The Gaming Iconoclast: We're All Mad Here

Rafe Brox
R. Brox|04.09.08

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The Gaming Iconoclast: We're All Mad Here

The Cheshire Cat, as depicted in American McGee's "But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Incorporating an unusual player into a team, group, raid, guild, or alliance, whether it's the players themselves or their character's execution that are unusual, is a lot like cooking with a new ingredient. Sure, it'll change the flavor, and it may not be to everyone's liking, but a lot of times, it'll freshen up an established mix in new and exciting ways.

I'm not suggesting, to carry the metaphor just a bit further, that we should all go out and make a batch of jalapeño waffles. Of course, those waffles might turn out to be darn tasty, but if everyone meekly did what's expected, the cookie-cutter regime would make drones of us all.

Seeing people do things differently than you're accustomed to doing them yourself is a great way to broaden your understanding and enjoyment of the games we play. My first World of Warcraft guild, made up of a handful of buddies from back in the day, dissolved due to real life getting in folks' way. Fortunately, I took up with a different group of friends, who had been doing more advanced raiding content. I was suddenly, after a year and a half of doing it the same old way, exposed to deep and nuanced theorycrafting in a large, vibrant guild culture. It opened my eyes to a tremendous array of playstyles -- not to mention a ton of new people and personalities behind the toons. In short, it became an entirely new game all over again.

Fresh ideas, different opinions, and varied approaches -- there was a give-and-take going on, and it continues to this day. With every new member bringing their own particular expertise to the mix, we're all growing and learning. An open mind and a willingess to try something different gives us the opportunity to discover some new wrinkle, both in the games we play, and sometimes about who we are outside of them.

Almost nobody, deep down, wants to be the "normal" one. As gamers, the argument has been made that we're already outside of mainstream culture. Sure, the term "geek" has lost a lot of its negative connotations, but does any of us not cringe with a bit of chagrined recognition at the stereotypes of the Summoner Geeks? I mean... who keeps Cheetos in the fridge, anyway?

But, here we all are, and we've got roles to fill when we're cooperating with one another and not simply running amok by ourselves. Even with all the variety available when creating, equipping, and developing individual characters, they frequently trend towards various established norms unless you consciously go against the grain. We've got friends in the Big Blue Room who don't always do the normal, expected thing, and they're our friends despite the fact -- or, in many cases, because -- they're going about life this way. The personalities of the folks we meet and play with are as big a part of why we play (and keep playing) as any item or achievement built into the games themselves.

So, go ahead. Make some of those waffles. Grouping is a pot luck, a' la carte endeavor. We don't all need to bring chips and dip to the party.

Rafe Brox spends an inordinate amount of time annoying people who think they know more than he does. When not causing friends and enemies alike to /facepalm electronically, he can be found extolling the virtues of the weird peripherals in his life, from kettlebells to the Trackman Marble. If you, too, would like to tell Rafe exactly how wrong he is doing it, the target coordinates are rafe.brox AT weblogsinc DOT com.
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