Posted by: markfender | December 11, 2012

Roleplaying Ephemera

Roleplaying is a unique medium in that it produces nothing tangible.

ghostdiceThere are products associated with the activity (dice, books, character sheets, etc.) but those are simply remnants of the activity itself. All that remains after a gaming session are the stories that you remember from the night.

While, RPGing has been compared to creating a movie, writing a story, or simply some sort of improv activity, it has little in common with those because it doesn’t end with a product afterwards. There’s no script, no book, or a video recording of the activity itself.

I’m sure people have used RPGs as inspiration for other things they might have produced: movie scripts, books, etc. But it’s still just inspiration – the roleplaying itself was simply a moment in time that you participated in and that can’t be reproduced again.

Because of this, it’s actually a weird hobby to get into. How do you know you’re doing it right? In this age of instructional videos for every subject under the sun, we’re still just left with vague descriptions and “gamemaster advice” to capture the jist of what happens. Even documented sources, such as Play-by-Post games aren’t conducted in the same way that the actual face-to-face activity happens.

Of course, with technology comes the attempts to catalog roleplaying. Actual Play recordings exist on the internet to hear people actually playing the game. The activity loses some of its mystique, but probably becomes a little clearer in the meantime. And, kind of boring. I don’t know how many times I’ve zoned out during listening to an Actual Play recording of a game, including games I was involved in. And while every moment during the game session wasn’t keeping me on the edge of my seat, I seem to recall being a little more invested in the activity as it was happening than when I listen back to it.

In short, I guess this is a hobby that requires “doing” in order for it to actually exist. And the recordings that might be produced are a poor record of what the actual activity is. Is that nebulous factor what has prevented it from catching on? Or is it just too ephemeral to really capture? Maybe that’s part of the appeal.


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