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Opinion: The Man in the Arena

This is one of two posts I’ve written today on Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Citizenship in a Republic” speech. It’s also known as “The Man in the Arena”. You can read the other post over on my personal website.

I’ve had this quote hanging up in my workspace for years. Should I ever get an actual office, I think I want to commission a mural of Roosevelt and have this painted on the wall. I think it’s something that every creator needs to remember.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, April 23 1910

The Man in the Arena

If you are involved in tabletop roleplaying games, you are the person in the arena. It takes guts to put yourself out there and play a character, in character. Running a game has a lot of moving parts and requires improvisation, so a lot can go wrong. Being a game designer or publisher means standing up and saying “I am going to share this with the world” even though that world is full of hateful trolls that live to tear other people down.

We know we might get beaten up, metaphorically, emotionally, sometimes physically if you’ve ever had to deal with anti-nerd culture. We do it anyway. When we get beaten up, we keep going. No one can stop us. That’s not failure. That’s persistence.

As a creator, not everyone is going to agree with your design choices. They will defend their own preferences, lean into their own experiences, push their own agendas. What’s great is that there’s room for them in the hobby. They can go create their own game. Nothing is stopping them from playing whatever system, setting, or genre they choose. The fact that you did something is an accomplishment. Their complaints about what you did, not so much.

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press publishes creative aids and story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.

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