Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why Bother?

I've been told my entire life that I can do anything I want to. Anything I set my mind to - if I show proper follow-through - can be done. I find that this is a true statement for anyone.
1) Decide what you want to do.
2)  Figure out what the necessary steps are to achieve your goal.
3) Follow the steps.*

*Adapting as necessary to deal with new knowledge and new realities.

It's a simple thing to write but a difficult thing to actually do. Step one stumps many for a long time (sometimes a lifetime). Step two can be even more difficult, especially if you're doing something new or unusual. The third step usually starts pretty easily (and feels amazing), but it's that addendum that's the killer. Anyway the point is: if you can dream it (reasonably), you can in fact do it. It may require a long, painful trek filled with blood, sweat, tears, and many other hells or bodily fluids, but it can be done. However, this begs a question: why am I doing this?

The answer, I hope, will prove illuminating.

I am and have always been a lover of knowledge. I found it odd that as they taught us in elementary school the basics of particle physics (electrons, neutrons, protons), almost no one else found it fascinating. I found it even stranger that they taught it to us again the next year and even fewer remembered it. How could they forget? How could they not care? It was the very basic nature of reality. It was the inner workings of the world, the universe. I loved it.

I greedily consumed almost any sort of knowledge I could. I still do.

Chemistry, Art History, Media Studies, Astrophysics, Philosophy, the History of Science,  Quantum Theory, Intellectual History, Sociology,  Aesthetics, Anthropology, Literary Criticism, Medieval History, Archeology, the History of Technology, and the Origins and Repercussions of Punk Rock are of few of my favorite subjects.

I was at first, in college, an Anthropology major with a Chemistry minor because I was certain I wanted to be an archaeologist. This despite the myriad of voices telling me I should be studying mechanical engineering or chemical engineering or something else equally practical. Long story short I accidentally got an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts and remain a few credits shy of graduating with a BA in History and/or English. (And will remain so.)

I am a writer. It's the only career I'm aware of where I can/should/must put all of my many interests and passions to good use. The more I understand the world, the better I can write it. Writing usually doesn't pay as well as many other things I could have done, but it is my passion and worthwhile of its own accord anyway.

Actually, art is a quite important thing and I can tell you why. It does something very necessary, very potent, and very interesting: art allows one to view an abstract idea as though it were a concrete fact, a percept.** Think of John Wayne in almost any role he ever played. Through his films you can see determination, bravery, and a very rugged, very American moral rectitude as not simply esoteric concepts but as physical facts. John Wayne standing his ground shows you these things. It is this affect that gives one the extra drive, the psychic fuel needed for steps 1-3, for living. It's also why "Red Barchetta" sounds like triumph and the Misfits' "TV Casualty" sounds like alienated defiance.

So then, what does all that high-minded intellectualizing have to do with RPGs? Everything.

Tabletop Roleplaying Games allow you to create your own art, with your own themes, tone, and meaning. RPGs give you the tools to inspire yourself and your friends. When life hands you one shit sandwich after another, being Sir Havart the Unbent lets you be (or see) a man who never stops trying, not through mire nor dire beast. He presses forward. When he succeeds, you see success as an actual object. Success is Sir Havart. When he dies? Well, even then the catharsis of his surely heroic death gives one meaning as well.

That's why I'm writing Grit. I love creating stories, being new persons, building worlds. I want to create the best possible tools to allow myself and others to do so. Everyone who's willing to put in the work deserves to experience the joy of creation, the power of art in their own hands. That's why I'm a roleplaying game designer.

It's also, not incidentally, why I'll probably always be broke.

**Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto