Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@icrontic.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take several days. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Letting go of games

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I think I’ve reached a turning point in my relationship with games. In the past I’ve mentioned that I had a strongly ambivalent stance towards games. I worked on games as a designer and a software developer for many years, but ever since finding myself on a spiritual path ten years ago, I have been getting signs that these two don’t go well together. It’s been difficult for me to let go of it because it was a huge part of my life and my passion, and coming across things online has kept enticing me back.

Recently I made a summary on paper of the things telling me games weren’t a beneficial direction. Firstly, violence, rewards and addictiveness. Second, that you’re not getting closer to truth and enlightenment, but that you get more stuck in illusions and other people’s dreams. Third, that the Buddha also said games were a waste of time and energy (admittedly he was talking about early variants of chess). Fourth, I can feel in my mental states that most games play on desire, lust for battle, challenge and passion, and that this feeds the fires within and doesn’t lead to inner peace.

So something seems to have changed, making this summary has allowed me to drop a few things. My father advised me to adopt another activity, to channel my energies in a different direction, and I think that is wise advice. Do something else instead. Thanks dad.

marcitkohowFleaMarket
«13456

Comments

  • marcitkomarcitko Veteran

    My comment may or may not be helpful or in the direction you wish to go.

    However, my recently adopted view is that we like games because they offer the possibility of progress and reward, without the risk of failure.

    If you fail at a game (get "killed", your village getting "destroyed", your resources "plundered"), there is no real consequence. But if you "win" you feel the same feelings as if you'd "won" at something in real life.

    Many real-life activities are very similar to playing games and use the same skills. However, here we are faced with the prospects of both real wins and real failures.

    That's my view at the moment at least.

    personJeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Thats certainly one aspect of what makes games attractive, @marcitko. And of course because I feel these negative things doesn’t necessarily mean that others will feel the same thing. If you only play puzzle games on your iPhone you likely won’t feel the same.

    But for me I think some of it is related to my period of intense World of Warcraft playing. I know that engaged my passion, my enthusiasm, and it left traces deep inside. When I dream, I sometimes still dream of playing that game. So spiritually it also had certain consequences.

    So when I feel tempted to re-engage with those activities, I end up asking myself, is it beneficial? Does it help me on my chosen path, which is the spiritual journey?

    marcitko
  • While it becomes clear at an early point in spiritual growth that shooting other animated things in the face with guns doesn't bring anyone closer to the goal, reaching the understanding behind why Buddha pointed to even Chess as a distraction doesn't always come right away.

    Lately I've been viewing sila and precepts less like rules and more like dance moves. If you want to dance well, you have to hit the moves at the right rhythm and with the right effort and stuff. It's not done because the dance is forced on you, it's done because the dance is beautiful and enjoyable and entices you to dance it well; a dance of laying down the burden. There are still moments in the song when I like to dance my own moves rather than the choreographed ones. Games are of those moments.

    I used to spend lots of time on Counterstrike and WoW and many others. Similar to you @jeroen, I played WoW on launch and playing it every free moment quickly became my goal in life. It filled very quickly many pockets of emptiness which took much more time and effort to fill before it came along. A marketplace of interactions and challenges and colors and surprises and rewards all right on screen for as long as I wanted, it felt. What I was missing from here or there in my daily life it made up for and was incredibly easy to access.

    But naturally as anyone who's done anything for a while knows what happens, it grew stale. The add-ons and expansions were just rinse-and-repeat, the community changed, the mystery became known, mastered, there was nothing new and it stopped working. But I soldiered on. I pressed on because maybe that would change and return to those happier days. I desired those old days back badly and clung to the memory. I struggled frustratingly, selfishly, day after day on that game. The joy from those treasured memories were all I liked about it any more. And it became almost like a job that I didn't even really want to go to...which I'd play after my job...which I didn't really want to go to...as a reward to myself for doing that job. Yeah I don't know how that worked for so long either. Addiction to the memory of what it used to be, ignoring what really was being experienced.

    Oddly enough I don't see how my behavior with gaming is fundamentally different from infatuation with other hobbies like sports or cooking or tech or music or chess; maybe even the spiritual journey. It's our human-being life-cycle. We're born, we learn to like and dislike things, we try to do the things we like more than the things we dislike until we die. Without other direction, that just sounds pretty natural and standard-world human-being behavior.

