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Author Topic: Fiduciary responsibility?  (Read 8140 times)
james_west
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« on: June 05, 2001, 04:35:00 PM »

:: Warning: This essay is going to seem elitist and egotistical, but it is genuinely something I wonder about. I'm honestly not trying to troll. ::

When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.    - Nietzsche

Most people that play role-playing games spend enough time doing so that it affects their personality. They don't just play the games; the games shape their personality. This is especially true if they start doing so as an adolescent, when personality is particularly malleable.

This frightens me a little, because I find the lives of many gamers horrifying. They have menial, low paying jobs, at which they kill time in order to make ends meet while waiting for the next game. This seems relevant to the issue of stance, particularly as addressed in the discussions about SOAP in which it was mentioned that some people have been made so dysfunctional by their gaming experience that without being led by the nose by the GM, they're incapable of coming up with anything for their character to do. I wonder whether this extends further than the character in some cases, to the player.

I had a large game group in high school; I'm still at least somewhat in touch with most of the people who were in that group, twelve years later. The majority are doing nothing at all; they work at 7-11 or as security guards. They're clearly waiting for the adventure to start. A couple have mature, responsible jobs, which they clearly hate, which they obtained mostly by following their family's expectations. These are all really smart guys; just about everyone in the group got a national merit scholarship. They're not doing nothing out of lack of ability.

Two of us have the sort of lives that I'd think everybody would want. Ed is a terraformer; he splits his time between jungles and tundras, designing ecosystems. In the former, he never wears shoes and is widely known as a witch doctor; in the latter, he e-mailed me once from well above the artic circle, deep in the Karelian forests where he'd been tracking a moose for three days. He gets paid to do this, by companies and governments that want to figure out how to build sustainable ecological systems in areas they control. Best of both worlds; cool job, socially valuable work. He always played a ranger. I shall avoid describing my very strange career trajectory in any detail, but I, too, have had a series of way cool jobs, with lots of independence and responsibility and, at least lately, socially redeeming value.

I used to think that it just showed that different people learned different lessons from the same game; some people took them as an impetus to become the sort of character they'd be interested in playing, while others decided that the point of life is to keep yourself entertained until you're dead.

However, the discussions here gave me a thought; what if the difference in outcomes is related to difference in role in the games. Both Ed and I were primarily the game-masters, which meant that it was up to us to make up the stories (this was a long time ago, when simulationism was king). Both of us knew that if we didn't make it happen, nothing was going to happen. The other players knew that their job was just to be reactive to whatever happened around them. And that's the way we've all lived the rest of our lives, as well.

You may scoff at this - it is just a d*mn game, after all. But it is what we all spent a majority of our time doing during the period in which we were learning how to be adults.

The reason this seems an important issue to me is because

(1) People here treat role-playing as an unqualified good thing, and believe that they are not harming teenagers by getting them to participate. While gaming has given me a massively 'can-do' attitude, that doesn't seem to be the effect it has on most. To a large extent, taking up gaming seems to have the same effect on life-path as taking up drugs.

(2) If the difference in life path -is- related to difference in approach to gaming, then, at least for teenagers, perhaps difference in gaming style -ISN'T- just a matter of approach and personal taste. Perhaps there genuinely -IS- a concrete 'best' way to play, at least when you consider gaming as a learning experience. (Note that the -point- of games, in any species, is to learn. Most species stop playing as they approach adulthood because they have already learned everything their species needs to know. We, on the other hand, can reasonably continue to play games in adulthood because we're a species in which learning never has to stop.)

(3) If (2) is true, perhaps we ought to be concerned about social responsibility. Let me clarify here: it is not sex and violence in games that are to be avoided (or at least, I'm not making that argument at the moment), it's behaving in a reactive manner.

In summary, it isn't just a d*mn game - it's what you spend a big chunk of your life doing. And that's inevitably going to have an effect on the way you think about everything else in your life.

