A long time ago, in the years before the Internet, a decade after the Enterprise’s first five year mission, my father bought a book for me while we were on vacation. The title? The Dungeon Master’s Guide. I consumed the book in less than 24 hours. Then I re-read it. Then I studied it. That vacation I poured through that book. My future was remolded that summer in ways I could never have imagined. The book, unbeknownst to me, gave me the tool do something more than just play the game. Sure, I liked playing AD&D, but what I really liked was watching people play AD&D – and the DM gets a front row seat.
When people play games they become something they could never be in real life: honest. We lie in the course of everyday life all the time. We lie at work to convince the boss there is no place else we’d rather be. We lie to our families to convince them there is nothing more important to us than them. We lie to ourselves when we pretend job and family is what really makes us happy. We lie about over eating. We lie about drinking too much. We lie about lusting after the neighbor. We lie all the time.
This state of perpetual lies is so pervasive it’s become normal. It is the socially acceptable thing to do. There is only one place it tends to fall away for most people: when they can “pretend” to be someone else. Don’t believe that’s true? Go read Internet comments on just about anything for 30 minutes and then come back. I’ll wait.
See what I mean. On the Internet, everyone’s an expert and opinions are as good as fact. That’s the honesty of it, we all believe our opinions are the correct ones. The other guy is full of crap. We may debate a person politely face to face, but we get downright ugly when we can allow our honest nature to surface.
That’s what I discovered when I became a Dungeon Master. If you really want to know someone, what makes them tick and how their mind works, study them while they play a game.
Here’s a case in point. I had a friend in school named Joe. Joe was a good guy. He was nice. In fact, he was so nice that it came out as practically saintly. The guy didn’t seem to have a selfish bone in his body. He was always willing to lend a hand, run an errand, take that extra duty shift on the long weekend so you could get away from the stress. Nice guy eh? Actually, he was so self-absorbed he was practically narcissistic.
By watching Joe play AD&D, I soon realized that Joe’s pretty-boy-doesn’t-have-a-scar-on-him-he’s-so-good 12th lever fighter was really who he thought he was. Ray was practically a narcissist. The reason he didn’t have a girlfriend or take weekend passes was that he was in love with himself. He was always with the person he wanted to be with most. And that is how his fighter was. We HATED that character.
One day I decided I’d had enough of Joe’s fighter and his peccadilloes. I decided he’d have to prove how perfect he was by making perfect decisions every encounter. The only thing left of Joe’s beloved self-portrait that session was a nose and Joe had to role very high indeed for even that much. Guess what happened? Yep, rage quit and oh boy how. I’ve never seen a temper tantrum as bad from a gamer. There was stomping and throwing and name calling and almost physical blows at one point. Joe had been part of our group for over three years and yet he left and never returned. Remind you of any Eve players you know or might have heard about?
Absolute honesty is inappropriate in a civilized world. From the white lie to telling your dying father it’ll be okay, we live in a constant state of dishonesty – pretending to be the people everyone else (and we) think we should be. And there’s my point. People say they do what they do in Eve because it’s a safe place to act in ways they never would in real life. I agree. We’re a lot more honest. What you do in Eve is a truer reflection of your inner soul than you realize.
 Hey, people are instinctively selfish and our own happiness is more important to us than anyone else’s including our mother’s. This is something that Machiavelli, Locke, Rousseau and others all agree on to one degree or another so get over the statement already.
 Name changed because societal norms dictate I lie here.