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Author Topic: What does role playing gaming accomplish?  (Read 21702 times)
Walt Freitag
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Posts: 1039


« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2002, 02:38:16 PM »

Hi Paul,

Well, I don't agree with either of those premises so I don't see how they could be informing my inquiry.

Those zillion other games require (relative to RPGs) very little effort to play, and they have the easy to understand intrinsic appeal of straightforward competition. The image problem I've described occurs when people see a large amount of effort expended (whether individually, or by a social group) in an activity that they don't perceive the appeal of.

The perceived value of a creative activity can be anything, but it has to be perceived to be seen by others as of value. Some things, like a painting, are a lot easier to perceive than other things, like the gained ability to better control the direction of a conversation. That perception can be strongly influenced by, for example, whether or not you tell people about the value the activity has had for you.

Hi thoth,

Again, my point is about public perception. I realize that many don't care in the slightest about public perception of their activities. But enough appear to feel otherwise to have sustained several recent threads about the public image of gamers.

If someone asks you why you role-play, and you don't care about how the person asking the question feels or will feel about you, then it doesn't matter what you answer. You can tell them to fuck off, or say "because," or say "because I feel like it," or babble in tongues, or ignore them entirely. But if you do care about their perception of you, then "because it's fun" is not a helpful answer. It provides no more information or insight than "because I feel like it." It's honest because it's vacuous. "Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?" "Because it's there." In other words, "You couldn't understand, so fuck off."

No one is ever required to justify anything. You can abide by others' default judgment if you're willing to accept that judgment or if you don't care about it. Refusing on principle to justify what you do is fine, but don't then complain about not having the public image you wish to have.

There are many recent threads about how to effectively sell a game (or gaming in general) to new people. That's not my concern here.

- Walt
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JMendes
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« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2002, 02:53:56 PM »

Hey, all, :)

I wanted to jump into this thread, and this seemed like as good a place as any.

Quote from: Paul Czege
[...] people [...] recognize that socializing for the purpose of being entertained is an acceptable way of spending time. Anyone who's ever played euchre, Rummikub, Boggle, Yahtzee, or a zillion other games certainly doesn't have a problem with formalized entertainment activities that facilitate interesting socialization.


The problem is not so much the acceptability of being entertained but the high amount of effort that goes into it. What would our opinion of those games be if in order to play them we had to carve out the pieces anew in play dough each time? Moreover, suppose the game always tied. Would you still play under those two conditions?

Quote
[...] the only perceived value of a given creative activity is [not] linked to the output product. A few years ago I realized just how much, in terms of tangible skills, I've learned from my role-playing experiences...skills that have translated to my job: expertise at strategizing as a group and working as a team, compromising, controlling the direction of a conversation, creating enthusiasm in others, etc. None of those things are the purpose of play, or the creative product of play. They are the rewards of the process.


This one sounds better but has anyone here ever told anyone that this is the reason they play RPGs? Sure, I've listed these as benefits but never as reasons. If they were listed as reasons, they might even loose the credibility they have as benefits. Can you imagine the aforementioned little Timmy telling his mom he plays D&D in order to learn to strategize better?

Anyway, Walt, to add my answer, what I do to justify RPGs is to say, 'oh, it's like those books where you choose your own adventure, only better, because you are not limited to the two or three options the book designer thought of'.

Cheers,

J.
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Ziriel
Member

Posts: 28


« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2002, 03:23:31 PM »

I myself do my best to avoid having to justify roleplaying to others.   Justifying something, at least to me, sounds far to defensive.  And really, why bother getting defensive if you are not doing anything wrong.  I realize that this iz hardly the point of the discussion at hand, but I felt that it was worth mentioning.  My intention iz not to quibble about verbage so I apologize if it sounds that way.

