honestly, there's often the feeling that we're doing something "different" than other roleplayers, which makes us a little pretentious, but it's an important part of our identity that keeps us seperate from the other "gamer geeks" that dominate the public consciousness.  This is both a good and bad thing.

3.  Outside of my parents and brother, very few people know I still roleplay.  If they know I ever did such things, they probably think it's a hobby that I've "gotten over."  Many of them roleplayed at some point but then "grew out of it," moving on to other things, and assume that my situation is similar.

4.  This has generally been the same throughout the years I've been playing.  Of course, I'm only 20, so this doesn't count as much.

5.  Most of the people I play with are also "closet" roleplayers, who don't identify with stereotypical gamers or with the gamer-despising masses.  This makes it very hard to recruit new players, but we manage somehow.

Note that I'm not necessarily content with all of these states.  I'd like for more people to know that I roleplay, but I don't think they'd react very well.  There was an article on RPGnet a while back comparing the social positions of marginalized groups (specifically, gamers and homosexuals, which is a fairly controversial comparison).  While I didn't agree entirely with the article, there's definitely some truth there.  I DO feel the need to hide my hobby from a great many people, but I don't feel the need to hide the fact that I read comic books (at least, not anymore).  Part of my motivation in wanting roleplaying to be more mainstream is based on the desire to "come out" as a roleplayer.

I probably don't need to point out how ridiculous that is, do I? :)


Title: Social Context
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on November 15, 2002, 02:53:07 PM

These threads are great. This issue is probably the one I'm most interested in in regards to role-playing.

As for my group, we don't socialize outside of roleplaying as much as I'd like. This is for several reasons:

a) I'm a hermit. That's because of the reasons below:
b) I've had two very good friends that I met through role-playing. In both cases, I got backstabbed by those friends, one here on the Forge of all places. This wasn't the general everyday backstabbing we all know, but more like "best friend backstabbing you." This didn't affect my mixing friends and role-playing as much as it affected my interest in having close friends.
c) Seattle actually has a pretty active social group that also role-plays. However, my first interactions with them were marred by some miscommunication and social problems with one member. Luckily, that miscommunication's been put aside, and I've found myself slightly involved in the group (where we do discuss each other's games to some degree, and mix up groups a bit, which is cool.)

That said, I'm enjoying the socializing we do. We usually set aside a half-hour or so before the game (while we're waiting for pizza to come) to chit-chat and catch up on non-RPG activity. If we were just discussing games, it might bore me, but we really talk about our everyday lives. One of my best game experiences here in Seattle has been one Sunday when my group and I went to the neighborhood bar after a game, and I brought my girlfriend, and one player brought his wife. Together, we had an excellent time.

My friends outside of gaming do know about my game involvement. More of them ask about my game publishing than actual play, but that seems pretty normal.

All of this has changed pretty dramatically over the last two years. I've had a couple of stages in my gaming:
1) High school - Few people knew about my gaming outside of my group. However, I socialized with my group outside of gaming all the time.
2) College - My gaming group was my group of friends. There wasn't really the possibility of discussing games with outsiders. However, again, I socialized with my group outside of gaming all the time.
3) After this, I didn't game for several years. I joined the Army, and got married, and only sporadically played.
4) About three years later (during a divorce from a woman who said this about my roleplaying: "I quit playing with Barbies when I was ten") I started roleplaying heavily again. I did not tell others about it, but did socialize with one member of my game group outside of playing.

That was my last experience gaming before I moved to Seattle two years ago. I'm pretty happy with the changes in my social context, although, like I said above, I'd like to socialize with my players outside the game more, and get more of my non-gaming friends to try it once. (In Seattle, where everyone's a tech geek and weird counterculture is the norm, everyone's at least heard of D&D, and most people will try most things once.)

Title: Social Context
Post by: C. Edwards on November 15, 2002, 03:58:54 PM
This is great Ron, I find the social aspect of gaming to be much more problematic than any game system issues.

1. Hands down I have socialized more outside of play with the people I have gamed with more than in actual play.  This is for two reasons: a) Most of the people I have played with I already knew socially and I introduced them to role-playing, and b) I already knew someone socially and discovered that they used to game and would like to start playing again.  These two things account for at least 80% of my role-playing experience.

2. I've always had little to no contact with other gaming groups, and if I have it was due to me meeting them socially and discovering that they also game.

3. I might bring role-playing up in a discussion if I think the non-gamer I'm talking to might be interested in gaming.  Normally though, unless someone asks questions about dice or a game book I have laying around the subject of gaming usually doesn't surface in my conversations with non-gamers.  This is equivalent to most of my other interests in that I don't generally discuss them with others unless they already show a degree of curiousity towards them.  Most of the people that spend any amount of time around me know that I role-play, from the paraphrenalia strewn about if nothing else.

4. My role-playing experiences have remained very consistent and my answers to the above questions describe my whole gaming history.  The only change to this would the large amount of IRC gaming that I've recently done.  Although a little discussion about other issues might come up, the majority of my IRC gaming sessions have been pure play or rpg discussion with no "socializing" with those involved outside of a role-playing framework.

5. Since I currently live next door to the middle of nowhere I don't have a gaming group at the moment.  Hence all the IRC play.

One personal observation that I would like to mention which I think is related to this and the whole "mainstream" issue:  My gaming experiences involving non-gamers that I have introduced to the hobby have always been much more fulfilling than those I have had with entrenched "gamer-geeks".  Maybe it's the fresh outlook they brought to the game, or the fact that we shared interests beside gaming. I'm not quite sure.


Title: Social Context
Post by: Paul Czege on November 15, 2002, 04:37:31 PM
Hey Ron,

2. Consider yourself together with your fellow group members relative to other role-playing groups in your area. Do you talk about your play experiences and share information about play with members of these other groups?

I know what you're getting at, but I think your use of "groups" here risks respondents to your inquiry setting aside from their remarks a great deal of the social stressors that problematize this aspect of the social context. I think the key social stressor here isn't so much manifest between arbitrary member of functioning game group A and arbitrary member of functioning game group B, but between a member of a functioning game group and an otherwise self-identified gamer who, for whatever reason, is groupless. I personally have no problems discussing my gaming experiences with other active, satisfied gamers. The problem I have is with the groupless.

Consider that a year or so ago, a Forgite who was going to be in the suburban Detroit area for a few days contacted me. We had a phone conversation, during which he suggested he was interested in dropping in on the ongoing Theatrix game our group was scheduled to play the weekend he'd be in town. The request floored me. If I walked into a local club with my guitar case this Saturday, and asked the band if I could do their set with them, what are the odds they'd say yes? I countered by suggesting we get together for lunch and talk games. He begged off, saying he'd probably be too busy with work. He had no interest in social contact outside the context of actual gameplay.

A few months ago, Danielle and I had a very nice dinner with a Forgite, his wife, and one of his friends at a restaurant midway between all our individual hometowns. I'd proposed running a game for them, which never actually happened, but that was the purpose of the get together. And I enjoyed it quite a bit. But would everyone have made time for that nice dinner and game conversation if the possibility of gaming together had not been on the table. I really really doubt it.

This is the social context, a cultivated disinterest in socializing if the possibility of gaming isn't on the table. The social fabric of gaming is warped by the inhabitants' constant need for a new fix, and I'd go so far as to say, personal insecurities causing them to interpret the absence of the near term possibility of gaming together as an esteem-damaging message that the other person doesn't like them.

I have the phone number of another Forgite in the area. But, dammit, I know he's groupless. And as cool as he is, and as much as I think I'd like to game with him, my regular group has a full membership. So my interest is in socializing. I actually have nothing to offer but socializing right now. And since I'm sure he's really wishing he had some gaming possibilities, every time I nerve myself up to phone him, I chicken out. It's easier than having to explain why near term gaming possibilities aren't on the table, and from that risk feeling myself sending out the communication of that esteem-damaging message, when that's not what I meant at all.

If there wasn't so much pain in the social context, we wouldn't build these walls, I think, but unless you're prepared to take ownership of a lot of pain, it seems like you don't have a choice.


Title: Social Context
Post by: M. J. Young on November 15, 2002, 07:39:17 PM
O.K., my answers may require some context.

Unlike most of you, I never heard of role playing games until I was a couple years out of college (but before graduate school, where for some reason the question never arose).  So I don't have these life-related phases in the same sort of connections.

It's also worth noting that I long considered myself rather anti-social.  I hate parties.  I don't hang out with people.  It took a lot of years and self-observation to recognize that it was not people I disliked: it was unstructured social situations. I love to go to classes, and I love to teach classes. I very much enjoy playing games. I have played many concerts, emceed quite a few, and attended them. I'm said to be an excellent interviewer by those I've interviewed. All of these social situations have context. Sitting around talking does not, and I am always uncomfortable and uncertain how to act in such unstructured situations. I'm the guy who, when we have company over, spends most of his time making the food.

