Oh,Be Serious

here’s an odd dichotomy between “taking things seriously” and “having fun” that I completely fail to understand. It’s like the one precludes the other, which seems to me to be entirely wrong.

For example, I’m pretty sure that most people take sex seriously. Does that mean they aren’t having a good time, aren’t enjoying themselves? Of course not. It doesn’t even mean that they are being serious–indeed, I have a hard time picturing someone being serious while engaged in an act as fundamentally silly-looking as sexual intercourse. I’m sure there were Victorians who managed it, and certain whackjobs who still do, but why expend that much effort? Take it seriously, sure; take the appropriate precautions, make sure you know what, or who, you’re getting into. But if it’s not a good time, you’ve missed the point. In the same vein, while sex should be a lot of fun, and can even be very funny, you should be sure that it’s something you’re doing for the right reasons–that is, you should take it seriously.

Similarly, consider a ballerina. She devotes huge amounts of time, effort, pain and attention to dancing, but if you ask her why she’s doing it she’ll tell you that she loves it, that it’s fun for her. She’ll tell you this even as her feet are bleeding.

Or the SCA. Those of us who don’t care for the more anachronistic of the Society’s practices–presenting the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch to the royals in court, wandering through an event in a Hello Kitty! patterned kosode, whatever–are often accused of being “too serious” and “spoiling all the fun”. We, meanwhile, are bewildered by this. Since when does taking something seriously keep people from having fun with it? Our problem is that the fun being generated comes from outside the context of the game, not that the game itself is being made fun; it’s like someone who loves model rockets bringing his pride and joy to a kite-flyer’s convention. While his rocket is fun, and some of the kite-flyers there might even belong to the model rocket club as well, the rocket is not the kind of fun the kite-flyers are there to have. He’d be better off developing a rocket-assisted kite.

Personally, I think that taking a thing seriously makes it easier to have fun with it. Somewhere in the back of your mind you’ve got to believe that Denetia Silverblade, paladin of Pelor, is real and important, because otherwise she’s just a bunch of numbers on paper. Nothing she does will make you laugh (or cry); nothing that happens to her will mean anything. And in that case, why not just play Parcheesi?

I’ll grant that there’s such a thing as taking it too seriously. People who believe every sexual encounter heralds Twoo Wuv (or communion with Deity, or whatever), ballerinas who ruin their health for their art, those famous, apocryphal idiots who berate newcomers for bad garb, kids who get despondent because their character was killed: these are people who are taking their respective games too seriously. They need to lighten the hell up; they have slipped from “taking it seriously” to “being serious”. But their opposites–the casual lecher, the girl who refuses to practice before her recital, the once-a-year-get-blasted-for-two-weeks SCAdians, the every-campaign-turns-into-farce gamers–aren’t any better.

I guess, at this late point, I should define what I mean by “taking it seriously”. It’s pretty simple: respect the rules of the game. If the rules of the game say that everyone must wear a blue hat, and you hate blue, you have two choices: respect the game and the other players by wearing a blue hat anyway, or don’t attend that game. A person who takes it seriously wouldn’t really consider showing up in a red hat, as that wouldn’t be within the rules. (I am deliberately excluding cases where your true purpose is to change the game, as that is a different kind of serious.) Basically, find out what kinds of fun your game is structured to facilitate, and have those kinds of fun. If there’s some other kind of fun you like better, go find the game that promotes it, rather than trying to shoehorn it into a game it doesn’t fit. Someone who takes chess seriously wouldn’t expect a chess game to provide the same kind of fun as listening to an opera, but that doesn’t make the chess game not fun; it makes it not an opera.

Pick your game. Take it seriously. Have fun with it.

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