    In fact I'd argue there's value in having experienced deep infatuation or addiction to something prior to beginning the spiritual journey. Typically those with an addiction have had insight into the nature of total absorption into their activity. Even if that activity was unhealthy, the methods of associating to it required tools of mindfulness and concentration. There were times playing WoW when there were no distractions where I was essentially "zoned-in" to the screen. The game was all that existed in that moment and every detail was sensitive to. It could have been a chef in a kitchen, a footballer on the field, an engineer in the shop.. but that might be a discussion for another topic. This one's about letting go of games, not for the sake of games. Though interestingly enough using that memory of being absorbed into a computer screen, into the activity, examining it for the useful parts like the methods of associating, and applying some of those methods to the spiritual journey are having some interesting results.

    marcitkopersonJeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited May 2023

    @FleaMarket said:
    why Buddha pointed to even Chess as a distraction

    I’ve asked myself that question, and I came up with these points:

    1. It is a waste of time, activity unconnected to the search for enlightenment
    2. It is a focus on the mind’s activity, not no-mind (or is that too Zen?)
    3. It is concerned with doing, and not with Being
    4. It creates a habit of goal-oriented thinking, which is not an open, meditative state of mind

    Cinematic games I think are worse, because they are much more convincing simulations of illusory worlds, with which you still interact as if they are chess-like games, but they are built to trigger your survival instincts and can also act on your emotions. If Mara is the lord of illusions, what exactly is his relationship to games?

    I had this discussion with my cousin as well, he is quite into spirituality and has a coach with whom he discusses these things. His view was that even films, books and such take time away from the spiritual search and are unnecessary. Although, he still games and reads and watches films. No relaxation at all seems quite extreme to me, I have to say.

    As with alcohol, I think one should just spend some time contemplating whether it is beneficial. Can you find what attracts you to these activities? In the end if it turns out to clearly not be beneficial, then you will drop it in the moment of realisation.

    marcitko
  • Those are good points I agree with. Leading to a more perfected dance if you will. And I think again you're right that no relaxation at all seems quite extreme. From one perspective relaxation comes with following the way. From another perspective relaxation comes from taking a break from the way. The Buddha guides toward the way and mara can certainly be found in the sense indulgence of both games and alcohol.

    For me I struggle with what to do then otherwise, and why that's any different than games.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited May 2023

    This was a good older discussion which touches on this subject:

    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/23801/video-game-violence-and-buddhism/p1

    As you can see I have been struggling with this topic for a while. Its been good for me to read some of the things I wrote back then, I was pretty forthright. I wouldn’t go so far as to say games are bad for everyone, for some people it might be a better choice than others, or a necessary escape. But for those on a spiritual path who are serious about it its not a good habit.

    SuraShine
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    I can relate to others here. I was a teen when home video games first came to market and would often sit playing them all day long. Since I've had times where I had zero involvement with games and others where I've been consumed by them.

    Currently a good part of me would like to devote myself to the Buddhist path, but since I do have to work and would like to maintain close contact with family and friends I inevitable soak up the energies of the world. My practice isn't able to go deep, it largely consists of clearing away the accumulated mental and emotional energies, its like constantly swimming upstream. I don't feel its possible for me to really be able to achieve meaningful peaceful states of mind like those achieved in retreat.

    So, that's to say I kind of feel like I need some measure of worldly pleasures and human connection to live a happy life. But video games are isolating and addicting, at least to me. I no longer play anything more involved than solitaire or Candy Crush and I limit my time on each. I have however been playing Table Top Role Playing Games (TTRPGs) online with others for a couple years now.

    At one level they do feed into the desire for advancement and mastery, which I don't think are necessarily bad in themselves. Only some spiritual paths eschew that form of practice, the Gelug path of TB speaks a lot about enlightenment as a goal to be attained and spiritual qualities as skills to be mastered. It teaches active application of antidotes to harmful mental states.

    More to the point though, what I really enjoy about it as opposed to video games is that it is way more social, creative and collaborative. Every group plays it differently of course, but in general the goal isn't to win, but to create a fun and interesting story together. And for myself I've been able to develop more spontaneous creativity, as opposed to the more deliberative written style.

    Anyway, not all games are created equal. If TTRPGs aren't your thing, board game nights are pretty common these days at local gaming stores and other venues. They allow for human interaction and aren't "always on" to help avoid addictive tendancies one may have.

    FleaMarketJeroen
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited May 2023

    I wonder from experience if an (at home) retreat life triggers my mental illness which can last for months of hearing and believing delusive stuff. So I'm hesitant to do more intense meditation, periods and focus, to avoid triggering that mental stuff.

    So my life is going to revolve around something other than meditation to stay mentally healthy. I like to read books fiction and non-fiction. I like to play games that uncover a story and explore along with creative and imaginative (self) narrative and strategy. I don't get obsessive with either games or books and it's just a part of my life.

    I think a life without intense meditation can still be a compassionate life and include games and fun activities in moderation.

    personmarcitkoJeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    I have however been playing Table Top Role Playing Games (TTRPGs) online with others for a couple years now.

    Yes it is a slightly different activity, and I have been tempted to pick up some DnD 5th edition handbooks and get back into it. Certainly the creative aspect of it is appealing. But if I go down my paper list of drawbacks I still see many of the same downfalls of game playing, vis-a-vis the reward cycle and being in illusory worlds.