This is probably important to understanding why my answers are so skewed. Long before I heard of role playing games, my primary socializing was already centered on playing games. Every weekend Bob and Margaret came over or we went there, and we played games. Bob is the only person I ever knew who had a real pinball machine. He also was able to get absolutely any Atari game cartridge (he worked for GTE, and they made the chips, so they could copy games to chips and plug them into boards rather cheaply). We played hours, probably months, of Pinochle, every board game we could find, miniature golf, bowling (Bob was on a league, but we didn't mind letting him beat us a few times a year), bookcase games, wargames, card games, trivia games, parlor games. We got together and played games. That was the core of our socializing. When we found role playing games, they swept through our group with a vengeance. Pretty soon we were playing three different games, week by week deciding which campaign to continue, tucking in the pinochle before play, picking up a board game or other game maybe once a month or so. These games seemed both to facilitate our socializing better and to hold our interest from session to session so we always wanted to come back to them.

Also, when I started role playing, I was in a rather public position, an announcer/DJ/minister on a Christian radio station. It got out quickly that I was involved, and thus I quite early began my career as a "game apologist".

There's another wrinkle in all this.  My gaming life changed drastically around 1990. Before that, we would have anyone over to play who wanted to play. We brought people into gaming constantly. I've had thirty  people in my living room at one time, brought into the game by friends of the gamers. However, about that time a number of things went sour, including (top of the hit parade) that someone still unknown was stealing things from our house. Video games, video tapes, money, up to an irreplaceable Hagstrom 8-string bass guitar, all walked when we weren't looking and never came back. Since then, we have been understandably very slow to invite people over. But since I'm also the father of five, I don't get out to other people's games much either. I've become considerably more insular because of that, at least in terms of relating to gamers.

Now to examine the questions specifically.

  • I mostly role play with family and close friends. I don't get to play nearly as much as I'd like, so most of my socializing is outside the game context. But then, most of my socializing is "online", and a lot of it is related to gaming; but I don't do much online play, and don't socialize much with those with whom I game, although I mostly socialize with gamers, if online counts.
  • I do talk about Multiverser sometimes, but that's really sort of expected. There are a few people who want to "get together for a game", and I keep saying we'll do that sometime, but since I'm not likely to go somewhere else and we're still skittish about having strangers in the house, I don't really expect it to happen. If "socialize" includes recognizing them when they are at work and talking about stuff, then yes; for example, I know a gamer who works at Staples, and we talk about gaming whenever I'm in the store (probably once a month or so). I've got his number, and would like to have him over sometime, but life doesn't facilitate scheduling games at present (most of our games are announced about ten minutes before they happen, usually between ten and midnight). He has invited us to join them (that is, including our wives) at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I like a lot about the movie, but I'm not at all sure I'm ready for the theatre experience. I don't know a lot of people outside those involved in Multiverser at present, particularly as I moved here within the past couple years.
  • Most people do know that I role play; that's probably because if they ask what I do I explain that I write role playing games and fiction. I've had a couple of people interested in playing, but can never seem to find the time to invite them over when there's going to be a game. Got to get that more organized. With my extended family, I find myself frequently explaining that it's not a computer game.
  • Changes over time have been discussed to some degree in the preliminaries. I've emerged as one of the better known RPG apologists, particularly as I (like CARPa's Paul Cardwell) have some status among conservative Christians and speak their language. Also, I think that being a published game designer gives a sort of legitimacy to my hobby; it's like something related to my work, so it's good.
  • I don't think anyone in the group is like me in any regard. Most of them are heavily into MUD play (for which I have no interest). They interact with people at school, and do a lot more messenger chat with friends than I (I interact mostly through e-mail and forums, which they don't).[/list:o]
    I believe that one of the principles of sound research is to eliminate the extreme results; I suspect this set is going to be among those scratched. But perhaps it will give some insight to others.

    And you thought your answers were atypical.

    --M. J. Young

Title: Social Context
Post by: wyrdlyng on November 15, 2002, 08:27:46 PM
1. I guess our group may be more typical of the "gamers with careers and families" image. First off our group is the merger of two small groups. One set involved a married male, a single male, my wife and myself. The other set involved single male, a single female (though the two are romantically involved), my wife and myself.

One player has gained two sons since we first started playing. Three of our players are going to school, often on weekends and nights, while also holding down full time jobs. Several of us have jobs which demand more than a straight 8 hours (my wife does project work, I do technical support around the state, one of the players works multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet, and two others do systems support for yachts and are effectively "on-call" most of the time). Therefore due to our family and work commitments we don't get to meet as much as we used to outside of our gaming sessions.

Do we still socialize? Sometimes. This usually entails going to a movie, Renfaire, or getting together and watching a video or playing video games. If someone can't make the biweekly game and a full crew is needed for the story to continue, we'll just get together and play cards or a boardgame or something.

Many years past a friend told me that he doesn't roleplay with people he wouldn't interact with outside of gaming. I've adopted this creed and I find that it's works and has helped keep our group together for a few years now.

2. To be honest I don't interact much with other role-playing groups. The only contact I have with other gamers tends to come at the local gaming store and none of these folks made enough of an impression for me to do anything more than avoid them.

Does anyone else in the group interact with other role-playing groups? Again, not really. Two of our group are relatively inexperienced gamers and don't go to places where they would meet other gamers. The other two players are also wargamers and interact with the local Warhammer 40K groups but not often with other role-players.

As it is there is not a very tight-knit roleplaying community down here outside of RPGA D&D players. There are few stores and they are scattered far out enough to fail to provide a focal point for gamers. Additionally, there are no Conventions or other such events to allow gamers to come together. Now heap on top of all of the above the fact that the general community of Miami tends to be conservative and not generally predisposed to viewing non-physical endeavors with much favor.

3. Those I know well know that I role-play. Most nongamers I interact with regularly do not. But then again most of these people also don't know much about me or my hobbies anyway. I only share myself with those I have come to trust or know well. I don't bother trying to explain things to other people.

Those that do know me are familiar with my gaming habits. They've been to my home and seen my bookshelf of games. They know that every other Saturday afternoon I'll be hosting several friends for gaming. Most probably don't understand exactly what gaming is but they know that it's something that I and other people do.

4. 1 and 3 have changed over time. Being a) uninterested in sports, b) fond of reading, c) smarter than the other kids and d) unconcerned with pop culture made me grow up with little positive social interaction. My hobbies were of interest only to myself because... well, to be quite honest, no one cared about gaming. When I did game it was mostly with family members or a few other people I met that were into role-playing.

We interacted socially outside of gaming because we shared other common interests, like video games or comics. I only talked about  role-playing with other gamers because much of my early education was spent in Catholic schools. It was when my 9th grade English teacher (an ex-drug addict who had found Christ) wrote "that I was going to Hell if I didn't change my ways" on a paper where I mentioned my hobbies that I realized that I would no longer bother trying to explain things to people who don't care to begin with.

Once I left the Catholic school system in highschool I just stopped caring what other people thought and only bothered associating with people who could handle who I really was, including my hobbies. So role-playing went from being a dirty, little secret I hid to another facet of my personality that only those who bothered talking to me would see.

Along the way my opinions in the social factors of gaming, what the point of this topic is, changed as I met and played with more and different role-players. I saw what I liked and what I didn't like, what worked and what didn't work.

5. I can't honestly answer this for the rest of my group. My wife is of a somewhat similar bend as myself but she keeps more hidden from coworkers and her mother.

I'm glad to see these types of questions out in the open. There's so much more to the social aspects of role-playing than what occurs at "the table". I hope that I didn't stray too far off-topic.

Title: Re: Social Context
Post by: talysman on November 16, 2002, 12:27:15 AM
let's see if I can answer the questions coherently... before I begin, I need to roughly describe my social groups: I have two close friends (a married couple) who are also neighbors and my primary gaming partners, when I game; I have another set of friends who are part of the experimental music scene, a couple of whom I have gamed with in the past; a third set of friends I talk to on Usenet and occasionally visit in person, but I don't game with, although I talk about gaming with those who also game; a fourth group is of co-workers at my previous job, some of whom I gamed with.

oh, and there's also relatives, of course. my relatives don't game, know I game, and don't talk much about gaming.

now, the Q-and-A:

