Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Importance of Purpose

A rather philosophical headline, this article will bridge the deep waters separating the gaming hobby from reality - but in truth they are already connected more than what could be assumed at first glance. An observation perhaps even more true for roleplaying games in particular.

Apart from starting a thread in the debatable area concerning roleplaying games, the players and the many observations which can be made of these elements, the purpose of this piece of text is also to promote the reasons behind this activity in the first place. But before I launch myself into a meta-discussion concerning the purpose of discussing the importance of purpose - let's take a look at the practical issue.

The Issue

Both real life and the life of the imaginary characters created in a roleplaying scenario are filled with decision-making. What then fuels the decisions we make? In real life this might not always be clear, as the choice of bread at the supermarket might seem quite different from the choice of which career to pursue or how to engage in a relationship. In roleplaying the idea is generally to remove the day-to-day decisions and focus on the life-changing perilous choices connected with death-defying bravery or dilemmas concerning who to save and who to let die. It is decision-making brought to its extreme - but perhaps slightly defused by sitting around a table with lots of dice, pens and paper.

What then separates a good roleplayer from one not so good? I'm going to put myself in the line of fire by presenting a revolutionary opinion (or maybe not) that it is the ability to "stay in character" which defines a good roleplayer. To stay in character is the concept of acting and making decisions from the character's point of view, ignoring real life surroundings and information - even if such is of a beneficial nature to the character. But how is this achieved? The answer is: through understanding of purpose.

The Solution

Finally you say - the bugger got to the point of this damn article. Yes indeed, but there are a few more revelations waiting to be done so unless your life present an obvious better choice for how to spend your time you might concider reading the rest as well.

Purpose guides us, consiously or unconsiously, through our decision making - the purpose meaning what we ultimately aim to achieve. In the grocery store a great care for the environment and welfare of our planet will entice us to choose organic products. But if our minds at the same time is focused on the prospect of breaking even at the end of the month, money might turn out to be the determining factor in what we actually buy. A family to provide for might cause us to decline higher education, while the ambition for social climbing might cause us to seek it.

In roleplaying, thus, it becomes critical to grasp what purpose or purposes drives the character one is currently playing. One must form an image of the character, perhaps by asking a few questions, in order to grasp this. A very powerful and fast method for achiving this is through the use of personas - or archetypes as they are called in the Centuria rules. The idea is that characters can be divided into major roles based on their main purpose(s). More depth can then be added by delving into the minor or short term purposes which a character seeks.

Final revelations

As more revelations where promised I aim to deliver. Personas is an excellent way to find a way to portray a character and understand its driving forces in the situations he or she encounters. But it need not stop there. Back in the real world, personas is a concept used by, for instance, marketing firms to be able to understand their customers. It can also be used to better understand yourself and the people around you. And, reconnecting roleplaying with real life, it allows you to practice doing just that. Even through most roleplaying games assume you play someone else and not yourself it is an opportunity to ask questions - and perhaps find answers.

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