I prefer to explain the process of roleplaying to people when they don't know what it iz or have false preconceptions about it.  Examples of play and discription of past stories may even intrigue them.  True, this takes much more than a sentence.  In fact it may take quite awhile, but I find it worthwhile.  We are masters of telling stories after all, are we not?  :)

I agree with the comment on discribing it like a choose your own adventure book.  It's a good place to start.  Most people can identify with the analogy and have good feelings when they recall their experiences with such books and similar things.

One other random thought...   If we are feeling the need to justify roleplaying to someone rather than simply brushing them off, as previously mentioned, does it really matter how concise we are?  If you care enough about what the person thinks in order to justify it, why not take a little time?

Am I making any amount of sense at all, or have I missed what you are driving at entirely, Walt?

- Ziriel
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- Ziriel

Personal Rule #32:   13 people can keep a secret  if 12 of them are dead.
thoth
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« Reply #18 on: November 29, 2002, 03:25:48 PM »

Here's an idea...sorry if this isn't closely related..but maybe it is.

Has anyone considered writing up a small, simplistic non-gamers RPG? Then make it freely available for anyone to download and print out. Then ask people to print out a bunch of copies to distribute around their town, putting them in grocery stores, etc.

With the whole point being to try to introduce new people to RPGs, and state exactly what RPGs are and are not.

Basically something of a pamphlet PR campaign to at least try to educate people, and maybe expand the player base :)
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Amos Barrows
ManiSystem
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2002, 03:54:37 PM »

Quote from: wfreitag
Jack, good point about the money issue. And thanks for mentioning climbing mountains. I was looking for other examples of hobbies that had a similar combination of high required effort and deep but difficult-to-perceive (from outside) appeal for the participants. It would be interesting to examine how mountain climbing is regarded by the public -- I think there's a lot of negative perception there too (look at how the media reacted to the Everest disaster of 96 with venomous scorn for the 'wasteful' loss of life) except when it's a first ascent that can be easily justified on the basis of a presumed competition to be first.

Hey, Walt

I don't think there's that much negative view of mountain climbing, not quite the way you seem to perceive. They may not quite understand it nor especially want it for themself, but they do get it in terms of getting back to nature, overcoming a large obsticle, etc. I suppose mountain climbing has had to fall back on "because it's there" as a reason for centuries, but it has been centuries which may be why it's gained a certain amount of acceptance.

I think your reading things wrong. I doubt that there any competition involved in people's perception of mountain climbing. Not anymore, anyway. Unless it's some kind of contest like that Bugs Bunny cartoon, most mountain climbing they hear about is people doing it,...well, becaus it's there. Like these millionaire buying tickets to be space tourists.

I didn't read any of the media about that Everest disaster you'd mentioned but, and this is in spite of what I know about the media, I'm sure they meant wasteful in the sense that it was a shame for them to die when they still had their whole life ahead of them kind of crap, possibly something about how ill-porepared they were if that was the case, not so much that mountain climbing is a wasteful thing to do with your time, like doing drugs, for instance.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #20 on: November 29, 2002, 04:15:13 PM »

Quote from: wfreitag
"Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?" "Because it's there." In other words, "You couldn't understand, so fuck off."

Just for full disclosure, according to the biographer, he said, "Because it was there," after a long day of interviews and being ambushed by reporters who each wanted their own unique answer (you know how reporters are).  Really if I had to come up with forty or fifty different 'reasons why I game,' I'd get to "Because it was there" sooner or later.

What was unsatisfactory with the answer I gave (if you'll take three sentences)?  I mean, I just don't get the problem.  Your responses are all over the map; you pick apart every answer (except mine) on different grounds.  It seems like a moving argument (too specific, too vague, too defensive...).

Are we talking about a case of 'disgruntledness?'  Is there some other problem that here, so that nothing we could provide will be a satisfactory answer?

Are we even looking for an answer any more?  Or is it for the hypothetical 'they' who are defined as 'never being satisfied?'

Fang Langford
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Price Check
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Posts: 3


« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2002, 05:43:51 PM »

Stranger: "Why do you play RPGs?"

