17 August 2021: The Perception Trap

Let me start off by saying this: you’re free to like what you like. Don’t let my opinion, or anyone else’s, dissuade you from playing the games you want to play, the way that you enjoy playing them. All I want to do today is caution you not to fall into a perception trap. That is, don’t get locked into the idea that there’s a “right” way to engage with tabletop roleplaying.

It used to be Edition Wars. People loved THAC0 and hated the way 1st Edition did things. Maybe it was vice-versa. Folks embraced adding skills and feats in 3rd Edition… or didn’t. We went around and around with the releases of Pathfinder, and 4e, and even 5e to a lesser extent. Personal preference doesn’t make a game objectively “bad”.

The Perception Trap

Trying something and not liking it is one thing. Over the decades, though, I’ve run into my fair share of people who hate on the concept of a game, without ever playing it or even reading through it. They’ll spew things like “story games aren’t real RPGs” or “if there’s no character death, how will players get better?”. Folks immediately reject mechanics, entire genres, even formats because they’re not familiar. They don’t fit their conception of what a roleplaying game is.

Right now there’s a faction that lives to bag on fans of streaming. If you enjoy watching other people play, you’re not really part of the community. You aren’t actually part of the hobby. Others try to gatekeep based on how long a person’s been playing, as if time served makes them better players or gamemasters. A lot of disturbing comments are made regarding inclusivity and diversity, as if women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ gamers are interlopers.

I write games that I like to play, and try to express a point of view that I think is underrepresented in the hobby. That doesn’t mean that I think my way is the right way, or the only way. I enjoy playing and reading a wide variety of games. It sparks my creative imagination, and gives me ideas that fuel my own writing, gamemastering, and playing. I can’t imagine cutting myself off from a vast array amazing people (other than Nazis) just because I prefer one thing over another.

All I have to say is, you’re missing out. Don’t fall into a perception trap and cut yourself off from incredible experiences.

Berin Kinsman
Man in the Arena
Dancing Lights Press