  • I don't game much anymore, because of schedule conflicts, so those people I used to game with I see mainly in a social context. the exception would be my fourth social group, whom I don't see much at all since leaving my former company; most contact with them is in chat and is getting rarer.
  • since I'm not gaming much, but my friends who are neighbors regularly game, I treat the gamers I meet through them as "other gamers in the area" for this question. socializing is split between talking about roleplaying and talking about other things. my friends in the third group, whom I primarily talk to online, might also be considered "gamers I don't game with" (for those who game); conversations with them is also split, since I met them in a non-gaming context.
  • I don't discuss roleplaying games much with people who aren't gamers, although it's not a deep secret. I don't talk much about what happens during a game, since nongamers aren't much interested in "war stories" or "character scrapbooks". I do occasionally talk about it. back at my previous job, I and the other gamers talked openly about gaming in front of the nongamers and occasionally explained something game-related to them; about the same thing happens when I meet in groups with my Usenet friends (the gamers talk, they change the subject if the nongamers seem bored, or explain something if a nongamer is interested.)
  • my gaming social context history definitely changed. when I first started gaming, I didn't talk much about gaming to nongamers (except that time I started a school-sanctioned roleplaying games club in high school. I had to talk about it a little, then...) it stayed about half-and-half during my heaviest gaming days: I talked about gaming in mixed groups, when I knew I wasn't the only gamer. also, during my heavy gaming days, there were a couple people I didn't socialize with in "real life" except to game, although we socialized online (on BBSes; no internet yet!) there were also some people during the BBS days that I socialized with both online and off, but I never gamed with, although I knew they gamed.
  • my fellow group-members are somewhat varied. I don't know what their specific answers to these questions would be, but I suspect some of them never talk gaming except to gamers, while others may talk gaming to nongamers quite a bit more than I do. my friends who live next door game with a couple people they do not socialize with much outside of gaming, but have quite a few gamer friends who also socialize in a nongaming context as well as many friends who don't game at all.
  • [/list:o]

    are those answers useful? it  seems kind of muddled as I look back over it; there answers change for each of the social contexts I'm involved in, and it's all complicated by there being a mix of gamers and non-gamers in some of those contexts. maybe I should try answering it by group context instead:

  • my friends who are neighbors: I game with them once in a great while, they game regularly. I see them regularly, but it's usually for dinner, movies, tv nights, shopping expeditions. occasionally, I meet some of the other people they game with.
  • my friends who are in the experimental music scene: I gamed with a couple of them a couple years ago, but most of my socializing with them is music-related with occasional movies and parties. strangely, I think most of the people in this group tried D&D or WoD and didn't like it, so they are nongamers who are knowledgeable about gaming.
  • my friends on Usenet: actually, we meet in real-life, on a MOO, via IM, and on Usenet. in group contexts, the topic occasionally changes to gaming, but the nongamers get bored and the topic shifts.
  • my friends from my previous work: lots of open discussion of gaming here, even in front of nongamers; this was a tech job, so naturally people talked about rpgs. most of the non-roleplayers were computer gamers, so it wasn't like they were completely out of the loop. I only gamed with a few of my cow-orkers.
  • relatives: they know I game, occasionally hear conversations I have with gaming friends. I sometimes mention my game design ideas to them. there's not much game dialogue, however.
  • [/list:o]

Title: Social Context
Post by: Emily Care on November 16, 2002, 08:57:10 AM
Ron et al,

My answers are not too disimilar from much of what has been expressed.

1) I socialize with my fellow gamers quite a bit out of gaming context,
2) I definitely talk with other gamers about my role-playing experiences and often experience a sort of paradigm clash when I do so.
3) Non-gamers in my acquaintance know or don't know about my gaming mostly based on how much they know about me in general. I am not retiscent to tell acquaintances that I game, and even something about it, but like most of my hobbies and other aspects of my identity, those who know me best know most.
4) Changes over time: my interactions with other gamers has changed the most.  I used to be very interested in hearing about other people's campaigns and stories from their experiences.  I still listen, but am looking for something else in the discussion: analysis of roleplaying and theoretical issues. This is hard to find out there in the world.
5) My fellow role-players probably have a variety of interactions. I'll have to ask them.

Issues that I see in my own experiences that may or may not match what other folks are saying:

*It's hard to get people together to socialize without the promise of a gaming experience. My old housemate intentionally began a game with all of a circle of friends, something like 9-11 people, and then would de-emphasize actually running, to make the point that it was just cool for us all to get together.  

*I have a hard time finding other gamers who have the same context for talking about gaming that I do, and when I try to explain my experiences it's not usually met with interest. I guess I should say more about what I'm interested in:  it's really just looking at "gaming"per se rather than re-counting the events of a campaign.  I get a lot of blank stares. :)

*My hobby of gaming is pretty damn marginal with respect to society's value of leisure time activities. But usually non-gamers are quite receptive to the concept of role-playing when I explain it to them. I've had better success with this than talking to other gamers about what I'm interested in.  I may just need more practice.

*It strikes me that role-playing occupies a unique place or function in each of my fellow gamers' lives. At least I know that it gives a different "kick" to each of member of my steady gaming group. We talked about this at some point.  For me, what hits the spot for me is the emotional immersion of being in character, inter-character interaction, developing magic theory in-character and moments when the characters or the game world organically move in an unexpected direction.  This may be a question for another thread: ie what's holds the juice for you in gaming?

Emily Care

Title: Re: Social Context
Post by: Maurice Forrester on November 16, 2002, 03:38:01 PM
1.  I socialize somewhat with the people I game with, but the group evolved as a gaming group first and as a group of friends second.  Gaming is the primary focus of our relationship.  (Well, except for the one member of the group that is my wife.)

2.  I actually don't personally know people in any other gaming groups in the area, so there is no interaction with them.

3.  Some people I know are aware of my gaming hobby, but most are not.  People that do know about it never ask about it, and I don't generally bring it up.

4.  In the past, there was a higher degree of socialization with people I gamed with and more interaction with other gamers.  That changed largely because I moved away from my old gaming group.  I also used to make more of an effort to get people interested in the hobby and so shared information about my gaming activities with non-gaming friends.  Like a lot of gamers, I went through an active period of proselytizing early in my gaming career.  And also like a lot of gamers, that zeal for proselytizing waned over time.

5.  I think the answers of other group members would be similar.  I know that we've talked in the past about going through similar experiences relative to the proselytizing.

Title: Social Context
Post by: Jason Lee on November 16, 2002, 05:15:14 PM
Some context as it'll be vital for understanding my answers:
All group members are between the ages of 20-30, all single, and are all long time gamers (no one started with this group).  The group and the game are synonimous - they do not exist independent of each other.  Our game is in it fifth year (a world/time/dimension shifting premise with a lengthy home-brew system).  Each player is also a GM for the game at his point in the "GM rotation" - A GM's story average three sessions.  We have seven participants, we've lost three and gained four over the course of the game.  Active PC total is 18, not counting the 12 retirements/deaths. Sessions are run once a week and last 8-12 hours.  There is also a "cooking rotation" (food good).  

1.  Our group is composed entirely of friends within the same circle who decided to roleplay.  Socializing outside of game is more common, but conversation tends towards the game when their are no non-gaming-group members present; not because we have nothing else to talk about, but because the game holds a lot of our interest.  

2.  Because of my age group and circle of friends I know quite a few gamers.  I do not play with other groups primarly because of the attention our game demands, but I don't mind talking about it.  Like the first question, our primary relationship is social, not gaming.  Those friends who game, but cannot or will not commit to the demands of our game, do not game with us.

3.  It's not a subject I approach, but if asked what I like to do or what my hobbies are I let them know.  My other dominant hobby is martial arts.  If you say "each week I pretend to kill people, then the rest of the week I practice doing the same"...people will tend to think you're a psycho.  However, I view it more as an opportunity to show that people who have such hobbies aren't psychos.

4.  Even though the game I play wasn't always what I played, I would have to say yes, my experiences and views haven't changed except for adopting a greater understanding of the hobby.

5.  I can't speak for number 3 or 4, but 1 is definately true for all involved.  Number 2 differs in that three members of our group game elsewhere as well.

Title: Social Context
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 17, 2002, 08:52:10 AM
Hello everybody,

Many thanks so far! I'll toss in a couple of responses and points, and then perhaps shift the focus a little.

1) M.J., I'm not looking for a modal profile in this thread, so typicality and so forth aren't an issue.

2) Paul, I think you're absolutely right about the phrasing and the issue. In my #2 question, the other role-players should be construed as just that, role-players outside one's own group, not necessarily in groups of their own.

Here's what I'd like people to consider when looking over their own answers and those of others. What isolating behaviors do you practice, in terms of all four questions? Note that many such behaviors may not be directly tied to role-playing - you may have to think a little broadly, as in, "We went to the movies with other folks ten times last year. Did I or did I not invite Marty & Janet [gamers] as often as everyone else? If I didn't, did it have anything to do with the gaming issue [potentially not]?"


Title: Re: Social Context
Post by: greyorm on November 17, 2002, 12:24:34 PM
1. Do you ever socialize with them without role-playing? If so, which type of socializing is the more frequent one?
My current gaming group meets on IRC bi-weekly.  Excluding myself, the breakdown of the group is as follows: two of our members are married to one another, and live out east; another lives a few hours south of me; the last lives a few hours northeast of me.

This makes it difficult in terms of time and money to get together with any of them for any other social activities, so my answers to this question are going to be atypical due the medium of play and interaction.

On IRC, we spend about a half-hour-to-an-hour socializing and chatting before the game itself begins, this is approx. 1/3rd of the time we spend together on IRC.  The other 2/3rd is spent playing.

The married couple were not married when they first joined my game, and had just begun dating.  They spent time doing other things with one another (going to movies, playing in a softball league, etc), which they still do as a married couple.

