Friday, 6 June 2014

God-Theologians of the Cyberweb

Rarely, except when RPG nerds indulge in system arguments, do we see the spectacle of the Gods themselves debating the theology of their secondary creations.

Theologians debate the nature of the afterlife. The self-styled Gods debate the nature of the Aftergame, for the mere mortal players who strut within their glass worlds. Who is saved and who is damned when the game session becomes mere memories? Is it the one who had facile, mindless fun? The one who gained Dark Insights from a touch with the abyss? The one who wrestled with an inconvenient system only to feel the character-building grace of the Rules-As-Written? Is salvation for the elect, or also for the mass-market - the 12 year old, the soccer mom? The philosophers' problem, the ultimate meaning of life, looms large inside the bottle city.

But never mind the immortal player-soul. The nature and construction of the world is also grounds for debate. These being gods, we are treated not to ignorant ideas about how the world is, but omniscient talk about how to make a world. Not "does," but "should," existence precede essence? That is,does my game say "I spend a Wealth Resource making a Power Move to open a Hierarchy Opportunity" and let the image of a sack of faceless coins thudding into the greasy lap of a functionary proceed from that? Or should the game build large concepts from a base of material grit?

Ontological debates among the gods ask not about the structure of matter but of action - is resolution by a unitary system or multiple ones? Is the monad a d6, a d20, a d10 or is there no monad at all? Should improbable but awesome events be facilitated? What are the relative contributions of fate (GM), chance (dice) and will (player)? Should heroes get a break?

It is the world-building and world-defining nature of these questions that makes geek discourse so impassioned, so theological. Almost by definition, to be a geek is to become immersed in a sub-world, whether by expanding to imagine a totally different universe of reality, or by shrinking the boundaries of obsession to cover a computer operating system. If the dialogue in roleplaying is particularly heated, pompous, intractable or obtuse, that is just the consequence of a theological argument conducted by the gods themselves.


  1. Do you think that many or most of us who love the beautiful game desire some measure of control in order to feel more comfortable?

  2. Gaming is philosophy by other means.

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