Gamer: "Because its a challenge."

Stranger: *probably suprised* "How so?"

Gamer: (Description of gaming to interested listener)

Reasons i would give,
"You have to think tactically about a massive number of details"
"It is difficult to play a role based on constantly changing stimulus"
"There is alot of investigation, mysteries, and problem solving involved"

Having fun is one thing, it is fun to be tickled but you dont do that for 4-6 hours straight. I think the challenge is why I game. I think something being challenging is an understandable reason to be involved in it. Some people devote their lives to various challenging persuits.
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RobMuadib
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« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2002, 06:16:35 PM »

Walt

I think Fang's "What Would You Do?" avatar answer to why play RPG's is
a great answer in general, all of the other aspects are personal, largely
intangible and not particularly obvious, thus of little use for justifying the
activity to a culture/society. That is, they are good answers to
individuals,but not to the culture in general. I like Fang's answer in
particular because it relates it to an already understood, accepted, and
well recieved entertainment in the form of movies or books, etc. Another
reason I like it is because it speaks to the single most defining aspect of
RPG's, acting in the role of a character in an imagined milieu.

One thing that occured to me when thinking about this answer was my
starting to play Magic again. One thing I noticed that has helped Magic
appeal to people is the fact that wizards supports a professional player
league. Specifically, Magic is competitive, and if you are really good, you
can win money doing it. It supports itself to a be like Finkel/Kai argument.
It also has a active community always discussing these competitive
aspects and the decks and strategies used by the professional players. So
challenge is a great aspect for Magic. Now, the fantasy wizard, cool
pictures of monsters is actually only color to it, of secondary importance.

Which makes me think of RPG in contrast, challenge is not particularly
emphasized in all RPG's, nor is storytelling, however, playing a role and
taking part in an imaginative milieu is, thus is probably the best "answer"
aspect to stress.

Oh, to be cynical, we just need to spend money on a national
advertising campaign showing gamer dudes having lots of great looking
chicks hanging out around them, interested in them because of what they
are doing. It doesn't matter that it doesn't happen in real life, I mean hey
it works for most everything.

Just think, you could have a cool "promotional" video commercial of
gamer dudes, who are strangely good/cool looking, hanging out playing
with great looking chicks sitting around admiring them, with "Lose
Yourself" by Eminem playing, having them rolling and talking, and flashing
to cool animated scenes of cool fighting and flashy special effects images,
and like having cuts to the women admiring the guys for their oh so cool
imaginative investment. And boom, gaming is cool:) Too bad we don't
have the cash to promote our hobby/industry like say Sony does the PS2


So, I guess I'll throw the ball back to your court and ask you to expand
on your point with your idea.

Oh, as to literacy, I guess that has already been coopted by lots of
groups, most notably a certain young religion founded by a SF writer,
which happens to be much more invested in selling it's particular books to
people and getting people to join their cause. So much so, I won't even
mention them by name, and should anyone happen to be a member of
this religion, please don't be offended or report me to the religion's
organizational hierarchy, as it is just something I saw on some Biography
channel show, so like sue them. :)

HTH

(Signature witheld on the advice of legal counsel:) )
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Rob Muadib --  Kwisatz Haderach Of Wild Muse Games
kwisatzhaderach@wildmusegames.com --   
"But How Can This Be? For He Is the Kwisatz Haderach!" --Alyia - Dune (The Movie - 1980)
M. J. Young
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Posts: 2198


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« Reply #23 on: November 29, 2002, 11:43:07 PM »

Quote from: Walt a.k.a wfreitag
How many of us can explain why we play, in one sentence and in a way that a non-player can understand and empathize with? (And without dodging the question; pointing out that it's a social activity doesn't help if it doesn't explain why you choose this particular social activity.)