The last member of the group I mentioned is someone I spent time time with outside of the game when she lived closer.  She's a former student of mine, and we talk mostly about non-RPG stuff when we do chat (which is only via ICQ and such now).

I do not have a local table-top group and have not since highschool.

My high-school group spent a great deal of time together doing various non-RPG things, including weekends out at the cabins some of our families owned, playing a miniatures-game we created with LEGOs, watching movies (at the theater or our homes), talking about literature, geeking out in front of our computers, competing against each other in PBM games of "Hyborian War" and "Duelmasters," etc. and doing typical buddy stuff.

The short-lived college group I played with was similar to this...we spent as much time doing other things (if not more) than we spent role-playing.

2. Do you talk about your play experiences and share information about play with members of these other groups? Do you socialize with play members of these other groups without role-playing being involved as an issue?
I don't know of any other groups in this area, so this question is thus impossible for me to answer.  I can't speak for the other members of my group, as I do not know their situations, beyond the following two items:

One of my players also plays in a tabletop session weekly, though I'm not privy to the social interactions of that group (but then, I've never really asked, as the subject only came up in passing once).

The woman of the married couple above was a high-school teacher for a number of years.  She mentioned during chatting a few years ago that she and her students would discuss about their various characters and adventures.  I recall she was teased because in four years of playing, she had only gained one level (different story involving the bad book-keeping habits of a different DM).

3. Consider yourself relative to people you know who do not role-play. Do they know about your hobby (that is, that you do this)? Do you discuss it with them to any degree, and if so, how often?
I'll assume that by "know" you mean people I'm not merely acquainted with, but have some steady interaction with, thus avoiding the "checkout clerk" problem of small cities like ours (that is, you know your checkout clerk by name, they recognize you, you chit-chat occasionally in line, but you don't know the person any better than this).

In this case, yes, they do.
However, I'm somewhat anti-social and culturally out-of-sync with the locals.  A good time for the local populace is getting drunk and shooting things, or working on various engine or truck parts, none of which I'm vaguely interested in.

My wife has more friends locally than I do, and I can count the number of friends she has on one hand.  I can count mine on neither.  As this is the case, I don't talk about much of anything, RPG or not, with anyone I know.

4. Consider your own entire history of role-playing. Have any of the answers to the above questions changed for you, over time? From what to what?
Question 1 above answers this.  To expand on the information there:
During periods of high-school (despite my being labelled a geek) and throughout college, I had large circles of local friends.  During college particularly, I was close with a number of other students who did not role-play, knew I did, and we occasionally talked about it.

During high-school, my non-roleplaying friends nearly without exception became role-playing friends, or at least expressed more than cursory or friendly interest in it (always getting as far as designing a complete character).

The same can be said of some of the others in my high-school group who introduced their friends to the hobby as well.  That so many played or knew about it isn't that surprising, as a number of the most respected (by their peers) and well-known kids at high-school played D&D, most of them as a direct result of my introducing them to it, or one of those I'd introduced doing so for them.

During high-school, folks from different groups would discuss our various campaigns and characters and RP experiences, and we occasionally socialized with one another.  However, there was some degree of rivalry between a couple of the groups due to personality issues.

5. Consider yourself and your fellow group members again. Do you all share similar answers to all of the above questions, or do you represent a range of diversity?
I can't answer this for my current group, as I simply do not know.
Answers for my high-school group are located amid the above.

Title: Social Context
Post by: talysman on November 17, 2002, 03:23:47 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Here's what I'd like people to consider when looking over their own answers and those of others. What isolating behaviors do you practice, in terms of all four questions? Note that many such behaviors may not be directly tied to role-playing - you may have to think a little broadly, as in, "We went to the movies with other folks ten times last year. Did I or did I not invite Marty & Janet [gamers] as often as everyone else? If I didn't, did it have anything to do with the gaming issue [potentially not]?"

given that restatement of the question, I suppose I'll add some more info on how my gaming changed over time.

I already mentioned that my gaming history broke into three stages: school gaming, bbs gaming, current gaming. the people I played with in highschool and college eventually moved to different cities, which is why that game group changed.

what I didn't mention about the last two stages, though, is that my neighbor-friends (the ones I game with occasionally) and my experimental music friends (which includes a couple former gamers) both came out of the bbs scene, too. they know each other. there are some interpersonal issues between those groups, but it's not game related.

since I don't have much opportunity to game anymore, I can't say much about isolating factors based on gaming. I suppose you could say I don't socialize with the other people I gamed with when my neighbors playtested a game ... but that's because those aren't my friends, they're my friends' friends. it's not really game related.

the primary isolating factors, in my case, are time and distance. people that I used to game with but don't now either have a schedule problem or are now too far away for gaming (and in some cases too far away for other socializing, except through instant messaging and email.)

is that helpful?

Title: Social Context
Post by: joshua neff on November 18, 2002, 08:11:12 AM
1) My current group is myself, Mike Holmes (perhaps you've heard of him), & my girlfriend Julie. Mike & I don't socialize outside of gaming, but when we get together to game, we don't JUST talk about game-related stuff. Julie & I obviously socialize outside of gaming & talk about more than just gaming.

2) Having just moved to Milwaukee, I only know one other person that I know games. He's a coworker who, to this point, has only played D&D (& only just got introduced to it). We don't talk much about gaming, but we talk about a lot of other things. I know of some other Milwaukee gamers, like the vocal ones who post on RPGnet, but I haven't socialized nor gamed with them.

3) Most of the people who know me know I game. I'm not secretive about it, I'm always ready to answer any questions they might have, or talk about exactly what it is I do (since a lot of them are baffled &/or curious about it). But I don't usually go into detail about what happened in a particular session or what new game I got a hold of, as that stuff tends to be boring for non-gamers (in my experience). The important thing for me is that I don't talk about gaming to non-gamers any differently than I talk about movies to non-movie buffs or comics to non-comics fans or poetry to non-poetry readers. It's all the same to me & I get enthusiastic about it all in similar ways.

4) Looking over my history as a gamer, it seems the same all through my life. I've pretty much always had social contact with my gaming group outside of gaming. Generally, the people I've gamed with have also been friends. Sometimes, one gaming friend introduces me to one of their gaming friends, usually bringing them into the gaming group. Sometimes this leads to more extra-gaming socializing. Sometimes it doesn't.

In terms of isolating behaviors...I try not to, generally. Lately, I haven't been in mega-social mode, though. But mostly, I've been inclusive & tried to mix up the number of "people I game with" & "people I don't game with." My group in KC, for example, was always big on extra-gaming socializing. Most of them, besides me, were into swing dancing (& we constantly trying to get me to go out with them for that), which they did with their girlfriends & wives. We'd often go out for coffee, to talk about both gaming & non-gaming topics. We'd go out & shoot pool, we'd have parties. It was all very social, & not limited only to gaming.

I try not to view or portray gaming as different in any way from any of the other social activities I indulge in.

Title: Social Context
Post by: greyorm on November 18, 2002, 09:23:02 AM
What isolating behaviors do you practice, in terms of all four questions?

Broadly: I only like to hang out with folks who have some of culture and artistic and literary exposure, and who are capable of discussing such meaningfully, or at least discussing it.

My wife and I enjoy theater and plays, discussing the subtext in movies and books, and visiting art galleries and museums...our local friends & acquaintances react with boredom, disgust or confusion when we discuss anything of the sort.

My wife and I have thus repeatedly discussed moving somewhere with more culture, as we both find we know few persons intellectually/culturally compatible with locally -- there simply aren't any functions or places to attend to meet such individuals.

This means I practice a relatively high amount of isolating behaviors period given the area I live in and the dominant culture thereof, not merely restricting social contact on the basis of those who are role-players. My current social isolation is extremely, depressingly high.

This isn't to say I don't get along with the people we do know -- I've been described as the quietest but most friendly & helpful person anyone knows by pretty much everyone around here -- only that real, actual conversation tends to stall and stutter quickly, as the common interests and level of discussion between myself and the local populace are widely divergent, to the point of being almost exclusionary.

This is atypical for me, at least post-highschool, as during college I was extremely outgoing and had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.  The above isolation occurred only after our moving to this area specifically.

But, again, my situation is notably atypical, at least from the standpoint of the questions being asked.

Title: Re: Social Context
Post by: Matt Snyder on November 18, 2002, 10:20:40 AM
Because Ron effectively asked me to do so, I'm going to answer his questions about social context. Consider me a "hostile witness" (with tongue planted firmly in cheek) because I really suspect that I'm going to clash with Ron's ultimate point here. That is to say, I _think_ I know what he's getting at, and my own opinions on the matter probably aren't in the same ball park. Then again, god knows I'm wrong about this stuff more often than I'm right.

Ok, here goes (with some "my point is . . . " stuff at the end):

Quote from: Ron Edwards

1. Consider yourself and the people you role-play with. Do you ever socialize with them without role-playing? If so, which type of socializing is the more frequent one? That is, do you occasionally role-play with these general/whatever friends, or do you occasionally socialize with these fellow role-players?