                               - James

[ This Message was edited by: james_west on 2001-06-05 20:40 ]

[ This Message was edited by: james_west on 2001-06-05 23:13 ]
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2001, 04:53:00 PM »

interesting thoughts.  of course really impossible to draw conclusions based on such a small sample.  An alternative explaination to consider, is not that playing trains us one way or the other so much as it sorts us.  In other words being a GM didn't train you for success.  The traits that lead you to stand up and succeed, also led you to stand up and GM.  Those whose traits lead them to follow in life also led them to follow while gaming.

Looked at in this way it is no different from most other activities.  Most adolescent activities are designed to sort us into leaders and followers.  Athletics have their stars and captains, and their second string and benchwarmers.  Cheerleading has its captains.  School projects have their leaders who do most of the work to get the grade and those who just mooch the grade.  Dating has its casanovas and its Erkels.  Cliques are all about those who lead and those who follow.  Drama club has its leading roles and its extras, and at least in my school which actors were which was pretty consistant regardless of the play.

I don't know that RPGs are any different.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2001, 05:48:00 PM »

I think that Val is right here. I think, James, that you may be confusing cause and effect. I became the eternal GM at the age of 10 because I liked it. Others did not. The basic trait of being an entertainer or an entertainee was already in us. From my reading of child psychology (I have a six month old, so...) these sorts of things are hammered out very early. Curiosity especially. I've just been told by my wife that we should keep one of the kitchen cabinets un-childproofed (with just tupperware and other harmless stuff in it) so that he can get in there and investigate. Stimulates an explorative sense.

Interestingly, despite being the GM I was in general a shy and awkward child. This contrasts with many anecdotes that I have encountered where GMs claim that they were the most outgoing of their group. So the skills that I learned as a GM were not particularly helpful in making my way socially. My underlying personality still dominated; RPGs did nothing to change that.

Many of my passive players have gone on to much better (at least higher paying) carrers than I have, and were much more well adjusted as a whole in school. The subset of passive players I have played with (probably over one hundred) now have careers ranging from Janitor to Corporate VP. I see no correlation, there.

It seems much more likely that role-playing in the 80s attracted only those sorts of social misfits who had little to lose by participating in an activity that would end up getting them labeled geeks. That was me all over. Heck, I liked being different (if not the lack of acceptance). And most that I have met who are players share this characteristic.

Being as these individuals are not well socialized to begin with, is it any wonder that they turn out to be unsuccessful in other endeavors on occasion? I think that the rate of escape from this plight is made higher by the fact that gaming also seems to attract a lot of rather intelligent people (and note the correllation between intelligence and geek status) who are able to overcome this lack of socialization later in life. But there will be a percentage that don't.

OTOH, most of these individuals genuinely like their hobby and at least have that going for them. I know a lot of miserable corporates who come home to nothing, and look forward only to work, wich is a fate worse than poor socialization, IMHO. There are better and worse in both groups.

One thing that I agree with you on is that people, in general, would do well to expand their horizons. No startling insight, that. This means that I'd suggest to role-players that they try different styles. Sure. Why not? They might learn some new and interesting skills for use in their everyday life.

But if a player tells me that they can't join my new Narrativist RPG because they don't have time due to joining a volleyball league, who am I to argue with their choice of horizon expanders? They might learn some new and interesting skills for use in their everyday life.

Mike Holmes
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james_west
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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2001, 09:44:00 PM »

Mike,

I'm going to avoid the central issue for this post and just mention my take on a side issue you brought up: the common belief that gamers are more socially inept than most people.

This seems like a strange belief to me: gamers have a far more social pastime than most - you'd think it would make them BETTER at social interaction than most people.

And, I think it probably does. In my experience, most people don't have a clue how to socially interact with people in an unstructured environment; the majority of the population spends most of their time not at work sitting at home in front of the television, flat terrified at the prospect of speaking to strangers.

To recap: the reason gamers seem socially inept to you is because you actually deal with them. All those people you don't deal with are far more frighteningly socially inept, you just don't notice 'cause they never leave their houses outside of work (which is a sufficiently structured environment that their total lack of social skills is masked.)

