Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Like me. Only COOLER!

One of the things that you become aware of as a game master is that Gaming can occasionally be a therapeutic thing. You start to understand a little bit about the inner psyches of your players and indeed you have the power to manipulate the symbols that inform their inner life.

Got a little thick there didn't I? O.K. Try this: Each of us has two internal images. The person we are and the person we'd like to be. Gaming gives us an opportunity to explore that person we'd like to be.

Let me dumb it down even more. I'm a 33 year old guy who lives alone, I work in a comfortable dead end job, I have a theater career that's going nowhere and occasionally I wonder if I'm just an arrested adolescent because one of my favorite things in life is to pretend I'm somebody else. Occasionally, miniatures and costumes play a role. Sad? Pathetic? I don't know.

But in the flip side, I can be any one. Even the Internet can't create this kind of freedom. I can be a spy, I can be an undead creature of the night, I can warp reality to my whim. I can change the world or destroy it altogether.

Heady stuff huh?

I can tell a tale. I can be a part of something epic. I can be the hero I imagine myself.

Hey, Let's take the idea a bit further. What if we can use gaming as a doorway, as a method to become better people?

Suppose,just suppose, there is a part of your life that you feel like you need work on. What if you created a character that enabled you to learn how to be better at that particular thing?

What if I told you that it works?

I used to be uncomfortable in many types of situations. Through playing characters. I have learned some things that have helped me in my real life and have made me more capable, more socially adept, more self confident, and maybe even a bit sexier...

Well, Okay, the jury's still out on that last one...But the others are true.

I used to have real trouble with taking a leadership role. It wasn't something I was comfortable with and it wasn't something I felt I did well. I preferred to be the "Grey Eminence." The mind behind the throne, so to speak. If I wasn't in this position in any social dynamic I lost interest. If forced into the leadership role I would flounder.

I created a character named Rabbi David Solomon for a long running game of Mage; The Ascension. It became clear to me over the course of play that David was used to be being the fellow that people turned to for guidance. He was used to being not only a spiritual leader but was also capable of being a leader in the more traditional sense. He brought out my natural flair for organization and taught me valuable lessons about decision making and how to handle people. He was a caring individual and far more patient than I was. He was capable of forging a ragtag bunch of fellow mages into a family and a formidable fighting force. When he was calm he was dangerous. When he was livid, he became a force of nature. He was one of my very favorite characters. He taught me much. Now I know I can handle a leadership role, and not just one that I've been thrust into.

I used to have problems with my self confidence. I am a cautious person by nature and in some ways very shy. (Don't let the fact that I get up in front of people and perform for a living fool you.) After David I wanted to go in a completely different direction.

Thus was born John Henry Patterson. John was confident, cool, macho, occasionally reckless and willing to take a few risks that neither David nor I would touch with a ten foot pole. Where David was analytical, John was intuitive. Where David would plan, John would improvise. Where David would take a calculated risk, John would occasionally do something monumentally stupid.

John taught me a lot too. He taught me how to be cool. He taught me how to deal with the problems that are twisting you up inside. He taught me that occasionally the best thing you can do is shut the fuck up. He also taught me that sometimes it's best to act within 7 breaths. The most important thing he taught me was how to face disaster with poise.

I have never been comfortable around the opposite sex. I didn't used to flirt well and I don't read signals well. (If I'm with a woman and she breaks out a set of semaphore flags or an aldiss lamp...Well I'm certainly nonplused I can tell you.)

My next persona was the libertine Ivan Crowley. Not only did Ivan give me an opportunity to hone my social skills and enable me to learn how to flirt safely. But as a weird byproduct of playing this fellow, I've also come to terms with some of the issues that I have with authority and my dad. I never would have expected that in a million years.

Now I'm playing Douglas Aaron Boggs in the Larp that I belong to and I've been playing him for about a year. I'm not sure what he's teaching me but I'm reading the "48 laws of power" and Machiavelli's "The Prince" in a whole new light. I'm learning that the ruthless cold-blooded bastard side of my personality isn't always evil and isn't always wrong. That side of my personality also seems to get more chicks. Couldn't explain that if I tried, but by god I'm taking notes!

Take a look at the characters in your past. Have they taught you something? Were you aware of it at the time? Did your subconscious come out and smack you around a bit? Is this worth exploring? I think so. Now I make characters with an eye towards what they can teach me. Give it try and you might be surprised at how it changes you. You might find yourself putting on your "Game face" in real life and finding it works.

Hey, If you do it often enough. You might just find yourself being the hero you imagine yourself.

Sono Finito


At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Acid Reign said...

.....Absolutely true sentiments! But as a geeky coke-bottle bifocal glasses-wearing nerd, I can tell you that the best way to get attention from girls is a wedding band, especially one with diamonds in it!

.....There was a time when I had silky curly taupe hair down to the middle of my back, abs, the loudest guitar(American Pre-CBS Strat, thank you!) on the block, disposable income and a red-hot T-Bird with fuel-injected V-8; and girls ran the other way! Now, with a dinky 4 cylinder Mazda and nearly bald head, I get all sorts of unwanted attention in the grocery line when they check out the nice ring my wife gave me over a decade ago. I still don't understand? Where were all these chicks when I was single? I was hoping I would learn something by age 40, but that came and went with the advent of Dubya, and I know less than ever about girls!

.....Mage scares me. I could never run it. It seems, from my experience, whoever argues loudest gets his effects to work best. If you can't yell well, you'll drown in paradox!

Acid Reign


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