I started playing tabletop roleplaying games a year and a half ago, introduced to the Pathfinder system by a few new friends at university, the traditional home of discovering brilliant things.
So cut to a year and a half in the past, I’m sitting at a table, holding the (hastily constructed) sheet for the human paladin Ulf Farforged, blushing slightly at the page of backstory and the numbers all over the sheet that I barely understand. Nobody’s first character is perfect, and, after willingly drinking magical poisons, missing (no kidding) all but three rolls on smite attacks and finally getting crushed by a Stone Giant, I did not actually feel too bad. I had learned. Ulf was fun, but had all the common sense of unintelligent goblin, being played by a new player.
Thinking back, I realize the second, far bigger reason I had major problems with that character- I was just getting used to roleplaying properly. Its like any new hobby- the first attempt (although beloved) usually ends up a hot mess. I’m still glad I had the experience though. I’ve found tabletop RPGs to be a fantastic hobby, fun engaging and somewhat enlightening.
Despite the negative, embarrassing stigma, articles like these show RPGs are pass-times that require social interaction, high levels of imagination and creativity and (although through a fantastical lens) become powerful devices to encounter and deal with real-world problems in a safer environment. That is to say RPGs are play in it’s purest form- practice for life. Will you risk a character you’ve pored hours of care into to save a friend’s character? To save a stranger from some thugs? There are real stakes at risk in these games, and with the right mood they can be as emotional as any movie, book or TV show (equally, they can be swashbuckling, comedic and absurd adventures- most games flit between the two).
I find myself preferring tabletop to video games more every time I play. The level of flexibility both player, world and game master have in these games is unparalleled in any other form of entertainment. The limits are those of your imagination and your ability to improvise- and there are very few ways to get obsessed over the graphics of a tabletop game- more effort goes to story.
So, as video games become more mainstream, I hope that tabletop RPGs go along with them, and continue to shake off an outdated stigma. While many lament the breakdown of ‘real’ social interaction, and cast video games as an isolating factor, tabletops might be an an answer to those fears.