I play with two groups (though the "newer" group just recently -- last couple months).

My first group is the "old school" group -- a group literally comprised of folks who went to the same high school I did. The current members include myself, my younger brother Dave, and two of my best friends -- Flash (who is a lurker on the Forge) and Leland. Except for my brother, we're all about the same age (nearly 30). Dave -- the brother -- is 21. Outside of gaming, we interact socially quite often (obviously so w/ my brother!). There is precious little doubt that lately our non-gaming social interaction far exceeds our gaming time. So, I guess I occasionally role-play with these friends/family. However, it didn't used to be that way! This is pretty much a scheduling issue -- one member is away at college, another has a new job with conflicting hours, etc. When we socialize, we talk about everything from football to RPGs to whatever.

My second -- and newer -- group has some overlap. It includes myself, my friend Flash, his wife Lisa, and other friends Tony, Wendy and Jason. All are largely Flash's "college group," and he's played with them for years. Myself less so, but I know everyone pretty well. We do have social engagements outside of gaming (parties, etc.). In fact, I'd say it's nearly half and half social interaction vs. gaming, though possibly skewed a bit toward gaming since we're meeting weekly now.

Quote from: Ron Edwards

2. Consider yourself together with your fellow group members relative to other role-playing groups in your area. Do you talk about your play experiences and share information about play with members of these other groups? Do you socialize with play members of these other groups without role-playing being involved as an issue? [Please note: these last two questions are not alternatives, but independent of one another. One could, for example, conceivably do both, just at different times.]

We do not engage in discourse -- really at all -- with groups in the area. We do not socialize with members of other groups (to the best of our knowledge!). However, about three years ago when one of our "old school" group members ran a comics/hobby store in Des Moines, he and I had frequent social contact and rare role-playing experiences with other members. He has since sold his shares in the store, and joined the full-service army. So, we don't get to see him anymore! Someday . . .

Now, in our "defense," we're somewhat geographically isolated. I suspect there may be other groups in our very small towns (which are actually outside Des Moines, Ia), but I do not know of them. I do know there ARE groups in Des Moines and Ames (hour north of DSM), and I've had some minimal contact with them via the aforementioned store. But, by and large, it's seems very difficult to make contact. Now, I think that's for good and "bad" reasons -- 1) we don't know who they are, and 2) we don't have a real interest in doing so.

Quote from: Ron Edwards

3. Consider yourself relative to people you know who do not role-play. Do they know about your hobby (that is, that you do this)? Do you discuss it with them to any degree, and if so, how often?

Yes, some of our (meaning my wife & I) friends, and especially many family members, know I role-play. I do not discuss the hobby with these people, typically. I do discuss some matters with members of my family, particularly when they became interested that I published Dust Devils. Discussion is not frequent. Mention at family gatherings (which ARE frequent). Otherwise, the issue is "behind closed doors" for all sorts of reasons, good and mostly bad. The bad being my reluctance to explain something they may view as juvenile or strange. It is, I have no doubt, a sort of "Pavlovian" response after years of trying to be "cool" in high school or hide the books from concerned mothers, my own included, once upon a time.

This, by the way, interests me greatly. I occasionally find myself "changing the subject" or simply making fun of myself when other family members start to do the same. To say that many of them "don’t get it" is an understatement. So, as we have done for years, we make jokes of it -- "Yep, we're breaking out the black candles tonight for our devil games." The term "devil games" has become a kind of permanent eupemism, in fact.

What interests me is that 1) the games are viewed with some suspicion (all that Satanism hooey, which really no one buys) and 2) the games/hobby is viewed as an uber-geeky, juvenile pasttime worse than video games (which my brother and I play fantically and have for years).

Quote from: Ron Edwards

4. Consider your own entire history of role-playing. Have any of the answers to the above questions changed for you, over time? From what to what?

While I may have just painted a picture of running around from basement to basment in secret to hide from fundamentalists or angry jocks, that's hardly the case. My group in high school was mainly jocks, for one! Heh. And I think the "diabolical" treatment is mostly just taken in good fun, making fun of both fundamentalists and gamers.

So, yes, my answers to those questions have indoubted changed over time. In college, I had some social contact with members of other groups. Same in high school. We talked about things gaming and otherwise, but rarely played (single instances, if ever). Largely, however, I'm an "in-the-closet" RPG-geek with acquaintances and friends. For example, I have always kept my hobby from co-workers. Point a gun to my head and ask me why -- the answer is probably one of two things . . . or both. One, I don't want to explain something I know I can't possibly explain in one short conversation. Two (and more interestingly) I'm afraid of what they'll think or how they'll react. That's a pretty irrational thing. But, there it is.

Quote from: Ron Edwards

5. Consider yourself and your fellow group members again. Do you all share similar answers to all of the above questions, or do you represent a range of diversity?

I think many of my fellow group members (especially my "old school" group) have mostly the same answers. Members of my "second" group -- and therefore overlap member Flash -- are probably a bit more "open" about all this than I am. However, as far as I know, they have less social interaction with other groups in the area than I do only because of my contacts built at the hobby store in recent years.

Ok, so there's the "Behind the Music" for myself and my groups.

So what?

Here's what I think Ron's getting at . . .

I think Ron is saying that our hobby has become, over the years, a cloistered and insular social network. Which is to say, it's not much of a network! There are all sorts of reasons for this, and the social aspects most troubling in his mind, I suspect. We're not talking about the grubby, smelly gamer. We're talking about bright, "normal" people who keep their hobby largely behind closed doors.

If that's not what Ron's getting at, it's at least what I've observed! My experience explained above should indicate that.

Still, so what? Well, obviously this is tied, among other things, to Ron's ideas about mainstream vs. alternative. The games and their content (most especially D&D, but I also argue WoD-style LARPs) are NOT the only thing keeping the mainstream vs. alternative paradigm inverted. It's also the social interaction of GAMERS with the REST OF THE WORLD. (And the Forge sends up a resounding, "Duh, Snyder!")

Here's the thing, though, and likely the point at which I stumble with Ron's viewpoint. So what? I mean, what's to INCENTIFY the hobby to invert? Nothing. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Ok, so then I assume Ron is saying fuck the hobby! Let's forget about those basement freaks playing D&D. (You know, like me!) Let's worry about getting "real" folks to play games that they've never played before, and could really have a blast if there wasn't all this uber-geek / satanist / whatever-the-hell baggage.

I agree with that noble ambition. I really do. I just don't care! That's why I said I'm waiting for Ron's "other shoe to drop." Maybe he'll convince me (or maybe someone's discussion will) otherwise. Because right now, I have less than zero interest in doing that, in devoting the energy to wake up the mainstream. I find it extremely taxing just to get geekdom to get interested in things I want to do. (Dust Devils and the confounding reaction to my new project, Nine Worlds). Worse yet, I don't have the resources to do it. That'll keep me away if nothing will (Case in point: If Dust Devils is a mainstream game, how do I pay to invest in getting in the hands of the mainstream audience?)

When even that might get too tiresome, I just "disappear." I shrug, turn off the computer, and go back down into the basement with my old school pals. We game 'til we drop, our little hearts content and no one the wiser.

I would guess that I'm not alone in that regard. That is, that I just don't see the payoff -- social, financial, intellectual or whatever -- on the horizon. I think others likely have the same reaction, and I'm not just talking about folks on the Forge. I think there are other extremely valuable souls out there in this hobby that could really have some astounding ideas to make the mainstream wake up. But I think they either don't want to, or the thought would so challenge their identity with their hobby that they'll do it when you pry their D20 (or whatever) from their cold, dead hands.

Title: Social Context
Post by: Jonathan Walton on November 18, 2002, 01:15:48 PM
Interestingly, Matt, coming from a similar "closeted gamer" background, I have exactly the opposite reaction to Ron's call to "go mainstream."  To me, it doesn't feel like I'm being asked to put in any extra effort because... that's what I was planning on doing anyway.  Pushing the envelope is what I enjoy most, and sharing/teaching things to newcomers and young people is one of the coolest feelings in the world.  This may be because I'm only 20 years old, not jaded enough, and far too idealistic for my own good, but, if so, I don't really care.

The reason I still play and design games is not because I believe in what roleplaying is now, but because I believe in what it can become.  In my opinion, keeping one of my hobbies and (hopefully) talents hidden from the rest of the world is not rewarding enough.  And maintaining the same "closeted" social habits (at least, in regards to roleplaying), doesn't do anything to change that.  If you can't see the payoff, fine.  But all I can see is payoff.  Maybe not financial, but who's really in this for the money?  Socially, hell yeah.  Intellectually, you better believe it.

After all, if you're not making a difference, what the point?

Title: Social Context
Post by: Matt Snyder on November 18, 2002, 02:24:13 PM

Your ethic of pushing the envelope, bolstering the art and seeking to tap the mainstream is laudable. That's an ethic the Forge cherishes, and I do, too.

