Popularity of RPG Games

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.

  1. March 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    “A world with high productivity and diffused technology cannot survive deflation, because technology causes a deflation to develop into a deflationary spiral” – that are non-sequiturs. If “deflation” in the sense of FALLING prices tends to make people postpone their buying decisions (and hence bring the economy to a standstill). I flatly deny it, there seems not only to be no historic proof, with the exception of allegations, such as “had the Fed not let deflation happen, THEN the Great Depression could have been averted” etc. – that’s not proof, as we have no access to the “parallel universe” where just that countermeasure was taken to find out if the allegetion were true. But we have access to anecdotal evidence to the contrary: the computer industry has not deterred anyone from buying their product by constantly lowering prices AND even raising quality and functionality with each new model. Well, these are even TWO incentives to wait … forever (the same goes for automobiles – buyers should again wait forever since they can only become better!). But it never happened, in fact computer and related sales as a rule have always increased year over year. Of course some theorists will always argue why the computer industry is different from the yacht industry or bread manufacturing. That’s an easy escape route that defies any scientific reasoning, let the moon be of cheese. However, the exact same “theorists” lump yachts, bread, cheese and computers together in their macro-economic “aggregates” – they can’t have it both ways though. Similarly, in a housing market downturn, people keep buying all the time and if there is a certain reluctance it can more easily be attributed to general scarcity of credit and people feeling insecure rather than them waiting for “the best deal ever”. But there is another psychological moment at play: if you know Dutch auctions, where the auctioner doesn’t bid UP the price but begins with the highest price and every second goes down at a predefined interval until a hand goes up and the deal is closed, this is anecdotal “proof” that especially in an environment where prices fall people are tempted to buy at the EARLIEST possible moment before someone else takes advantage of the perceivedly low price! So price “deflation”, if anything, spurs sales! If bidders formed a cartel to wait as a crowd, granted, that could let prices fall forever. Instead they are independent competitors not knowing each others’ next moves! But you know what: IF prices were falling all the time, but sellers were convinced they would eventually rise again, the danger would come from the exact opposite faction: SELLERs would then be loth to sell, not buyers to buy! Equally, if the argument about “deflationary procrastination” held any water and if we do not resort to polylogism and e.g. racial differentiation arguing sellers are a different breed of people than buyers (anyhow, every seller in one market is a net buyer in another!) then if “DEflation” makes people wait to buy, INflation must make sellers wait to sell, as they’d be better off “selling tomorrow” rather than now! Either way an economy would grind to a complete halt while when prices are stable people would just sit on their hands to wait for future price moves in their predilected direction. All this is ivory tower pseudo-economics. Since under a stable money regime which was the rule under the gold standard, price “deflation” was an economic law since productivity gains would always, all other things being equal, drive down prices, and as people thrived under such circumstances I have yet to see unrefutable proof of how stable money bases with ensuing falling goods prices (as a tendency) would harm an economy rather than benefit it while money inflation always is harmful and even the worst inflators at the helm of central banks wouldn’t dispute it. So this “fear of deflation” is just a ruse by central banks to keep inflating the money supply. Deflation does not keep people from spending – they always spend what’s necessary to carry on in life. If money is NOT “spent” on consumption but saved it becomes credit to someone who invests it in capital goods etc. Thus it is again being spent this time to e.g. build a future factory. That saved money never lies completely idle (supposing it is not stuffed under a mattress). And the recent defaults have even had an INflationary effect since the money extended as credit is still with those who received it in payments; only if the debtors had NOT defaulted would the credit eventually be retired. See How Bank Robbers cause Inflation.


    It is about social stability. Money and economics mean nothing in a world without trust. In our current system deflation causes unemployment, and a lot of bad things start happening when you deprive people of money.

  2. Wocka
    March 21, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Excellent and astute post.

    And rpgs of all types will only get more addicting as technology gets better and real life provides less tangible rewards.

  3. Hughman
    March 24, 2010 at 11:30 am

    “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.”

    I’m at medical school – sure I have a high IQ and I work fairly hard to get top grades, but the make or break moments on this path are your oral exams and interviews. Which so far I’ve always managed to bluff my way through.

    I wonder most days if someone will catch on that I’m not really suited to be a doctor – I have little love for toddlers, old people, morons, criminals, sloths, sluts and religious fundamentalists. (this sums up about 3/4 of my future patients).

    Why do I do it though? I love biology, I love problem solving, but I want a guarenteed job with high pay and status. I’m not good enough at maths to become a banker, and I fucked up my history exam at college so I can’t go to Oxbridge to study law and become a barrister. I have no ‘original initiative’ – I need some framework to work with – hence I can#t become a businessman or politician.

    After a process of elimination I’m left with medicine. Simple.

    As for RPGs, they are my secret vice, but unlike my old friends I still occasionally play with, I’m deathly embarassed if it’s brought up in public.

    My problem is not with those professions, but how they PROJECT themselves.

  1. March 21, 2010 at 9:22 pm
  2. March 27, 2010 at 8:02 pm
  3. March 28, 2010 at 10:47 am
  4. January 27, 2011 at 7:15 pm

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