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Theories

This is where I share my thoughts, dreams, and rants about games and gaming.

It's Not Just a Game, It's a Lifestyle

D&D isn't just another product sitting on a shelf, like a desk lamp or a bottle of bleach. For a huge number of gamers, it's part of how we define our identities.  In recent years, we've started describing Wizards' games as "lifestyle games," and it's an apt term. Those of us who play D&D don't see it as "just a game" like, say, someone who plays Trivial Pursuit--D&D is part of who we are.

It can be easy for a gamer to forget how different a lifestyle game is from a normal game. But just imagine asking any of these questions:

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How many people devote an entire room of their house to playing Boggle?

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How many Jenga players spend hours researching and crafting the perfect strategy for their next game?

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How many Pictionary-themed webcomics are out there?

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When's the last time you overheard someone talking about a key die roll they made in a game of Risk five years ago?

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And of course, how many people pack themselves into a tiny car to drive for 12 hours so they can split an Indianapolis hotel room with a half-dozen buddies in order to play Monopoly with total strangers?

Any of those questions would seem crazy to normal folks...but substitute D&D (or Magic: The Gathering, or World of Warcraft, or whatever your preferred flavor of lifestyle game might be) and then it makes total sense to those of us who share the lifestyle.

By extension, then, we all take anything regarding our lifestyle games pretty damn seriously. Sometimes even a bit too seriously, though I prefer fan overexuberance to fan apathy any day of the week--even if I don't agree with you, I love the fact that you care enough to get excited.

I'll let you in on a little secret: the vast majority of people responsible for actually creating lifestyle games are themselves part of the lifestyle. In my 10 years in the industry, I think I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of designers, developers, and editors I've met who work on these games and don't also consider themselves "one of us." Not only do you have to love these games to be able to spend the hours needed to get the job done, but the fans can sense when the creators don't respect the lifestyle--usually because you're trying to sell them a steaming pile of crap. (A few d20 publishers learned that lesson the hard way.)

When I hang out with folks from Wizards of the Coast, or Cryptic Studios, or the Game Mechanics, or Paizo Publishing, or Malhavoc, or Blizzard, or Loneshark Games, odds are we're talking about games...that is, assuming we're not actually playing one as well. And when I'm not playing a game, or developing a game, or talking about a game, odds are I'm thinking about games or gaming.

In fact, I literally can't imagine what my life would be like without gaming. What kind of job would I have if I weren't a game developer? What would I do with my evenings and weekends if I weren't playing D&D, or City of Heroes, or Age of Renaissance, or Settlers of Catan? Who would I hang out with if I hadn't met Chris Galvin, Joe Hauck, Jesse Decker, Tim Shields, Steve Schubert, James Wyatt, Andrew Finch, Charles Ryan, Rich Redman, Marc Schmalz, Stan!, or any of the other friends I've met at or through Wizards of the Coast? (For that matter, what are the odds I'd still hang out with buddies from childhood and high school if we didn't have the monthly D&D game holding us together?) Oh, and then there's the matter of meeting my future wife at a D&D game. Yeah, I think it's safe to say that little blue rulebook had a pretty dramatic impact on my life.

Now, I recognize that my personal experiences aren't necessarily reflective of the average gamer, but if you're reading this column odds are that you understand where I'm coming from. The more gamers I meet these days, the more I think that my situation isn't all that uncommon. An entire generation has grown up with the "gaming" lifestyle (with a second one not far behind), and the subculture's only getting stronger with the explosion of the console & computer game industry. It makes perfect sense that people's social circles would reflect that reality--that we'd seek out like-minded souls to share our lives with.

How about you? Does gaming occupy a significant role in your life? How has it impacted you personally? When you describe yourself to others, how often does gaming come up? Could you quit gaming cold turkey, or would the withdrawal drive you mad? And how long had you played before you realized you were "one of us?"

 

Share your comments about this theory on my message boards.

 

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Convention Season 2004

Creation Myths

The High Cost of Dying

Farewell to the Basement

3.5 Hits the Shelves

I Know What I Like (Reviews)

What's All This About a Revision?

A Few of My Favorite Things

Alignment Is Not a Straitjacket

The D20 Thing

Magic Item Pricing

Slowing Character Level Gain

 

 

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All material copyright Andy Collins 2001-2008.