That you were already planning on going mainstream anyway hardly addresses the question for me, and I think for much of "gamer-dom." Ron knows full well that the challenge isn't so much finding eager innovators like yourself. It's changing the inertial mindset of gamers and "industry" folks that will be the real task. I guess I'm somewhere in the fog between those two realms.

I'm not challenging the idealistic vision here. I'm questioning two things. Firstly, is all this practical? More specifically, is it practical for me as a game designer? I'm questioning that because my own game has been discussed as a means to tap the mainstream, and yet no one, least of all me, has any notion of how to do it and how to PAY for it.

Second, is it worth it? More specifically, is it worth it for me as a gamer. This is the point at which I believe Ron and I will disagree. See, I think he'll tell me stuff like "Dude, you can only benefit from reaching out, building new social contacts, gaming more, thereby mainstreaming the hobby."

To which I reply "Dude, I don't care. I'm perfectly happy in the basement, you know? My social life is satisfying -- both in terms of gaming and non-gaming circles -- that I don't need to go out there and do that. I have zero interest, no motivation."

I keep saying I want to hear Ron's full vision for a reason. At this point in time, I simply do not see the payoff -FOR ME-. Yeah, it's selfish, but I truly believe it matters 'cause there are likely others like me who would say the same thing. If it's going to be a taxing effort, is it really worth the "artistry" or the "idealism" for the hobby? For busy, lil' ol me at this point, the answer seems to be "No."

Why? Because I'm perfectly happy gaming with the social contacts I have in place. Is it part D&D Fantasy schlock? Sure! Is it also part revolutionary game designs like Sorcerer and Universalis and so on? Sure!

See, Ron's ambition has two real issues. Firstly, he has the potential to change the way people game, most importanly because it changes the social interaction model of WHO games with WHOM. This is a Big Deal if it can be accomplished. I take the absurd position that I support this fully, but I don't wanna do go out and do it! So it goes; I'm stubborn that way. But, with some more insight and cause, I could change my mind.

Second, and far more troubling to me, is the INDUSTRY aspect of all this. You know, the business stuff. It's all boils down to assailing the way the industry works, too. That's not a mission I'm eager to take. I'd do so, if we're speaking strictly in terms of pie-in-the-sky idealism. But, when push comes to shove, it all boils down to "show me the money." This is not something I have in spades, you understand. Otherwise, I'd have published Dust Devils "for real" already.

I'm not saying I don't see ANY payoff, or that I would NEVER contribute. I'm saying I don't see a practical payoff (for me, selfishly), nor do I see sufficient incentive for people like me to contribute to the 'cause.' At least as it's been discussed thus far. Hence my constant, repeated insistence to hear more from Ron (and others, for that matter!).

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

After all, if you're not making a difference, what the point?

Having fun. Relaxing. Enjoying the creative process. Entertainment. Spending time with good friends.

I'm concerned that in going mainstream, our "Onward Christian Soldiers"-like drive will take away all the FUN -- all the reasons I already do like the hobby.

The point -- at least for me -- is most decidely NOT stressing out, screwing up orders, mailing stuff, replying with form emails, challenging an industry, arguing with grognards, discussing with designers, retailers, distributors, spending weekends at conventions pimping, being away from my daughter and wife, etc.

I'm being a bit facetious here, Jonathan, but my point is that I have plenty of things in my life that I quite strongly believe make a difference in the world. I just question how much more attention I can devote to radically changing the way a hobby that I already sufficiently enjoy is perceived and approached by people.

(EDITED: changed "with" to "worth" in 6th paragraph)

Title: Social Context
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 18, 2002, 02:33:17 PM

And here I'd written and then re-considered a post to describe how Fun was the issue, not an evangelical Change-the-Hobby crusade at all. I'd even mentioned how no one has to comply.

But I decided not to post it because it was a bit early, I think.

So Matt, I'm actually on your side in this matter. What you want is what you want, what you like is what you like, and believe me, I totally hear you regarding what a pain in the ass publishing and fulfillment, etc, can be.

Stay tuned. A number of possible developments and thoughts, and I think some that will surprise you, are still working themselves out. In the meantime, don't be too sure that my goal is to hit streets and airports with bravely-smiling, "Ask me about role-playing" crusaders.


Title: Social Context
Post by: Tim C Koppang on November 18, 2002, 04:06:32 PM
Quote from: Paul Czege
A few months ago, Danielle and I had a very nice dinner with a Forgite, his wife, and one of his friends at a restaurant midway between all our individual hometowns. I'd proposed running a game for them, which never actually happened, but that was the purpose of the get together. And I enjoyed it quite a bit. But would everyone have made time for that nice dinner and game conversation if the possibility of gaming together had not been on the table. I really really doubt it.

Umm … so what?  This happens all the time even with people totally separate from roleplaying.  The important issue here is not that you wouldn’t have gotten together if it wasn’t for a common interest, but that you did get together and have a good time.  I don’t know what you talked about at this dinner.  Was it entirely game related?  From the sounds of it, no.

Hobbies, on one level, exist to bring people together who share an interest.  They can talk about that hobby, and it might be the reason that they started socializing in the first place, but it certainly doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with that—or that the conversations will always be limited to the hobby subject.  Take for example, a group of “regular guys” who get together every month for a poker night.  Sure, they convene to play poker, but it doesn’t cheapen the experience—nor does it necessarily mean that they wouldn’t want to interact with each other outside of poker night.

Now, admittedly, in your first example the guy seemed like a bit of a recluse.  That’s a good example of what I would call low confidence.  I would guess that he didn’t know how to interact beyond the construct of gaming.  I’ve had similar anxieties before, but sometimes you have to learn to get over them.

Title: Social Context
Post by: greyorm on November 18, 2002, 05:49:49 PM
Matt wonders what the point is since he has a hard enough time getting the geeks interested in his stuff...

Well, isn't the point, from an economic standpoint at least, that a larger audience will make it EASIER to get folks interested in what you're doing, not HARDER, because there are simply more of them?

Not sure that makes a difference to Matt, but it would to anyone trying to make a living in the hobby, and certainly the companies which produce RPG material, who have a vested interest in cash-flow gains.

Title: Social Context
Post by: M. J. Young on November 19, 2002, 12:02:53 AM
We come back to the questions with a new spin, as
Quote from: Ron Edwards also
What isolating behaviors do you practice, in terms of all four questions?

So, with reference to my previous comments, let me look again.
  • Quote from: Ron
    Consider yourself and the people you role-play with. Do you ever socialize with them without role-playing? If so, which type of socializing is the more frequent one? That is, do you occasionally role-play with these general/whatever friends, or do you occasionally socialize with these fellow role-players?

    My kids are all teenagers (well, the youngest is ten, but he thinks of himself that way). It is my impression that it is not easy to maintain links with your kids in that age bracket; but we've somehow managed it (not that we don't have problems, but that estrangement isn't one of these). We talk about our games all the time; we talk about the games we play together, the games we've played in the past, and the games we're playing elsewhere. They enjoy discussing what's happening in my online forum game. It happens that they also like my music (the stuff I wrote and use to perform years ago), and like to have me sing it for/with them. We talk about all kinds of things, though; and I'm not at all certain whether close family gaming group is a viable model for this kind of discussion. The few others who have been part of our games are mostly their friends, and although I know these kids, it would hardly be correct to say I socialize with them.

    The online forum games are with players quite far away, the nearest in D.C. (and he's a recent addition to the game). Socializing with them is kind of out of bounds. One of them was, for a while, treating me like I was a close friend of his, in terms of chatting with me via chat software every day for extended periods; it was interfering with my work, and I had to explain generally that I didn't have the time to "chat" with people while I was working, although I would be pleased to discuss things by e-mail or on the forums. Perhaps my time is a bit too limited for that kind of socializing, or perhaps it's only a matter of degree.

    It occurs to me that I "socialize" in some sense with other gamers online, via forums like this and mailing lists. Obviously here we talk about games, but we don't game. But I think this actually fits in a different category.

  • Quote from: The Professor
    Consider yourself together with your fellow group members relative to other role-playing groups in your area. Do you talk about your play experiences and share information about play with members of these other groups? Do you socialize with play members of these other groups without role-playing being involved as an issue? [Please note: these last two questions are not alternatives, but independent of one another. One could, for example, conceivably do both, just at different times.]

    Yes, this would seem to be the right place for this part. You guys are, in a sense, gamers in other groups with whom I socialize; but mostly I socialize with you in the context of game discussions, as that's the function of the forum. There is one exception to this. I'm currently chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild, and the discussion there also covers a shared faith. Particularly as chaplain, I sometimes reply to private e-mail from group members with personal problems or questions about their faith and their lives. This will sometimes touch on gaming, but often will have nothing whatsoever to do with it.

