Some Player Characters I found in the news, this morning
My morning internet ritual is pretty well set. I check my social networking accounts (Google+ and Facebook), see how my products are doing at RPGNow.com, then hit the AOL website for my e-mail and to catch up with the news. Surprisingly enough, this seems to keep me fairly well informed – the people I know on G+ and FB are a diverse and well-informed lot.
I like to keep up with current events and such for a couple of reasons. One, I like to be well-informed, no matter how depressing the world seems to be getting. Two, I write things. Between being an author, an RPG designer, and a blogger, I need a constant stream of things which inspire me to write, both positive and negative. One of the best exercises I can recommend to a writer is to read the news, find something that sparks your imagination, and use it as the inspiration for a short story. Elementary stuff, but it really does the trick. For the last two years of its publication, I religiously collected issues of “The Weekly World News.” I could run a Mage: The Awakening game for weeks by throwing down an issue and saying “find the story that’s true.”
Sometimes, a news story hits me so hard that it brings me to tears, either of anger, frustration, or joy. Stories like, oh, say, this one, right here.
The gist of the story; after a man loses control of his car, three children are trapped inside as the car sinks in a frozen river. As many as ten (10!) bystanders jumped into the river to rescue the children, successfully bringing all three out, and successfull resuscitating the youngest who was not breathing when removed from the car. That story should be front page news everywhere. People who don’t usually read the news should be contacted by people who do, just so that story can get out. No movie I am going to see, no story I am going to write, no game I am going to run is going to be anywhere near as awesome as that news story.
It did get me to start thinking about RPGs, though… because, as anyone who knows Roleplaying games might tell you, those were Player Characters at work.
When you’re running a game (or writing one, for that matter), there’s often an inclination to add action to the story line. People like action in games. It keeps the pace going, gives folks something to roll dice for. We’re emulating our popular culture(s) when we play an RPG, and gamers (for the most part) like them some action. Gun fights, car chases, kung-fu; the kind of stuff that makes you jump and shout when you’re all hopped-up on soda and dice rolling. When I’m running a game, if I don’t get people out of their seats at least once a session, I think I’m doing something wrong.
Seeing a situation like this, though, reminds me that not all action comes in the form of combat or conflict. Sometimes, nothing gets the blood pumping like a rescue. For all the emulation of fictional events that an RPG player likes to indulge in, sometimes, the real world provides inspiration far in excess of what we see in fantasy literature or action movies. Sometimes, you want to drive to Utah to give real people experience points. Heroics come in all forms, after all. Having a character that can survive multiple swords to the face is one thing; having a character with the presence of mind to shoot the window out of a sinking car is something else entirely.
RPGs have taught me a lot. I had undiagnosed learning disabilities at the time I first started playing D&D in earnest. After a few weeks with rulebooks and charts and random number generators, my reading and math skills started to improve. I did a lot of research into asian culture while (and after!) I was involved in an AD&D “Oriental Adventures” campaign. Heck, that’s why I picked up “Sengoku.” I sought out the literature that my favorite games were based on, my problem solving skills improved; hell, I’m dyscalculic (like being dyslexic, but with numbers and equations rather than letters and sentences), and now I can do statistical analysis in my head. I’ve seen a number of people start down some interesting and deep paths of learning based on their RPG hobby.
Maybe it would be a good thing to focus on a certain amount of rescue scenarios in a game where they would fit in. It might just inspire someone to see what it would take to get a CPR or First Aid certification, or learn some lifesaving techniques at the local pool.
Looking at the bravery and complete selflessness that it would take to jump into a frozen-over river to save children in a sinking car, I can’t think it’d be a bad thing to use as a positive model in fiction and/or gaming. I wouldn’t want to encourage someone to take risks that they’re not prepared to take, or to act impulsively where rational thought is required… but that’s what simulations are for, aren’t they? For learning what do to, and what not to do?
In any case, I’m going to see about re-certifying in CPR, myself. If that doesn’t sound like a bad idea, this place right here would be an excellent place to start.