                         - James
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2001, 05:45:00 AM »

Back to that central issue ...

James' proposition appeals to me, but I think that's because it floats my ego. Since I don't correspond to the "loser gamer" model, and since I favor Narrativist play, the whole idea makes me look real good.

And that makes me wary.

So I guess the most I can legitimately say is the following.

1) This issue is valid. We should talk about it without anyone feeling attacked (or if they do, putting a lid on responding AS IF attacked). If no conclusion is possible at present, given all the confounding factors, then at least every individual ought to consider the issue and arrive at a personal conclusion.

2) As usual, the RPG issue shows massive correlation with my experiences with both martial arts and academics. The same pattern of personality-profiles appears, and the same pattern of positive and negative relationships to the highly-detailed and demanding activities appears.

Further speculations as events warrant ...

Best,
Ron
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Ian O'Rourke
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2001, 06:27:00 AM »

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Ian O'Rourke
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2001, 02:19:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-06-06 01:44, james_west wrote:
Mike,

I'm going to avoid the central issue for this post and just mention my take on a side issue you brought up: the common belief that gamers are more socially inept than most people.

This seems like a strange belief to me: gamers have a far more social pastime than most - you'd think it would make them BETTER at social interaction than most people.

And, I think it probably does. In my experience, most people don't have a clue how to socially interact with people in an unstructured environment; the majority of the population spends most of their time not at work sitting at home in front of the television, flat terrified at the prospect of speaking to strangers.

To recap: the reason gamers seem socially inept to you is because you actually deal with them. All those people you don't deal with are far more frighteningly socially inept, you just don't notice 'cause they never leave their houses outside of work (which is a sufficiently structured environment that their total lack of social skills is masked.)

                         - James


I'm sure that your experience has been different than mine, but let me try this another way.

I was a geek. So there was at least one who was socially inept.

By geek, I mean to say that I was socially inept. I had trouble talking to people and striking up conversations. I was shy, and detrimentally so. Still am, really. I don't like to talk to strangers on the phone, for example, it terrifies me. I had my first date at the age of 17 and only because she asked me. The first time I ever called a girl, I had an actual panic attack complete with racing heart and fop sweat.

I've grown out of it, but not entirely.

And, many if not most of the people I've played with had similar problems. And I've met hundreds of them at conventions, clubs, and game stores. People who's defense mechanisms include falling back on Monty Python quotes, people who don't bathe regularly. You really don't know what I'm talking about?

Most grow out of it, at least as far as I did. Some do not, though.

And I don't only socialize with gamers (I'm not that cloistered). I have lots of non-gaming friends and aquaintances. And they have a higher level of social skills in my experience on the average. Not to say that gaming causes these problems. No, my point al along is that gaming attracts people with these characteristics.

We can debate why gaming and similar subjects attract those who are less socially skillful than others. And, of course very importantly, not all gamers are this way. But it does explain the phenomenon that James described.

Mike Holmes
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2001, 05:46:00 AM »

Hello all,

I think there are a few too many variables kicking around to be clear on James' central point. I ask for clarification.

The proposition: some modes of role-playing are associated with or perhaps even contribute to social ... (hm) incompetence.

[Clarification of my own: I do not speak of overall social conformity or lack of such conformity; I am speaking of those who are notably unhappy or socially-dysfunctional in ANY social group.]

What I'm not clear on is the "mode" that may be the key.

- GM vs. not GM?
- one of the G/N/S categories as opposed to the others?
- role-playing at all vs. not role-playing at all?
- something else?

James, help me out. Which are we talking about?

Best,
Ron

P.S. At the risk of going off-topic, someone asked me last year at GenCon (my first) whether I thought "we all," at the entire con, were a community of some or any kind. I emphatically answered, "No."
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John Wick
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2001, 01:51:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-06-05 20:35, james_west wrote:
:: Warning: This essay is going to seem elitist and egotistical, but it is genuinely something I wonder about. I'm honestly not trying to troll. ::

When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.    - Nietzsche

Most people that play role-playing games spend enough time doing so that it affects their personality. They don't just play the games; the games shape their personality.


