When I was a child the world seemed vast. With my eyes wide open I looked up and saw the boundless realms before me.
I read about space, paleontology, entomology, the deep sea, tales of adventure, and stories of wonder. I looked up at the sky and allowed myself to dream. The possibilities seemed endless and there was no way I could explore them all.
But then something awful happened. I grew up.
As I grew larger my life became smaller. Responsibility and practicality required that I cast my eyes down from the heavens and focus on where I was, what I was doing. The proclivity to dream still remained but there was less and less time. Things needed my attention. The world had not become any less vast but My focus and efforts were required elsewhere. I became a productive member of society, but life was passing me by.
RPGs offer us the opportunity to return to contemplating and exploring the vastness of life. We can throw off the shackles of practicality and realism and explore whatever suits our fancy. This could be literal exploration of darkest Africa or of uncharted space, or could be going deep down the rabbit hole of the premise of android rights or a scenario where things are heating up to the boiling point and tough choices need to be made.
The trope of “saving the world” is cliché but we are also free to experience how small and insignificant we really are compared to the vastness of the universe, or of a bloody Civil War, or of the challenge of planetary colonization, or the indifference of cosmic beings who were old before our newly formed world cooled off.
Perhaps nothing is more vast than the endless possibilities of what will happen next? There are so many variables. There’s no way we can know what will emerge as the various players at the table participate. This is a realm of exploration and experience to rival charting the galaxy.
Far from being a simple escape, role-playing games allow us to momentarily take the focus off of our little corner of the world that we need to attend to, and allow us to look up like we did when we were children.
It is a truly vast world out there.
My God, it’s full of stars.