I’ve never been good at role-playing games. Scratch that — I’ve never had much interest in role-playing games. Wait, scratch that, too — I’ve had interest in role-playing games, but not so much with the role playing itself.
Sure, like many introverted, awkward, socially inept teenagers in the 1980s, I used to play Dungeons and Dragons. I know lots of people of that sort who played RPGs as a method of getting some healthy and fun social interaction with people who didn’t want to torture and ridicule them for being introverted, awkward and socially inept, but for me… well, it wasn’t all that “social” since it was just me and my friend Mitch. We’d take turns being the Dungeon Master. Neither one of us played D&D for the game’s role-playing aspects; for us, it was just the combat and advancing our characters so they could kick more ass in combat.
(Mitch decided he’d had it with playing D&D with me when, at the very outset of an adventure, I ambushed his character he’d been playing for a few weeks and killed him…with a band of pixies. (No, not “the band The Pixies” — that would actually have been less embarrassing, I think. Getting whacked by a murderous Black Francis would have a certain angsty poetry to it.))
Anyway, my point was that even when I played role-playing games, I didn’t really role play. I was always too self-conscious to really get into that part of the game — even when it’s the friggin’ point of said game. Even the last time I tried, just a few years ago, in a game populated completely by people I trusted (including my wife), I still couldn’t let myself go enough to pretend to be someone else.
Every time I play a computer RPG where I get to design my character’s appearance, I always end up just making myself, trying to come as close as I can to putting myself into the game. Even in these games where The Real Me is completely hidden to the other players online, I still stick with being a pixelated version of me.
When I first started playing The Sims 2, I enthusiastially constructed my entire family, including the kids…and then horrified Terry when Sims Social Services came to take the girls away because I wasn’t feeding them. (The baby seat was sitting right in between the kitchen table and the refrigerator, situated just so my Sims couldn’t pull the baby chair out far enough to put the kids in. For all their bitching about hungry kids, “Allen” and “Terry” couldn’t tell me why they wouldn’t/couldn’t feed them. I’d have hoped that these simluated versions of me and my wife would be smart enough to move the friggin’ chair, but no. Of course, I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out until after my children had been placed in foster care, so maybe the game’s more realistic than I might think…?)
I usually tell myself that the reason I couldn’t get into role-playing was because I was just too happy being myself to want to be someone else. And while it’s true that I am damn glad to be me, it’s obvious that excuse is pure horse manure. What it is exactly, I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s quite fear in this case; I have a feeling, though, that it’s connected at some fundamental level to my traditional lack of Deep Thoughts about the world around me. The term Terry likes to use for me is “solipsistic,” or self-referential — I get so wrapped up in my own head that I Am All There Is.
The funny thing, though, is that I feel like I can get into other people’s heads pretty well, both when trying to suss out people’s motivations for what they’re doing — or when writing fiction. So I know my solipsism isn’t for a lack of ability to understand or inhabit other roles or personas, but rather from a lack of desire or need to do so. And I think that’s something else that needs to change in my head. I
think know that I need to expand my metaphorical wardrobe, to try some different outfits on, because I think know that doing so will help make me a better writer…and a better person.
I know that
some many of you reading this post are veteran RPGers or otherwise into Being Someone Else, so clue me in: what do you get out of it? What do you put into it? Does Being Someone Else for awhile have any effect on Being Yourself?