    There is at least one gamer in the area who would like to get together with me and play sometime; I think he wants to play D&D, which is fine by me (I still run OAD&D from time to time). But I do practice a sort of isolating behavior here: my wife doesn't allow strangers to visit (particularly strangers I know and she doesn't), so I don't have people over. She also thinks I spend too much time working on this to have any time to go see other people to play games without her, and she doesn't have the time or inclination at present to go with me, so I don't play elsewhere. It's really a combination of the logistics of getting together combined with having been so badly burned in the past (as mentioned above).

    There is a game referee twenty miles from here who somehow got it into his head that he wanted me to come shake up his gaming group by running a few games sometime. Problem is, he wants me to run D&D3E, and I can't think of a single good reason to finish reading those books or run that version of the game, so it's not going to happen. I suppose I'm isolating, because I don't want to run that game and they don't want to play anything else.

  • Quote from: Again Ron
    Consider yourself relative to people you know who do not role-play. Do they know about your hobby (that is, that you do this)? Do you discuss it with them to any degree, and if so, how often?

    There was a visiting teacher (Spanish teacher from Spain) at my son's school who wanted to come over and play Multiverser, but I had much the same problem about time and place. Scheduling is a nightmare, and having people over is a problem.

    However, I'm not totally isolationist. In an odd twist, some people who are the closest thing to the social elite of the small town from which I recently moved have contacted me (through my wife) to ask me to come to a couple of their parties and run first a murder mystery party (I'm very interested in doing this, as I've never been to one, and always wanted to try it) and then a role playing game. I'm still trying to figure out what to run, as I'll need something that will play well in a couple of sessions which isn't going to require too much extra from me. I've sort of eliminated AD&D and Multiverser, as being much better geared to ongoing campaigns (although I'll probably do that if they decide they want to do something regular). I have Little Fears and a current draft of Alyria, but haven't spent enough time with either to judge what would work. (I also have Star Frontiers and Metamorphosis Alpha (the original), but they're probably a bit more campaign-oriented than I want, too.) (Yes, relatively speaking, I've got a small game library. I was always pretty happy with the games we had.)

  • Quote from: Finally, Ron
    Consider your own entire history of role-playing. Have any of the answers to the above questions changed for you, over time? From what to what?

    When I first started gaming, I was on the radio forty-plus hours a week. I made it quite clear to my primarily Charismatic Christian audience that I was a gamer and thought D&D was the most Christian game I'd ever encountered. Some people who were listeners came and tried the game at my home.

    Later, we had an open door policy; anyone could join the game. That got us in trouble, as mentioned. Now we're very strict about having people in the house. Mom has to approve everyone personally, and she doesn't often do so. (It's her job because, in that odd way couples compliment each other, I trust everyone and she trusts no one.)

    However, I'm a recognized gamer apologist. I'm awaiting word as to whether an article in defense of role playing games is going to appear in one of two prominent Evangelical magazines (both of which are major influences in the "cult/Satanism" witchhunt (excuse the pun) wing of the faith); the editor of one specifically requested it, but has to convince his publisher to run it. So I'm still quite vocal about influencing a positive view of gaming, and particularly among those with potentially the most negative views. I just don't play with strangers much anymore, so I'm not introducing so many people to gaming from that direction.[/list:o]
    Does that help?

    --M. J. Young

Title: Social Context
Post by: Paul Czege on November 19, 2002, 07:26:18 AM
Hey Tim,

The important issue here is not that you wouldn't have gotten together if it wasn't for a common interest, but that you did get together and have a good time....Hobbies, on one level, exist to bring people together who share an interest. They can talk about that hobby, and it might be the reason that they started socializing in the first place, but it certainly doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with that - or that the conversations will always be limited to the hobby subject.

I think you're missing the point I was trying to make with that example. The point is that common interest in gaming isn't enough, because gamers don't make time and invest energy in meeting and socializing with other gamers outside the context of planning to game together. Far from wrong, that dinner was fun, and no we didn't talk about gaming the whole time. The point is that it was the negotiating of a potential game together that made it happen, and that shared interest in the hobby alone wouldn't have been sufficient.


Title: Social Context
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 19, 2002, 07:51:04 AM

What some of this discussion is dancin' around, and I think Paul's right on target about it, is that people tend to confound these three things:

- being liked
- being included in a role-playing group
- socializing together

They're related, certainly, but which is the big box and which are nested, and how? I would presume to suggest that "being liked" is the big box, "socializing together" is the next in, and "role-playing together" is the most deeply nested.

[Side note: yes, there are people I've met and befriended through shared activity, including role-playing, but insofar as the successful interaction continues, the "boxes" shake out as I've described in the long run.]

Now: does anyone think that many role-players tend to get the order/nesting of these boxes mixed up?


Title: Social Context
Post by: greyorm on November 19, 2002, 03:13:58 PM
I would put the top two boxes in reverse order, that is "socializing together" is the big box, followed by "being liked."  One can socialize and not "be liked" (this is not to say they are disliked).

In fact, I wonder if being liked is even a box at all, or is simply a social action, rather than a containing box...that is, you socialize with the intent of being liked (perhaps not consciously, but if you are not liked you stop attempting to socialize with that group).

On second thought, perhaps that was Ron's point with his structuring of the social model -- being liked is at the top since it is the reason for engagement in the smaller box (socializing).  Though it is certainly not the ONLY reason for socializing (a politician or spy would socialize for other reasons than simply being liked, though they would attempt to be liked in order to achieve their actual goal).

As to Ron's question:
Now: does anyone think that many role-players tend to get the order/nesting of these boxes mixed up?

Check that.
HELL yes.

I think the stereotypical gamer geek...well, an individual in any fringe hobby...tends to put the last box FIRST. That is, all their socializing occurs within the role-playing group box, and if they aren't included in a role-playing group, they feel disliked and cut-off, despite other activities they may enjoy or participate in...if any at all (as the group becomes their sole desired outlet for social activity).

(Interesting, I wonder how this reflects my own situation, though with the obvious differences?)

As well, a role-player will join a role-playing group to be liked: the whole false "gamer brotherhood" ideal.

I can honestly say we had an individual in our high-school group who displayed exactly this sort of behavior -- anecdote: he was a college student and invited my 16-year old (male) cousin out for beers at the bar, rather than someone in his own peer group (let's ignore the illegality of the proposal for the moment).  He was also the only member we all voted on removing from the group after he had attended only two games.

I mention gender to divorce this from any sexuality issues -- had my cousin been female, the attempt could have been seen as an act of courtship rather than a purely social one.

Title: Social Context
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 19, 2002, 03:24:45 PM
Hi Raven,

I agree. The stereotypical "gamer," in my view, reverses the boxes. To him or her, the In A Role-playing Group box is the big one, and within that (if I'm lucky, says the gamer) is the Being Liked box. And then (if I'm really really lucky), the gamer can Socialize with the ones who like him or her.

Tied to this is the idea that role-playing as a behavior means a bunch of people who cannot interact socially with any success simply moving toward one another. They do not constitute a distinct social scene, but rather an escapist asocial huddle. The role-playing has little value beyond giving them, as huddle members, something to do and a faux-social language by which to identify one another.

I confess: I loathe this model of gaming and role-playing culture. My box-construction is as I described earlier, and - bluntly - I consider it to be healthier and myself to be happier. It's hard for me to imagine a refutation of my view (but that's typical; who can?). Being around people who conform to the stereotypical view is hard for me, and as a campus role-playing club advisor, I consider myself to be in a social-mentor role to help people break it themselves, if they want to.

I'm well aware that this is a huge value judgment on my part. I'm also well aware that anyone can "be" any way they want, so trying to run around and change others at the macro-level isn't a viable goal for me or anyone else. If anyone has input about the issue that doesn't conform with me, do not fear some crushing rejection on my part, 'cause I recognize the personal nature of the topic.

All input/comments are welcome.


Title: Social Context
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on November 19, 2002, 05:37:21 PM
As Raven said, many gamers completely confuse the boxes. Not only that, but - as gamers like rules - they tend to attach rules to the boxes. The most common one is, "If someone is a role-player, other role-players should band together with them." This sub-culture protection is one of the most harmful behaviors in the hobby. Why? Because it stops the exclusion of people harmful to the overall social interaction.

With this sort of topic, evidence becomes nearly impossible to find. Anecdotes contain most of the input you can get. Imagine example 1:

You and your friends that you role-play with (see the traditional 'like->socialize->role-play' box model here) want a new player. Even more likely, a person e-mails you and asks if he can be in your group. Since he, well, role-plays, and this 'tend to our own' behavior exists, you say, "Sure." He joins, and two sessions in not only does not get along with the group, but willfully tries not to get along.

(Tangent: Now, before you say, "Why would he willfully not get along?," think about your very stereotypical gamer geek. For a reason I haven't fully figured out yet, socially-incompetent geeks argue in order to be liked, which of course ostracizes them from socially-competent people. My guess is a combination of the need for attention and the want to prove that they have some knowledge that the others are unaware of. Whatever the case, it happens - think of that guy in high school who everyone knew because everyone abused him. If you had one, he probably got himself into a situation every week. I'm saying he did it on purpose.)