(This is NOT a rant. I'm laughing as I type.)

(Nietzsche: A man everyone quotes and nobody reads. What's worse, everyone uses the _same_ quotes. Shees. Get a philosophy degree, already!) :wink:

Other things that affect your personality:

TV
Books
Movies
Peanut Butter
(Yes, peanut butter. The chemicals enter your body, cause chemical reactions and alter your personality. Your diet has more to do with your personality than you may know.)
Caffeine
(Ditto peanut butter.)
Asbestus
Your computer
(the screen wracks hell on your eyes, which makes it more difficult for you to see, which affects your personality)
Comic books
Toys
Music
Collectible Card Games
Photographs
Dry erase pens
(the smell gets into your head and kills brain cells, thus limiting your potential for intelligence)
and George Lucas & Mickey Mouse.
(try to escape Star Wars and The Mouse. I dare you.)

EVERYTHING affects your personality. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

If you believe in freewill, you believe your personality can survive any external or internal stimuli.

If you don't believe in freewill, just get used to the fact that everything affects your personality. Everything changes you. Everything is killing you.

You are what you eat.
You are what you see.
You are what you hear.
You are what you smell.
You are what you feel.

You are.
Deal with it. Get on with it.

Take care,
John
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Carpe Deum,
John
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2001, 06:57:00 AM »

John,

This is all well and good as advice. It's excellent advice. (And for what it's worth, it's nice to see a post which uses "free will" in a sentence and makes sense.)

However, James has raised a point, rather than asked for advice. I think the basic issue is still open.

Your point about things affecting oneself is absolutely correct. Yet cocoa butter or what-have-you are not social interactions like role-playing activities are. It's not too unreasonable to suspect that if the AFFECTED VARIABLE of social competence is the concern, that social activities like role-playing might be included in the RELEVANT CAUSAL VARIABLES.

So let's look at all manner of social stuff that might affect social competence. We have ... oh, sexual and romantic interactions, early childhood experience, job and money stuff, alliances like friendships and clubs, current family stuff ... damn, that's a lot of relevant material affecting one's social competence! Is it possible that little ol' role-playing could even be in the running?

I suggest that the person's "profile" of role-playing (whatever aspect of it is of interest) is perhaps a MARKER of social competence than a CAUSE. In other words, those other things I mention above would be the causes of interest, and the effects are noted throughout the person's social activities, including (if applicable) role-playing.

I remain curious as to WHICH elements of role-playing are being suggested as the markers. It's probably not "role-playing vs. not role-playing at all," and I'm quite certain it's not "GMing vs. player status." I hesitate to claim that it's any aspect of G/N/S (boy, talk about drawing accusations of elitism, eh?), although I'm willing to bat that one around if we can all keep our hair on.

One thing's for sure - as a marker, it'll probably have a loose correlation with the issue at hand, rather than a full 1:1 correspondence. That's going to make discussion very hard, as individual instances that deviate from the suggested pattern will not have much meaning.

Best,
Ron
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John Wick
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« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2001, 07:37:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-06-08 10:57, Ron Edwards wrote:

Your point about things affecting oneself is absolutely correct. Yet cocoa butter or what-have-you are not social interactions like role-playing activities are. It's not too unreasonable to suspect that if the AFFECTED VARIABLE of social competence is the concern, that social activities like role-playing might be included in the RELEVANT CAUSAL VARIABLES.


My point is simple (and must be stated again).

If you beleive man has freewill, then you beleive he can overcome any and all internal and external stimuli attempting to modify his behavior. If you believe that, then "You are what you eat" is an invalid statement when it comes to behavior (as opposed to weight gain). Your freewill overpowers everything. It is "free will."

On the other hand, if you dismiss a belief in freewill, you accept that you are the sum of your stimuli. Your choices are predetermined by a complicated combination of genetics, diet, biology and socialization.

