Cab Driver - Customer, The Sixth
In which our hero discovers by means of a mirror he is somebody else and confronts issues of character as a consequence.A Buddhist who had just asked for a lift said it was satori. You don't want to know my reply as he left the cab. I don't advertise he got a free ride - bad for business. Sour grapes? I've got lemons. Between jobs now, I check the rear view mirror and see someone else's eyes staring at me from the driving seat.
In which our hero discovers by means of a mirror he is somebody else and confronts issues of character as a consequence.
A Buddhist who had just asked for a lift said it was satori. You don't want to know my reply as he left the cab. I don't advertise he got a free ride - bad for business. Sour grapes? I've got lemons. Between jobs now, I check the rear view mirror and see someone else's eyes staring at me from the driving seat.
"You looking at me?"
Role-players assume another identity to do what they do, like wearing a mask and portraying a character. It isn't new for the face I wear to not be my real one but it's not the face I want and I'm not in a mask - too David Lynch! Someone once said character is who you are in the dark. So if I turn the lights off, I'll revert to my usual self? Damn! Maybe I should just reduce that to 'character is who you are' and see what I'm doing.
As you get in, I realize a lot of people have written about the importance of character - what it means in a gaming and a dramatic context. As I'm coming to terms with my new face, it's something that's particularly germane. This way - right?
Your character and how you play it is how you interact with a game. For RPGs, setting helps to define character, but how you actually do stuff is defined by the game mechanics and your attributes and echoed in CRPGs offering different characters with different abilities and strengths. Even board and war games use this idea; without a game piece, you're not even playing! Yet some pieces offer advantages that cannot be measured in benefits for your game that exude a certain charm. We know a RPGer who must play a particular race or class, a gamer who always picks a certain computer game character or even a board gamer who is attached to a certain game piece.
A character also has wants, and these can exceed Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (survival, food, shelter and belonging). Conflict with those wants is important to maintain interest in the game, to get us involved. The nature of the obstacles that face a character and their wants can help to define them further and lend characters not only charm, but empathy. Take a chess piece, a knight - and it is apparent it can move differently, jump over other pieces and wants to be on the winning side and not let the king be taken if possible. Not a lot of you have fought for your lives in ways your characters do but we understand the drives on an instinctual and even chemical levels - when our team wins, we feel good.
Why a character needs their needs and how they go about getting them is not just defined by attributes and wants but calls on identity, which brings new depth and significance. A knight now has aspects of fealty to their royalty and chivalry. Care must be taken to practice what you say your goals and nature are, or you are unbelievable or false. The writer's adage 'Show, not tell' applies.
Board and war games usually eschew these elements, CRPGs are dependent on plot to reveal it but RPGs don't always come with that safety rail - a two-edged sword in regard to characterization and plot. On one hand, you have the freedom to do as you will, on the other, if a plot doesn't match the wants or motives of a character, then you can ask 'Why are we here?' and not have an adequate answer unless your GM knows improvisation and the player characters well. This bites as it does not lend credence to your character and you have little control over the circumstance without either trying to subvert the plot or coming over as false.
Whilst many have expressed hostility to the concept of characters with issues or exploring concepts that interest/bother a player, role-playing a character is a valid form of personal exploration. To live or die on the bad side of town, command legions, be a different gender, orientation, race or moral outlook and not get the criminal record, be a tyrant, have costly and painful surgery or ostracize friends. Using play as catharsis or education isn't new and if MBAs do it, why can't we? Respecting fellow participants is paramount - they will extend the same courtesy, right? Who knows, you might just learn something about yourself in the process.
Looking back at the mirror, I see changes to my face and personality. I hadn't expected this to impact - the decisions I've made this year told me many things about myself. I'd feared I had begun to stagnate, but now I'm discovering lots of new things about myself and whilst some of my old friends are moving away, new ones are coming into my life. All in a year - and I know the next one will be just as dramatic. My ability to interact with the world is altered, wants and needs shifting, my motives changed. I'm open to new experiences and I suspect the masks I wear will be different as a consequence. Oh yeah, the masks we choose are an indication of who we are. Choose wisely now.
Your destination - that's your business; but your journey there is mine. Don't think you'll get that free ride I gave the Buddhist, he told me much about myself and you know what, maybe lemonade isn't such a bad idea after all.