That’s the last time this handsome devil ever goes crazy. You’d think a guy could spend two weeks in the booby-hatch without the rest of the world going crazy, but we live in a world where Kotaku is somehow still a thing, so no. Somehow it falls on my shoulders once again to cut to the uterus of the matter and clear things up.
Let’s look at the anatomy of a controversy and how nerds launch a counter-attack in precisely the wrong direction:
Step 1. David Kushner writes Rise of the Dungeon Master, a loving tribute to Saint Gygax in comic book form. Sorry nerds, I meant “graphic novel” form. (Forgive me, sometimes I forget we use that term to help us pretend like kid’s books are srs bidness.)
Step 2. Kotaku does what Kotaku do. Cecilia D’Anastasio, neophyte gamer, attention whore, and child of the “everybody get a trophy” generation writes a high-school hit piece on Saint Gygax and his legacy. Give the little lady credit, this clickwhore knew just where to poke the nerds to get them riled up. Criticizing Saint Gygax is basically the verbal component to the cantrip, Summon Sperglord. She is clearly a devotee of the Narrative – she knows that destroying the icons to which your enemy prays is an important part of destroying their religion and thus their identity. See also: N’Awlins tearing down Jeff Davis statue.
Step 3. Everybody loses their shit starts screeching about the wrong stuff. Save vs. All Wands takes the usual approach to D’Anasasio’s lipstick on the mirror story by filking it. Because of course he does. Because that’s what we do – autistically scan through an article paragraph by paragraph and dwelling on on our pet cause-du-jour instead of the main pelvic thrust of the article.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth pointing out the many, many factual errors D’Anastasio makes, and there are many of them, but all this talk about old D&D versus the current abortion that WotC stuck a D&D sticker on, all this talk about the glories of sandbox versus the miseries of the railroad? They all miss the point of the article. Easy to do, given how poorly written and scattershot D’Ana-schnozz-io’s article is. Let’s rewind the tape back to Step 2 and take a closer look at what she is really saying. There’s really only one paragraph you need to read, and that’s buried all the way down at the bottom of the article.
Rise of the Dungeon Master is a masterful telling of the story of Gygax, his co-creator and collaborators, but it is done in service of the almighty DM. Today is the age of the player, and we are a vital part of the history of Dungeons & Dragons sorely missed in histories such as these.
Here, D’Anastasio shows her real cards when she plaintively wails, “What about MEEEEE?”
And the greater DM community misses the point in order to respond with a, “What about REEEEE?”
Rollo’s Maxim states that women will never truly appreciate how much men sacrifice for them. E. Reagan Wright’s Maxim states that players will never truly appreciate how much DM’s sacrifice for them. Here you have a female player, which combined both of those into a chain-reaction of social media atom-smashing that leads to the inevitable nuclear detonation of Instagrammian proportions.
Listen to what D’Anastasio is really saying: Yeah, Gygax was cool and all, what with inventing an entire kingdom of games and redefining the entire genre of fantasy and laying the foundation upon which modern video games are built, but I show up to roll my eyes at my boyfriend’s hobby for a few hours every week and really, where’s the comic book about how awesome I am?
This is yet another vaginny-come-lately who lacks all empathy and as a result has no understanding of anything that occurs outside of her overly large head. She has no experience of the early days of D&D when DM’s had to browbeat their booger-eating friends to try this new game where they can be He-Man…except they really need to wear lots of armor all the time and the wizards only get to cast one spell per day and you’re probably going to die…a lot. She just waltzes into a forty year old hobby that was built on the blood, sweat, and tears (if they were doing it right) of those that have come before and assumes that what she sees now is what always was. She didn’t see the hard work. All she sees is the result.
But as a fundamentally participatory storytelling medium, D&D’s origin is owed to the players, not just the dungeon masters. As of now, their voices are eclipsed.
There’s the money shot!
A’Anastasio lets her boyfriend drag her along so she can roll her eyes for four hours a week while pretending to be a Real Nerd. In her view, she does just as much as the guy behind the screen. Her view lacks appreciation for the countless hours spent preparing for the session – to her my time as a DM is no more real than my time swabbing out the floors of the twenty-five cent adult movie booths spent to buy her that fancy Applebee’s dinner.
Even if they exist, they are something owed her as a fierce and independent liberated woman who can’t be expected to pay for the meal given that she deigned to grace you with her presence. In the same way, a DM should be grateful for his players deigning to grace him with their retarded character builds and inability to decide what they want to do from one week to the next, Chet! You said last week you were going to hit the Caves of the Unknown tonight, so that’s what I prepped, and now I’ve got to make up an entire lizardman camp on the fly because you ‘changed your mind’? Real nice, bro – you’d make a fine Kotaku writer.
Ahem. Let’s take this bit line by line:
Today’s Dungeons & Dragons adventures ask more of the player and less of the dungeon master.
Yeah – they ask the player to hang on to the handstraps and appreciate the view of the pretty corridor that the failed author slash adventure designer shoves them down.
Scenarios are open-ended.
So long as you stick to the script.
Dungeon dimensions are less particular, to leave room for players’ whimsies.
The dungeon’s are gussied up corridors that are better at hiding the rails, to leave room for players’ to think they are whimsical as they play yet another cookie-cutter tiefling who struggles with the wacism xhe faces.
On top of their race, class, alignment and stats, today’s character sheets want to know why the player adventures, and what they ultimately hope to gain.
RACE IS CLASS! Ya’d know what a class was if ya had any! And that never happened back in the day, says they little girl who wasn’t born until after Dragonlance gripped the jaws of D&D and took a hot, steaming post-Taco Bell dump straight down its throat. She knows, man, SHE KNOWS! She read a comic book about it.
But again, the whole sandbox versus railroad discussion is a red herring. For gals like D’Anastasio, the real point is that Gygax doesn’t deserve accolades for inventing pretty much the whole of modern nerdery – players deserve more accolades because they show up.
And that point isn’t just an issue in tabletop RPGs, its endemic to a very sick society.
And really, that’s the REAL real point of all of this. Let’s face it – as bright guys with a lot of passion, an eye for detail, and a gift for organization, any one of us DMs could have chosen the fast life. We could have started businesses or researched fancy medicines or taken up any number of other seriously important endeavors. Instead, we waste our time during the week writing up elf-games for largely ungrateful players who demand appreciation from us for their very presence – Chet! – and do so out of a love of the game. While our distractions might preclude us from having a significant impact on the larger culture outside of our dungeon themed basement with the replica swords on the wall, we can have an influence on the culture inside of our nerderies. And maybe, just maybe, if we can clean up tabletop RPGs, then maybe, just maybe, we can have a small impact on the larger world.
Saint Gygax did it. And if we pay a little more attention to what clickwhores like D’Anastasio are really saying instead of injecting our own myopic reading on a situation, maybe we can too.
We put Trump in the White House, after all. Compared to that, what’s a little thing like showing the barbarians the RPG door?