In Total Recall, there's this really clever sci-fi idea about having memories of a great vacation planted in your mind. After all, there are many wonderfully fun things you can do, some of them adventurous, some relaxing, but in the end all you have is the memories. Before you go on vacation, you're hoping that you will have a certain kind of experience--but it's not guaranteed. This process will give you real memories of an experience that never happened, just as vivid as if it had.

Watching a movie is like that, sometimes. You can get the feeling of being there, capture the images and sounds, and so have memories of things that never happened. Sometimes you can get those same vivid memories from reading a book, if it's well written and you're truly absorbed in it.


When I explain what I like about role playing games, I usually come to this.  (In fact, I hit exactly this point in http://www.gamingoutpost.com/GL/index.cfm?action=ShowProduct&CategoryID=54411&ProductID=61942&publisherid=54849">Game Ideas Unlimited: Vivid last year.) I have memories of some of my game adventures which are just as vivid in my mind as real moments in my life. I've visited alien landscapes and met the people; fought against monsters and lived to tell the tale. The places I've been and the things I've done even Rockefeller couldn't have managed. And I remember them.

There is here this balance. Like the book or movie, I am completely safe while I do this. The blizzard won't freeze me, a wrong step on the mountain won't see me plunge to the rocks below, the dragon won't devour me. But like reality, it is the adventure I choose, the memories I create, things which happened to me. Some people dream of flying; I remember doing it.

That's not the only reason. I enjoy role playing games because they seem to have many things happening on many levels, from character development and interaction to tactical reasoning to moral dilemma, often on the same night of play, sometimes in the same moments. It is challenging to be involved in such a situation. It's like being James Bond or King Arthur or Gandalf, but doing so safely in your own living room.

Quote from: Walt later
MOM: What did you do at Mark's house all afternoon?

LITTLE TIMMY: I played a game called Dungeons and Dragons.

MOM: Oh really? Who won?


LITTLE TIMMY (option 3): We did.

I don't see that as incorrect or even misleading.

But yeah Role Players Against Illiteracy is a good idea. It not only sounds good, we can find good arguments why we want people to be able to read.

And I have to agree with Paul that I've learned a lot from role playing, and developed quite a few skills.  Before I ever heard of role playing games (back in college and immediately thereafter) I started several novels, each of which petered out to nothing. Now, after all I've learned from games, I've got one about to go to press (I'm told it's packaged, and will probably reach the printer on Monday). So I learned something.

And maybe if someday one of my books winds up a blockbuster picture (yeah, I know, wishful thinking) I'll say in some interview, "I'd really like to thank Gary Gygax, since so much of what I learned came from playing Dungeons & Dragons, one of the best practical tools for enhancing creativity I've found."

I've received letters (usually thanking me for my defense of gaming, http://members.aol.com/MarkJYoung/confess.html">Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons Addict) from people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and mild autism who pushed themselves to overcome those problems not because they wanted to graduate in the top of their class, but because they enjoyed playing these games and wanted to learn them and play them more--with the result that they did improve academically, sometimes indeed graduating in the top of their class. Paul Cardwell (CARPGa chairman) is strongly touting the values of role playing games in education, and has managed to convince a number of school districts in the U.S. to try them.

I still wonder whether any of the Hollywood golden boys of the seventies and eighties were role players; after all, in E.T. the kids were playing D&D, so obviously Speilberg, at least, had some understanding of the game. I guess if they did learn from those games, they aren't telling anyone.

Quote from: Amos Barrows a.k.a. Thoth
Has anyone considered writing up a small, simplistic non-gamers RPG? Then make it freely available for anyone to download and print out. Then ask people to print out a bunch of copies to distribute around their town, putting them in grocery stores, etc.

Yes. We've got such a game in the draft stages; we're trying to present a complete and functional role playing game system for use by non-gamers, in about the same length rules as a Monopoly game. It will be made available for download, will use cards as resolution mechanics, and will be packaged for sale in some form with rules and standard cards (and an interesting card game we've got that's good but not really marketable as such) for an easy price. Everything will be done to get this into people's hands. But I think it's been done before; I remember reading bits of an old history of role playing (something written in the 80's) which contained a very simple game anyone could learn and play in a few minutes. I guess it's just not easy to distribute a free game to people who don't know they would be interested.

