Friday, March 6, 2015

Shared Experiences in Gaming - Getting to Know Others while Roleplaying

This post was triggered by an interesting post to my Pathfinder game group. Although this question was not asked within the conversation - I'm the only anthro nerd after all - my brain jumped to all the theoretical implications about what had triggered the conversation. The question is: How do shared experiences in role playing differ from shared experiences when playing oneself in regards to getting to know others and social bonding?
Screenshot of my game group, Ladies, Lairs, and Lager, by Erik Landru

First some context. I got invited to play Pathfinder with a group that in all honesty, I barely knew. I had known the woman who invited me for about a year, but the others I only knew in passing through the woman who organized the group. Naturally, I have gotten to know a bit about the other players as we fall into quick conversations before, during, and after the game, but most of our time together is in game, and we don't socialize all that often outside of game night. (There is no negative reason for this other than we are all adults who work and work gets in the way of life.) Therefore, most of what I know about these people comes from our role-playing. Some of what gets role-played I know fits with individual personalities and some I know doesn't, but some is questionable. This then leaves the question of how do I know?

Often I don't know, but the more time I spend with this group the more I feel I know the players. It could be argued that even in role-playing aspects of one's inner self is still present and therefore I am getting to know these women. Although I don't disagree with this statement, it is inadequate in answering my question. Whatever personality trait may lead someone to play a certain role or to play it in a certain way is necessarily masked by the role itself. I did not choose to play a thief/rogue because I secretly want to be a criminal and I'm fairly sure our paladin is not a religious goody-two-shoes, our mage is not an actual pyromaniac, and our cavalier is usually not so stoic outside of game.
I borrowed this from here.

Of course in speaking of the inner self such obvious connections are not really what is meant as the very word "inner" tends to denote something much deeper and not necessarily expressed, but I point out the obvious here to make a point. Whatever the connection between player and role that may exist (if it exists) cannot be assumed. The connection may not even be direct or knowable without getting to know the players on a more intimate level.

Then there is the opposite standpoint, heard time and again (even before memes dominated our media) that you can never truly know another person. If taken to the extreme this may be true, in the sense that one person can never know everything about another, but this starting point is unproductive as it shuts down the conversation. None of us are omniscient and we likely never will be, but that doesn't mean we can't know anything - or that we can't know enough to confidently say we "know" another person.

So, moving beyond these two extremes I am left without a complete answer yet, but I can point out some differences. First, although shared experiences in role-playing do contribute to getting to know others and bonding it appears to be at a much slower pace than other social contexts. Second, despite this impediment, time spent in role-playing appears to lay a foundation for sociality that expedites the process outside of role-playing contexts. This suggests then that the shared experience of role-playing is in some way having the same effect as shared experiences in more mundane contexts, though the extent may differ.

I have only two experiences on which to base the second claim at present, but I expect to have more and so may elaborate on this idea later. Hopefully, as time progresses I can formulate a more thorough answer to my original question and, as I suspect, in so doing gain further evidence to support the second claim. In the meantime, you can watch us play on Twitch or get to know us on our Facebook page.

No comments:

Post a Comment