I’m trying, whenever I find myself sucked into nerdrage debates, to bring it here rather than put my bloviating on someone else’s page. And today I found myself reading another discourse (it was too polite to be a diatribe) about people who use the term Old School Gaming which used terms like “Gaming Police” and made historical parallels to religious fanatics of the Reformation.
First of all, the Reformation? I know that Lutherans used to round up Anabaptists and kill them, but if we want to talk about violent, reflexive fanaticism during that time period, let’s look at what was being Reformed from, not what was being Reformed into.
All that aside, the argument made some fairly familiar points from people who generally dislike the term:
- a lack of cohesive groupthink both then and now about what constitutes “Old School”
- the judgmental nature of some enthusiasts in regards to What Came After
- how OGL enthusiasts may in fact be harming the hobby with their conservative nature
- that it is just a game (a funny claim given that the person has gone ahead and dedicated a blog post to making their points)
On the blog in question (go ahead and click through all my links on the right–you’ll eventually find it) I did say that I was not “an OGL apologist” in that I felt that everything with an OGL label on it was entitled to a rigorous and unflagging defense. But I am an OGL fan, and I’ll go ahead and make my counter-argument (or counter-counter-argument) a religious metaphor of my own from my own backyard of the denominational neighborhood.
St. Anselm was an eleventh century English theologian and Archbishop of Cantebury best known for coining two terms in the theological lexicon. The first is the ontological argument for the existence of God, which has rightfully been dismissed as sophistry. The second is the definition of Christian spirituality as fides quaerens intellectum, “faith seeking understanding.” This dictum doesn’t indicate that either faith supercedes reason or that understanding somehow transcends mere faith. It’s the process of taking something that is ephmeral and comprehending the qualities that make it good.
Old School Gaming, and the fascination it holds for people, can best be defined as “enjoyment seeking understanding” by which people who have positive associations with games played twenty years ago (and later) and who, out of interest in maintaining that positive experiences in their lives now are engaged in the very introspective process of examining those games with an eye towards what specific charactersistics made it fun. Because if you can qualify those elements, you can duplicate it in your hobby time today.
This means that it is subjective and personal but also intensely passionate and community-oriented, not just we game in groups but also because we need the sounding board to help ascertain what is true and valid and what is just a bad potato. So millions of people exercise in community the process of faith seeking understanding despite the fact that there is no consistent groupthink and some narrow-mindedness and judgmentalism but that doesn’t take away from the legitimacy of the thinking of the process as a group activity.
Okay, that’s enough highbrow stuff for the most valid criticism, namely that it is just a hobby.