Anyhow, this guy who tries to cause tension in your group will destroy it over the long run. If we cling to the sub-culture protection behavior, we kill our entire group - and damage the relationships between people we like. If we choose to abandon this behavior, we tell the guy he's a dick, and drop him.


I get accused of being harsh for this viewpoint. I managed to make enemies with half the gamers in Seattle for telling one of them I didn't want to game with him because I didn't like him. Coming from practical application of this, I actually posit that we continue the subculture-protection behavior, while acknowledging it. That is, we should help socially-challenged gamers. If we acknowledge what we're doing instead of willfully ignoring the problem, though, we can perform an altruistic deed while not destroying our larger boxes.

Title: Social Context
Post by: Matt Snyder on November 19, 2002, 05:55:48 PM
Ron, this issue -- that is, the gamer social model you’re criticizing here is one key reason why my own group -- particularly the “old school” group I mentioned above -- does not have frequent contact with other groups and role-players that we’ve encountered. I think we’re atypical in that we’re gamers AFTER we’re geographically located classmates and after we’re good friends. We participated in many, many social events outside of gaming, and still do frequently. We often delay the start of a session to talk about wives, or the NFL, or whatever. I guess we’re sorta like already converted mainstreamers? Perhaps.

Anyway, I say this because I recognize that the contact we had with other groups when one of our group members ran a comic/hobby store was not positive. We could not connect with them, and had often dissimilar interests and discussions from this crowd?

Is/was it a value judgment about people? Yeah. So I sympathize with what you’re saying. I think the social barriers that 1) the “stereotypical” groups erected and 2) our perceptions of their social interaction kept us from seeking out newer members or even just conversing with these groups we observed. (And, yes, we had other social issues, like being old friends making it hard for anyone “new” to “join in” regardless).

So, when I said I was perfectly happy with my current group “in the basement” I think that was because it’s an atypical gamer group (that is, it’s members are pretty “mainstream” guys, whatever that means). It’s also because we believe, rightly or wrongly, that it’s nearly impossible to identify similarly minded(?) players. Not that they don’t exist or that we wouldn’t accept them even in the group, but that we 1) don’t know how to find them based on prior experience and 2) don’t really need to.

I’m saying all this to put my experience in perspective, particularly since I’ve come to believe over the years that we’re anything but stereotypical gamers (though I’m less and less sure what that is anymore!). So, Ron and everyone can factor that into the bigger picture, if they wish.

Title: Social Context
Post by: Stuart DJ Purdie on November 19, 2002, 06:05:59 PM
This is phrased as an explanation of what Ron said he observed.  I'm not sure it is, but it's the only way I can see to express this.

Consider the time when a person takes up role playing.  It seems to me that, in the majority of cases, this occurs at a school, collage or university setting.  In such a setting, the people who you game with will tend to be people that you meet often.  Causing acrimony (asking them to leave a gaming group when _they_ feel that they have done no wrong) is going to be very painful, due to the continued meetings.  

Because of this, there is an understanding (at least, within all the gaming groups I've been in) that one need not like someone to game with them.  Additionally, one may like a person, but not like the character they play (or, more maturelly, recognise there is a GNS mismatch), and still not ask them to leave, for the reasons above.

I posit this as a first cause, for the currently self perpetuating situation.

Alas, if I'm correct, it strikes me as being difficult to prevent from occuring.

A though:  In the spirit of 'if all the player design ex-military characters, they want combat',  what, if anything, does it mean if most of the play time turns into general chit-chat, assuming that the content of the game is "good"?

Title: Social Context
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on November 19, 2002, 07:37:11 PM
What isolating behaviors do you practice, in terms of all four questions?

I can't really speak for my group, but a major isolating behavior I practice is that my acquainences usually stay within the context from which I know them. That mean, my friends from work I only see at work. My friends from school I only see at school (haven't seen then for 10 years) And I only see my gaming friends when we're gaming or at least at the game store.

This is true about 90-75% of the time. I hope that helps.

Title: Social Context
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 20, 2002, 11:09:32 PM
What's backwards about it? I think everyone else has it all wrong.


Title: Social Context
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 22, 2002, 08:44:42 AM
Hi Mike,

I can't tell what you're talking about, and hence, what you're saying. Can you elaborate a little?


Title: Social Context
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 22, 2002, 12:39:02 PM
I prefer to role-play over socialize. And I am unapollogetic about it. When I am socializing with people who are potential role-players, I am usually wondering why we're not role-playing.


Title: Social Context
Post by: Emily Care on November 22, 2002, 12:47:06 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
When I am socializing with people who are potential role-players, I am usually wondering why we're not role-playing.

Ah, but aren't we all always playing some role?  Just bring some dice to a cocktail party and make yourself an npc.  Roll to see whether you smile and nod at a banal comment, or throw a drink in someone's face.

On second thought, that's probably a bad idea. :)

--Emily Care

Title: Social Context
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 22, 2002, 02:20:18 PM
Quote from: Emily Care
On second thought, that's probably a bad idea. :)

Yes, probably.

Note that people who've met me will probably agree with me that I'm not too objectionable when I am socializing. That is, I've grudgingly learned the skill as I realize that I do not live in a solipsistic universe, and as such I need to be able to interact with people in a manner that's, at the very least, innofensive. And, just so people don't get the wrong idea, I don't dislike socializing per se. I can have fun doing just about anything.

It's just that the compulsion to play is huge. Like I said, when I'm with people who are potential RPGers, I have to struggle to restrain myself and not suggest constantly that we go and play. In fact, to give an idea of how strong the compulsion is, I can realte it to my eating habits. Anyone who's seen me eat knows that I'm a big fan of food (pretty obvious looking at me, too; I go about 285). But I'll even give up food for role-plaing if I have to choose between the two. As for sex... all depends...

I like to play RPGs. Not just a little.  :-)

Anyhow. Where does that leave me? Am I wrong for being the way I am? I'll apollogize right now, just in case people think that's true, because I'm not going to change. I like me the way I am. A fat, anti-social gamer.



Title: Social Context
Post by: Steve Dustin on November 22, 2002, 09:59:36 PM
Actually, I think this whole social boxes thing is treading on dangerous ground. It sounds like creating some kind of "game theory" to explain away socially deviant behavior. I think this is really something that should be view on a case by case basis.

I've had almost zero success into turning friends into gamers. Friends I had who were gamers didn't fit my style at all. Maybe I don't socialize enough, but I had to specifically go and search for game groups that fit my style. Now that I'm married and have an 9 month old, I choose to use my limited free time with "gamer" friends to game.

Nobody's kicked me out of their group. Nobody's told me I'm disruptive or a jerk. I just don't have time to do otherwise -- my gaming time is limited to a bi-weekly session at the moment.

Sure, there's crappy gamers out there. I don't think developing a theory around a stereotype is a good way to go about this.

Take care,

Title: Social Context
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on November 26, 2002, 05:30:02 PM
I've been on vacation the last few weeks, and it seems like the Forge is loaded with fasciniating threads.  But this one . . . well, here're my answers and a few thoughts:

1.  My main play group often includes my girlfriend, but other than her, RPGs are our main socialization - not only, by any means, but main.
2.   I've spoken with some other play groups - I've got a co-worker that plays, some casual friends who are SCA folk that know other RPG groups, and etc.  I socialize very rarely with 'em at all, and the RPG content of discussions varies from small to medium.  I do have a fairly large (14-16 people) "extended" play group (sometimes little sub-groupings will spawn a game for 3-6 months), and when we socialize, gaming will come up fairly often.

3.   Most folks I know are aware of my roleplaying, but we rarely discuss it in any depth.  My visit to Gencon this year provided the most fodder for such conversations - people I "knew" through the internet, taking a trip, Ron winning the Diana Jones . . . good conversation-starters.

4. In my rpg play history, my answers to the above have changed drastically.  My junior high/high school D&D (mostly) play was secondary to other socialization, another activity like working on the school newspaper or whatever (yup, I was VP and later P of our Dungeons and Dragons club).  Interestingly, most of the friends I've stayed in touch with from those days were big participants in the game play, though we rarely play together now.

My long and wandering college career involved many ATTEMPTS at play, but none really worked out - as socialization, it lead to me perhaps-unjustly not wanting to hang around with newly-met "friends" anymore.  The experiences were pretty negative, and while I continued to know/find people who gamed, I rarely particpated in it - occasional conversations, definitely secondary to other socialization.

When I moved out to the SF Bay area, I warily started looking again, and it took a while before I'd discuss it easily with non-gamers.

5. I think there's a pretty diverse range of answers in my main group, and a VERY wide range in my extended group.  Everything from almost too sterotypical RPG-focused folks whose socialization is all about gaming and who talk to everyone (or no one) about it, to very peripheral players who spend that one night a month with a play group and never talk about it otherwise.

I also have a group of folks that I'll occassionally play standard card games (Hearts, Wizard, etc.) and/or dominoes with, and it's interesting to compare that set to the RPGers . . . not sure that's the point of this thread, though.