The point originally raised in this conversation is moot. "Do roleplaying games affect behavior?"

If you believe in freewill, no. The human psyche is much too powerful to be overcome by socialization stimuli.

If you believe in determinism, yes. The human psyche is _built_ on socialization stimuli (and other factors).

Pick your monkey, just remember he gets to ride on your back.

Take care,
John

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John
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2001, 08:16:00 AM »

Hi John,

We're together on this. I'd picked m'monkey already - this whole thread requires the non-free-will assumption. For present purposes, personality is a physical outcome from physical causes. I presume James is OK with that one too (given the initial post); correct me if I'm wrong.

(For anyone who has a problem with that, think in terms of percentages, OK? What teeny-tiny percent you'll admit that a person is affected by his or her organismal and social makeup, that's what we're discussing. That percent.)

No problems there. So you're absolutely right, no "But I'm a Free Being!" arguments are going to be relevant.

Well then - what do people think? Are social competence and some aspect of role-playing related to one another? What aspects of role-playing should be relevant here? Am I right in my "marker, not cause" notion (admittedly some feedback-reinforcement could be involved)?

Best,
Ron
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JSDiamond
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« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2001, 10:59:00 AM »

My little brother started playing AD&D because of me and he became interested in and plays other games as he gets nearer to 20 years old.  

Our father never dissuaded him from playing those wonderful all-nighters we all love, down at the local shop. "It's a clean and healthy hobby," our dad would say. "Looking at the news, I'm glad these games exist. Kids make friends, they have fun..,"

He's right.
Games like these don't subtract, they only 'add' to a person and where they go from there is the other 99%
   
I see no 'monkey' and no downside.

Jeff

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JSDiamond
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« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2001, 11:37:00 AM »

...or one could always reject rigid dualism and propose that free will and outside stimuli are two forces that interact, affect each other, and contribute to the reasons behind everything we do. One can believe in free will and still believe in blinking, I should think.

Sorry for posting so off-topic.
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Michael Gentry
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greyorm
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« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2001, 11:40:00 AM »

Quote

It seems much more likely that role-playing in the 80s attracted only those sorts of social misfits who had little to lose by participating in an activity that would end up getting them labeled geeks.

Interesting...my group was made up of the unpopular geeks, the popular kids and the (popular) misfits.  And we were all friends outside of gaming, as well.  

I was a geek, I was (and somewhat still am) socially retarded (though not for lack of trying not to be...something I'm trying to come to terms with), I was never popular -- except with girls (though I can count the number of girlfriends I had on one hand) -- and my ability to speak comfortably in public was and is almost non-existant (despite this I was in Theater and Speech...go figure), I didn't go to parties because I never knew where they were and was never invited (though this changed in college).

BUT I was always the DM...I still am the DM.  I am THE DM.
In fact, the one time my high school gaming group picked up a second DM was the time I arrived for a game, stared at my notes, looked up at them and said, "I'm burned out.  I can't do this anymore.  I cannot run this game today, and probably not next week or the week after, either.  I need a serious break, guys.  I want to play for a while."

I realized it at that time, it was probably because I had been THE DM for around five years, *non-stop.  Twice a week six-to-eight hour gaming sessions, every week, every month, every year.
This started our second campaign, with someone else as DM, though I picked my game back up a couple weeks later and we ran alternate; the other was always a heavy simulation run on-the-fly, where mine was narratively looser and more plotted.

So, point: out of my whole group, three of whom were some of the most popular guys in school, I was the DM.

Thus all this doesn't fly for me with the GM personality aspect being put forth: I'm not a go-getter, I'm an awful procrastinator who has to force himself to do things ("Just do it" is one of the most mentally repeated cliches I use); I'm not socially adept or outgoing, I always feel 'clumsy' and foolish among people, I'm reserved and quiet until I 'click' with someone (though notably not if you're female, then I can be a flirt); I'm not a person with a 'can-do' attitude, at least I don't see that stemming from GMing, I'm just stubborn and sickeningly positive (heh) about my ability to do something right/well.