--M. J. Young
 Who can't say "someone take out the dog" in one sentence.
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damion
Member

Posts: 198


« Reply #24 on: November 30, 2002, 10:28:25 AM »

What exactly are we trying to accomplish here?
1)expand the player base?
I'm not sure this is all that possible. I think there are certian personality traits that gaming appeals to, and these arn't that common in the population at large.

2)Make gaming a more 'acceptable hobby'?
He we could just change the name to CRPG's (Collectable Role Playing Game).  People will accept ANYTHING if it's collectable, hey, it worked for Magic.  There is only a minor grain of truth in it, but anyway. Honestly, this is probably the simplest answer, but it won't really help gain players.

3)I think alot of good suggestions have been given for dealing with individuals, but I'm not sure what one could to prepare a reason for 'mass consumption'.  Can anyone else thing of a hobby that has the same situation as gaming?

How about something like 'Gaming is like historical recreationists, but requires a lot less time and money and your not limited by history.'
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James
Jason Lee
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #25 on: November 30, 2002, 10:57:55 AM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
But I think it's been done before; I remember reading bits of an old history of role playing (something written in the 80's) which contained a very simple game anyone could learn and play in a few minutes. I guess it's just not easy to distribute a free game to people who don't know they would be interested.


There were a number of board-style games (Dragon Strike & Dungeon are the only ones I've ever played).  These board games are exactly the same sort of thing.  I do believe some were even designed by TSR with the intention of drawing in more table top gamers...but that's at the very fringes of my memory and I can't possible know was TSR was thinking anyway.
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- Cruciel
Walt Freitag
Member

Posts: 1039


« Reply #26 on: November 30, 2002, 11:40:52 AM »

Damion, my interest is in #2. Expanding the player base is also an interesting topic, but that's being quite adquately discussed elsewhere. (Not that the issues can be entirely separated, but I've been trying to focus on public perception of the hobby all along.)

I was concerned because discussion in other threads seemed to be leading to a convenient but incomplete assessment of the public image of gaming, which is that that sole problem is gamers dressing up in Sailor Moon outfits, having poor personal hygiene, poor social skills, etc. leading to poor public perception of role playing gamers. I want to point out that at least some, and I believe quite a bit, of the poor public perception of role playing gamers is because they play role playing games.

And that, in turn, is largely because players, publishers, vendors, and game texts don't do a good enough job of explaining to non role players why playing role playing games is rewarding. And unlike many other hobbies, the rewards of role playing gaming are not readily apparent from outside.

Putting a lot of effort into something that has little or no reward is obsessive behavior. When the rewards of role playing are not perceived, role playing gamers appear to be obsessed with role playing. That gives them and the games a negative image.

This is my own theory. It's speculative, but I believe, plausible.

And I guess there's no way to state it without sounding like I'm really hinting that I share that attitude myself, that I'm merely projecting some disgruntlement with role playing games of my own onto the "general public." That's certainly not my intention. And I doubt that role playing games and players having an overall negative image in American society at large is a figment of my imagination.

So, to spell it out, the question at hand is, how can players, publishers, vendors, and game texts do a better job of explaining to non role players the rewards of role playing -- not to necessarily try to convince them to play, but to justify role playing as a worthwhile activity for those who do it? Keeping in mind that successfully explaining something requires more than dispensing accurate information; it also requires the listener to understand and believe the explanation.

Many have already provided some good possible answers to the question. (Others have suggested approaches that I don't think would be effective, and those are the ones I picked apart.) No one solution is going to address so general a problem, so brainstorming a variety of ideas makes sense for now.

