Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Role-playing game groups as hunter-gatherer bands

Hunter-gatherers (HG) were...

  • our basic human social organizations until agricultural revolution (c.-10.000)
  • highly mobile
  • playful

HG Values were...

  • Strongly egalitarian (not like hierarchical chimpanzees)
    • follow the rules willingly and freely
    • freedom to quit the band
  • Cooperation
    • extensive discussions and debates until consensus 
    • relations and exchanges with others bands
    • keep the band together = more stable band = better survival
    • role separation and role interchangeable (not like Neanderthals)
  • Sharing
    • few properties (just "carry-on")

HG Playfulness enforces these values

  • Play is mostly non-competitive
  • Unlike most non-human mammals, play :
    • continues in adulthood
    • is not separated from productive behavior (true hunt/ hunt play,...)
    • is framing a lot of (all?) daily activities
      (ex: monkeys seek for social status, except when playing. HG didn't search for social status at all, because play was framing all their daily life)

HG Playfulness Outcomes

  • Play and humor :
    • reduce arrogance and dominance
    • suppress aggressive behavior
    • promote equality
  • Play helps :
    • passing of culture (knowledges, values, ...) from generation to generation
    • learning and praticing skills
  • Play boosts empathy :
    • share fun with others
    • discover what others like or dislike
    • please others and keep them from leaving

... and RPG gaming groups ?

Our societies and daily lifes are now too complex to be organized like HG bands. BUT when we play in small groups, we use what our brain was trained for millenia :
  • having a fun free shared collective empathic experience of personal freedom with [few/less/no] hierarchy and no unwilling constraints. If negociated skillfully, it enables us to grow temporary or permanent communities.
Nota Bene: even if its now summertime, there is no need to walk naked with a stick to your next tabletop game...

Gray, P. (2009). Play as a Foundation for Hunter-Gatherer Social Existence. American Journal of Play, 1(4), 476–522. 
Gray, P. (2014). Play Theory of Hunter-Gatherer Egalitarianism. In D. Narvaez, K. Valentino, A. Fuentes, J. J. McKenna, & P. Gray (Éd.), Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution (p. 192‑215). New York: Oxford University Press.

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