Notably, I don't take instruction well and I don't enjoy having a boss or superior and I HATE being told what to do and how to do it, utterly DE-spise it.
I'm a much better leader than a follower, and my business ideal is to have peons taking and fulfilling orders while I am the one handing out those orders and coming up with the ideas.

All this makes it look more like my GMing was a personality indicator rather than a factor in making my personality.

As to play style, while I can't really speak for anyone else in my group (having lost touch with them almost entirely), the last I heard: one is a high-paid engineer of some sort, one joined the Army but now works in construction (with two others), another went back to school for something after dropping out of a electronics tech college, another was a drug-dealer, one was working at a bar, one is the webmaster for a large business and a classical concert musician...the rest I have no idea about: I'm tempted to think at least one of them is probably in jail or has spent time there.

However, you'd be surprised at who is working where: The engineer was one of the misfits, one of the popular kids is a construction worker, the web-designer was a complete geek (not that *I have anything to judge him on in that respect).

Me?  I've been everything from grocery store clerk to web designer and programmer, to tech. industry trainer and game designer and artist.

Our style, and we played heavily together for at least ten years, doesn't seem to have had too much of an impact on how we each ended up.  I won't say, however, that it might not have *influenced us, but I'm more inclined to believe that those of us who didn't like being just prodded along either quit playing entirely or moved on to find other methods of playing so we wouldn't have to chafe at expections and limited freedoms.

Again, this says "Indicator" to me rather than "Developer."

So I'm not certain I really SEE a pattern to all this...RPing vs. not RPing, GM vs. player, style indicating mindset.  None of it fits for my group.

What I will not say is that RPing and style do not influence a person, especially if that is what you are doing for a decade.  Like law-enforcement people who have been on the force for a long time, their world view and attitude is colored by their continuing experiences, but the basic personality is still there behind it all.

I guess that when confronted with a repeated stimulus or situation you'll either break and accept it or fight and attempt to alter it.  That is, you'll either stick with it and let it alter you, or you'll fight against it and change it to something more suitable for you.

So, it could be positive or negative, but I'd say the effects are really reliant on the established personality of the individual:  As Ian says in his essay: "each game I ran turned my stomach in knots...but I was determined to make a success out of it."  Yes, exactly.  Perseverance, conditioning.  You could learn perseverance from gaming, but chances are that you will already have that trait.

I doubt that I could have stood up in front of a room of complete strangers and taught them a programming language without having been DM and having had the balls to do it for my group of friends, and sometimes complete strangers that friends would drag to games.  But I doubt I would have done it even back then if I didn't already have something in me that made *me want to.

Now, had someone forced me to do it, then I might have been altered in some way, discovered my own ability or something similar...so I can see that as an event as well.

I'm equally certain that involvement in Theater and Speech had something to do with my later teaching career, though I was RPing before I did either of those, and where it all actually began, or what was the biggest influence on my ability to do it is a mystery.

But there are other positive effects I can more easily identify: having to be ready every week to run a game for people means I *have to be ready, it helps me figure out how I prepare for things, how to overcome my natural procrastinatory nature; it lets me examine methods of doing things and interpersonal relationships -- how people respond to what -- and so forth.  All good stuff.

Writing and editing, critical thinking, shared creativity, knowing my own limits, learning to be outgoing and comfortable around others...all these things can be explored and understand in gaming, and they could equally be taught via gaming to those without these skills.

BUT you can't effectively teach something unless you're trying to teach it or learn it, not to adults and teenagers, at least...children, yes, because they're trying to pick up on stuff; so, again, I think the whole "Are they positive or negative influences?" question is gray.

It should be "Are there positive aspects to gaming?  Are there negative aspects to gaming?"  Yes and yes.  It depends on how you use them, like black powder or fire, weapon or tool?

And John, you mispelled "Asbestos." [grin]

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[ This Message was edited by: greyorm on 2001-06-08 15:46 ]
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