- Walt
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Le Joueur
Member

Posts: 1367


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« Reply #27 on: November 30, 2002, 12:55:05 PM »

Quote from: wfreitag
And that, in turn, is largely because players, publishers, vendors, and game texts don't do a good enough job of explaining to non role players why playing role playing games is rewarding....

Putting a lot of effort into something that has little or no reward is obsessive behavior. When the rewards of role playing are not perceived, role playing gamers appear to be obsessed with role playing. That gives them and the games a negative image.

This is my own theory. It's speculative, but I believe, plausible.

So, to spell it out, the question at hand is, how can players, publishers, vendors, and game texts do a better job of explaining to non role players the rewards of role playing -- not to necessarily try to convince them to play, but to justify role playing as a worthwhile activity for those who do it? Keeping in mind that successfully explaining something requires more than dispensing accurate information; it also requires the listener to understand and believe the explanation.

[Bold and colors are mine.]

I believe you've already asked, answered, and violated your own request.  Last first, the emboldened section is exactly what you cautioned against, "a defensive non-answer."  I don't think 'justifying' or rationalizing will solve your problem.

May I simplify?  I'm beginning to think this is your specific problem; "Putting a lot of effort into something that has little or no reward."  But you misdirect the best possible solution by calling for some explanation or 'justification.'

What's that solution?  Make games that don't call for "a lot of effort."  Simple.  Unless you can show me some reason that all role-playing games must require "a lot of effort," I'd say that having games meeting the reddened requirements to hold up as a response to the mythic 'public who needs an explanation' should work better than any frilly 'justification' on a game that requires "a lot of effort."

Fang Langford
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Walt Freitag
Member

Posts: 1039


« Reply #28 on: November 30, 2002, 02:20:24 PM »

Hi Fang,

Quote
May I simplify? I'm beginning to think this is your specific problem; "Putting a lot of effort into something that has little or no reward."


No no no no no no no. My problem is "The perception by non-participants that role players are putting a lot of effort into something that they (the non-participants) regard as having little or no reward."

That might be what you meant, but I'm going to insist on saying it explicitly every time, because otherwise this will turn into a "Hey, Walt says he hates role playing games!" discussion.

As for your main point, I agree that games requiring less effort are one solution. One I for one am committed to pursuing. And I didn't mean to rule out consideration of that solution.

But considering that the vast majority of role playing games sold and played have been, and presently still are, traditional effort-ful styles, and that many many players like these styles and would have no desire to change them just to affect the public image of gaming, the possibility of better justifying conventional role playing games remains a major part of the equation.

I thought I was clear that by "justify" I simply mean "convince non-participants that the benefits of play are worth the effort players put into it." (This does not answer or contradict my question, it merely restates it.)

That doing so might not be possible is an issue we must consider (but a very pessimistic outlook, IMhO).

- Walt
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thoth
Member

Posts: 49


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« Reply #29 on: November 30, 2002, 02:45:15 PM »

Quote from: wfreitag
No no no no no no no. My problem is "The perception by non-participants that role players are putting a lot of effort into something that they (the non-participants) regard as having little or no reward."


Well, at the risk of sounding rude...
who really gives a damn?
It seems to me that someone who has a negative opinion towards games and view it as having little or no reward, aren't likely to open their eyes one day and say "OOOOOH. I see! Can I join!?". Not that that has never happened and/or will never happen.
Now, I honestly believe that most people do not have a set preconception of RPGs, and do not regard it as having little or no reward. I would bet they don't understand RPGs completely, they understand them in that they are similar to reading books, but do not understand it is active imagination and story-making as opposed to passive imagination and pre-made-story. It's still imagination, just different flavours of cake.

But what i'm seeing is that none of the above means squat, because that's not really the concern. The concern that I see is purely of image. It has nothing to do with the reward of RPGs or the understanding of those rewards, and everything to do with the fact that it's not 'satanic' or nonsensical silliness like that, and the concern that some people may be confused about that.
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Amos Barrows
ManiSystem
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