Thursday, April 9, 2009

Psychology and "Enchantment"

I think that saying modern games lack "enchantment" is nonsense.  Trying to compare a game that you look at with educated, experienced eyes, after 20 years of role-playing with the game picked up when you were ten is not worthwile, because you are a totally different person than you were.

When we started playing, we played the rules as we understood them. We messed with them, sure, but that's it, at first. We were enchanted with it because it was new and cool and we were in control of it.  We felt that feeling of enchantment, but it didn't have much of anything to do with the system, it had more to do with who you were.

In the book "Happiness" the author writes about how human being anticipate and remember. We expect things to be better than they are. And we remember them as being better than they were. That's how our brains work. Which brings me to the bad news:

The bad news is - you cannot get that feeling back. Not ever. Blaming systems because they don't evoke the same feeling of enchantment you felt is like blaming your wife of 20 years because you don't feel that same rush of passion you felt when you first met. I've sat in recently with teenagers who are just starting RPG's, playing D&D. And guess what - they are enchanted - just like we were with 1e or red box or whatever.  

Blaming systems or designers is ridiculous. Blame yourself - blame your memory, blame all the years you played and all the different games. Time makes enchantment go away, time and experience. Play 1e or OSRIC or whatever makes you happy, but be aware of why it does - because of the connection it makes you feel with that old feeling of enchantment. Now if only those darn kids would stop changing things...

1 comment:

  1. Can't agree with this one. It's not the memories of yesteryear that brings me back to the older games, but the things they let me do today that I love. In fact, I'm having more fun with Labyrinth Lord, playing more interesting games in more fascinating worlds, than I did when I first played the Moldvay/Cook versions back in the '80s. I might be able to pull the same thing off in 4e, but only with a lot of effort, probably more effort than I actually have time for today. Things like creating new classes and monsters are much easier with Labyrinth Lord than they are in 4e, which means the game is much easier to make my own and to tailor to the sorts of games I want to play today.

    System matters. I wouldn't try to play a Call of Cthulhu style game with any version of D&D or dungeon delve with The Shab-al-Hiri Roach. Labyrinth Lord does exploration-and-logistics better than 4e, plain and simple. 4e combats are a lot more complex and involved than combats in Labyrinth Lord. I prefer the former, but I know lots of people who prefer the latter.

    And yes, my years of playing various incarnations of D&D does make it easier to do more with the rules and morph them into something I want. But that's familiarity, not nostalgia.