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Popularity of RPG Games

March 20, 2010 7 comments

The conventional “wisdom” about RPGs used to be that only social oucasts played them. However a lot has changed in the last decade. Consider the popularity of facebook RPG games and the mainstreaming of games like Everquest. The real question then is why a group of games that were once considered to be the domain of geeks and nerds gained such popularity.

The conventional explanation is that technology has made playing such games easier and more fun. While that is partially true, another important explanation is often missed.

The explanation can be summed as: Modern life is so boring, sterile, impersonal and so abusive that RPGs seem a better way to spend your time.

Think about it- What are the rewards for working hard? Does hard work guarantee you job security, let alone a decent compensation? The reality that many people still do not want to face is that your fortune in life is dependant on luck, scams and bullshit. Intelligence and ability have nothing to do with where you will end up in life. The sorry state of affairs exists inspite of technology making such zero sum behavior counterproductive.

Even marriage and kids now a route to financial and emotional ruin, not to mention slavery. You can care about women and kids and all they will ever do is stab you in the back or become costly ungrateful liabilities. There is no upside to conventional lifestyles. Even if your lucky to have a decent wife + kids, they will abandon you at the first sign of financial trouble and let you rot when you need them the most.

The difference between being a well compensated MBA, bankster, lawyer or doctor and an average schmo is NOT your innate ability or anything measured by an entrance exam, but a scam dependent on luck and bullshit. The income differential between a guy who got into those lucrative scams and one who barely missed is not ability, but chance- the same one that you depend on at a casino.

We have as a society decided that it is OK to reward and abuse people based on their luck at one moment in history. Such thinking does not bode well for social cohesion. The result of such attitudes in a world that is not zero sum is disenchantment and withdrawal from society. Why would you care about a society that treats you unfairly.

Now some CONservative types might foolishly gloat about how this is social darwinism at work. The only problem with such an attitude is that it does not work in a non-zero sum world. A world with high productivity and diffused technology cannot survive deflation, because technology causes a deflation to develop into a deflationary spiral. Combine this with the effects and possibilities of widely diffused technology and a system with low tolerance for disruptions, and you get a recipe for disaster beyond your wildest dreams.

The current system runs on the assumption of “we can extrapolate, scam and get by”. But what if increasing numbers of people isolate themselves from the system causing the extrapolations to fail, thereby triggering a whole cascade of secondary and tertiary effects (many of which are unknowable in advance).

The popularity of RPGs says a lot about the dysfunction of our current system. I hate to break this to CONservatives, but there is no going back- we cannot go back to any earlier era.

Trainwreck or Transcendence- Your choice.