“Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.” – John Lennon
(Today’s installment on Pretty Sneaky, Sis brought to you by new team member Chris Motola. Welcome to the team, Chris! – JB)
Role playing games offer players near limitless power fantasies, character studies and scenario explorations but, as is human nature, there are those times where a particularly malignant ennui sets in and no one feels like doing any of that crap. What does a gamer do in those moments where saving the world as a super powered badass has become run-of-the-mill and boring? In our case, it meant it was time for a You Are the Heroes game.
Yes, we were so bored of playing other people that playing ourselves somehow became the more novel idea. Other alternatives, like going outside as a group, were unthinkable.
So how does one stat up the Olympian specimen that is a gamer nerd? Rendering your personality and body into a numerical model means, for most people, throwing out the usual balancing mechanics that role playing games rely upon to impart a sense of fairness. Nature and nurture don’t tend to create perfectly balanced individuals, after all. That means estimating your attributes against what you perceive to be the average person. Of course, the other members of your group are doing the exact same thing and, chances are, they perceive themselves and the average person differently than you do.
That’s when the real fun begins.
If you ever wanted to have an awkward debate over how smart, strong or likeable you are with your friends, propose a You Are the Heroes game immediately and you might just power your way through narcissism and self-loathing to group catharsis. Consider it the geekiest social experiment you can run. I haven’t been a part of one in many years, but here’s how stat creation went during one of mine back in the day.
Physical strength, being easily measurable, tends to get resolved most quickly and with the fewest hurt feelings. And if you were the only one in your group who regularly worked out, as I was at the time, you finally got the ephemeral payoff for all those push-ups. This was my moment to shine! But how much stronger was I than the average person?
“Yeah, a bit.”
Clearly I would not be shoulder pressing a portcullis.
Blank looks around the table.
“Uhm, I’m pretty good at video games?”
“We’re all pretty good at video games.”
“I can kind of juggle.”
“That’s not fair, I wasn’t ready to catch that!”
Silence as small numbers are scratched onto all our papers.
Taking turns punching each other in the face until someone needs to go to the hospital aside, there aren’t any easy ways of measuring this.
“I run 5Ks.”
“But you get sick a lot.”
“I’m never sick.”
“But you get winded walking up a flight of stairs.”
“I can hold my breath a long time.”
We settle on average scores all around.
Uh oh. If there’s one personal attribute sacred to nerds, it’s the intellect. Our minds are limitless crucibles, bubbling with the raw goop of creativity, accumulated knowledge and movie quotes. We know deep within our hearts that we are all only slightly less gifted than history’s champions of the mind, titans like Einstein and Newton. We just don’t feel like learning all that quantum theory.
We acknowledge each other’s greatness by not engaging in a pointless debate over who is the prince of princes. After all, intelligence can manifest in different ways. With our heads held high, we assign ourselves wizard brains.
“So this is how quickly I think, right?”
“Kinda. It’s also how much willpower you have.”
“Or how experienced you are with life.”
“How is that one stat?”
“People come to me for advice all the time.”
“I’m very aware of my surroundings.”
“I guess put down whatever number you want.”
You can feel dread creep into the room like a hungry displacer beast. This moment was inevitable. Unavoidable. Back in the darkness of the womb, we’d sold our stunning good looks and infectious personalities for our intellectual brilliance. This will not be pretty. But then something unexpected happens. Someone speaks.
“You know, I think I’m pretty likable.”
Is it possible? Someone in my gaming group is making an argument for above average social prowess? How can this be? We listen.
“I have a lot of friends. I get along with my coworkers. I make people laugh. I have a girlfriend.”
All of these things are true. How strange!
“I don’t think I’m that bad looking either.”
It’s too much, this, this, confidence! You spend several hours a week pretending to be someone else and now you tell me you’re proud to be you?
“And I like all you guys too.”
No one argues with his above average rating.
Looking down at my sheet, I realize that I’ve created an American College Student, as has everyone else in the group. Sure, some of us have slightly better computer or communication skills. Some of us were slightly more useful in a fight. Together, we are a pack of real world wizards with absolutely no magical abilities.
Evil had best brace itself for a relentless onslaught of academic arguments.