Day 5 and today the word that I felt immediately drawn to was Community, something that is an integral part of tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) both from an in-character (IC) and out-of-character (OOC) perspective.
Community OOC: Then
When I started playing TTRPGs, back in the early 2000s, the community where I live was mostly male-dominated with women being the exception. Still, there were many more women interested in TTRPGs than, let’s say, Magic: The Gathering, so it was still a more diverse environment than other parts of nerdom.
My own personal experience was luckily more diverse than the average, I think, and that is something I’m very grateful for. I always had fellow female players to share the space with, and even had a female GM or two during that time.
Still, it was a different time. The cis heteronormativity was strong, and TTRPGs like Vampire: The Masquerade were the only ones that allowed a little of intersection between the Goths (a much more inclusive community) and the TTRPGers. I remember a lot of “jokes” and discrimination, both in-game and out-of, as well.
Community IC: Then
I don’t remember any TTRPG that had even a community-oriented mechanic, even less a game that was community-oriented as a focus.
It may be my limited experience, but I think those were more selfish times in TTRPGs. The unmistakable success of Dungeons & Dragons (3rd Edition), combined with the more “personal-oriented” experience of Vampire: The Masquerade, created a scenario in which the typical TTRPG experience was all about your character and obtaining more riches and/or power. Pure macho bullshit fantasy, if you ask me.
Community OOC: Now
One of the beauties of playing TTRPGs now, in 2021, is that the community is so diverse. Now I’m part of that diversity but, even apart from that, seeing women playing and running games is nothing new, but something common and well-accepted. Even more, now it is easier and easier to set up LGBTQIA+-friendly or even LGBTQIA+-only groups, which is a blessing, of course.
On the other hand, there’s a minority that still resists this change and diversity. It’s getting smaller and smaller, it’s true, but it’s also getting angrier and louder in their death throes. My hope is that in time they’ll disappear altogether, but we have to remain strong in our determination to not tolerate the intolerant. They have to go, that’s for sure.
Community IC: Now
As indie TTRPGs flourished—something I totally consider a good consequence of D&D 4th Edition’s debacle—other voices entered the community, voices that seemed more interested in innovating and incorporating new fictions and mechanics than playing it safe and trying to become millionaires (xD) with their writing.
Thus, community-related mechanics became a commonplace, at least in indie design, as well as giving us some community-oriented games. Off the top of my head I remember Avery Alder’s The Quiet Year (2013) and Dream Askew (2018) as great examples of community-oriented games. I think that D. Vincent Baker mentioned that his highly influential Apocalypse World (2010) was a “community game” and I agree with him—to a degree.
And then there’s my own little Fate World, The Way of the Pukona (2018). I designed it to highlight the type of heroism that I feel most attracted to: that of a group of regular people joining together to defend a community, because they feel like sacrificing their lives to save their community—all these other people’s lives—is worth it. This type of down to earth heroism moves me deeply, so I obviously had to design something around it. Moreover, Pukona uses I trick that I recommend if you want to have a group of players who care about a community: have them work together in designing it. Having that level of responsibility makes people unconsciously attached to what they participated in.
Community OOC: Tomorrow
I imagine that someday, not too far in the near future, inclusiveness and diversity will be words of the past. People will respect one another just because they’re people and anybody will be able to love anybody, without somebody else bringing in any ideas that there’s a “correct” or “natural” way of doing so.
When it comes to TTRPGs, I imagine that games will become instruments for self-discovery and self-exploration, safe places in which people can get t0 try new personas and see whether they fit or not. Or just a way of having fun while getting to share new, even more expansive worlds with others.
Community IC: Tomorrow
I think it’s not too far-fetched to imagine that community-oriented mechanics and community-driven games will become a mainstay of the future. Even today I can see designers all around the world coming out with new games which are all about community, either as resistance or as haven, displaying in all their beautiful uniqueness how we can all learn from one another when it comes to define and expand the very same definition of the word.
Some of these game have already come out (or are about to). If you’re interested, check out Jay Dragon’s Wanderhome (2021), Ash Kreider’s Our Traveling Home (2021), or San Jenaro Co-Op’s Brinkwood: The Blood of Tyrants (still in development)—a game about community designed by a community—just to name a few.
That’s a wrap up for day number 5! I’m loving these sort of freeform ways of talking about stuff that I’m really passionate about. What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments below.
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