If you’re like me and have allowed yourself to show up and run mediocre roleplaying game sessions, the truth is that technology is going to kill your games. In the past few weeks, I have read several examples of chatGPT emulating both Gamemasters and Players, much of which was on the one hand marvellous to see a machine generate but also distinctly mediocre.
Humans can, if we choose to do so, bring our very best selves to serve and delight others through the work we offer. Our capacity for creativity is boundless and when we show up emotionally, giving our whole selves to the situation, we are amazing. But most of the time, whether from fear or because we have been long-trained to hold back, we choose to offer the regular kind.
It’s the same in gaming. The regular kind of roleplaying session is what everyone expects and it’s what we choose to do much of the time. Instead of bringing our unique perspective, choosing to serve, and take the kind of risks that leads to art, we run another mediocre session. Goblins are safe, after all; no one will be upset if we serve up Goblins again. It’s the easy way to go.
But the machines can roll out a mediocre adventure for you and it costs practically nothing. Those same technologies can also kick out generic mediocre art, music, and a myriad of other pale shadows of true human creativity. None of us who are seeking to enjoy these great games can afford to settle for mediocre any longer. Not a mediocre GM, nor an average player.
If we settle then, in time, our games will become a commodity that a machine can churn out for a low-low price. But if we seek to take risks, to show up with honesty and empathy, to offer each other our deepest and darkest fantastic creations… well, then, just maybe, we’ll offer that spark which no machine can replicate. The bland old tropes and totally predictable stories that arise from the regular kind of game will give way to something new and amazing.
What might that great game look like? I don’t really know… but I know that it’s up to us to find out. Do I want to show up with my whole self? Or am I ready for a machine to do it for me?
Resistance is futile.
I have a friend, a player in my game. He’s generally pretty quiet, fairly passive. He never misses a session, he’s always well-behaved. I’ve sounded him out in private. He thinks our game is great just the way it is; in fact he says he’s never enjoyed a game more. When prompted for his input in-game he usually has something fun to contribute, and never fails to make me smile. I feel appreciated, and no line of code can beat this “average” player. Gaming is about playing around with your friends, whoever they are. Bring your friendship, that’s all you need.
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