    My cousin tends to just pick his games carefully, he has just engaged with No Man’s Sky on the PC which is a very combat-lite game, more a space exploration experience. But he admits he couldn’t do without his gaming, that to some extent it is an addiction.

    You can certainly avoid some of the bad aspects.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @Jeffrey said:
    So my life is going to revolve around something other than meditation to stay mentally healthy. I like to read books fiction and non-fiction. I like to play games that uncover a story and explore along with creative and imaginative (self) narrative and strategy. I don't get obsessive with either games or books and it's just a part of my life.

    I think a life without intense meditation can still be a compassionate life and include games and fun activities in moderation.

    I have some of the same drawbacks as far as intense meditation is concerned @Jeffrey. I have been focussing more on mindfulness and just sitting in short sessions, and even then I still experience hypnagogic experiences sometimes.

    For relaxation I read, sometimes Osho books and sometimes others. But I do wonder about my fathers advice to put the energy and passion I put into gaming instead into another, preferably creative activity. I feel he has a certain point there.

    Jeffrey
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited May 2023

    @how I think by intense what I mean is a a feeling of psychosis thinking people are talking or thinking about my mind.. That's an intense experience. Probably an unusual brain chemistry at that time. And during such intense times I usually drop off my usual daily meditation.

    A second referent for the word intense is that I wonder if increasing my meditation to do at home retreats could have helped cause my relapse? In this the length and frequency increase to several sessions a little longer than an hour. I wonder if such increase in length helped to cause symptoms for me? And the feeling of intensity could also come not from length but from the meaning to me and the others doing the retreat to keep to the spirit of the retreat as it was described to start out the week.

    Then again maybe (jokingly!) the relapse happened because I was always going downstairs and my dog missed my constant attention of me :)O.o He could be the one tuning with my mind and causing a relapse of symptoms! So Dad will come back and give him attention.

    I am back to daily meditation but usually just doing morning walking meditation each day and here and there I do a 15 minute seated mediation.

    FleaMarket
  • @Jeffrey said:
    I think by intense what I mean is a a feeling of psychosis thinking people are talking or thinking about my mind.. That's an intense experience.

    I think I experienced something like that when I first began seriously practicing meditation. The conclusion I came to was that what others are doing is part of the same template in which I do things too so there are often similarities and patterns that bring up memories or associations to my own life. At first this kind of feels like people are talking about you but upon further examination it's more likely just picking up patterns in what other people are doing and finding associations to your own behaviors. When looking closely enough, almost anything can reveal some pattern or association that triggers an introspective reflection, it's just about how much someone usually pays attention to that stuff which is usually not very much. Sometimes it can be helpful for spiritual growth and reflection, sometimes it can turn into nasty paranoia. A lot of it is on how it's associated in the mind and whether it's done with mindfulness or not.

    Is this what's meant by Buddha nature? Perfecting virtuous living and seeing your reflection in others and using it to continue to perfect your virtue? Then by reflection of your own perfect virtue, you see the blemishes in others virtues and can attempt to guide them to see it too?

    Jeffrey
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I had a dream last night in which I was hired by a games development company… I saw a manager there who was one of the few I had real respect for when I used to work in the industry.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    “The ultimate reality that man has invented has absolutely no relationship whatsoever with the reality of this world. As long as you are seeking, searching, and wanting to understand that reality (which you call "ultimate reality," or call it by whatever name you like), it will not be possible for you to come to terms with the reality of the world exactly the way it is. So, anything you do to escape from the reality of this world will make it difficult for you to live in harmony with the things around you.”
    — U. G. Krishnamurti

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited May 2023

    A friend on another Buddhist forum recommended to me to not judge too harshly, and try to approach these behaviours with mindfulness and awareness instead of just dropping them immediately. He said, if you judge the behaviour and you turn your back on it, you end up repressing the passion you once had for it. Instead, try and make the whole cycle of thoughts and feelings associated with it conscious.

    I thought this was an interesting approach, and am willing to give it a go with Dungeons & Dragons. I think that is a more positive form of game than a cinematic computer game, where the creativity of story-telling takes over from the grind of monster-slaying on a lot of PC games. So I have bought a 5th edition Players Handbook and once I’ve read it will try to find a group on Roll20.

    marcitkoFleaMarketperson
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran
    edited May 2023

    @Jeroen said:
    A friend on another Buddhist forum recommended to me to not judge too harshly, and try to approach these behaviours with mindfulness and awareness instead of just dropping them immediately. He said, if you judge the behaviour and you turn your back on it, you end up repressing the passion you once had for it. Instead, try and make the whole cycle of thoughts and feelings associated with it conscious.

    I thought this was an interesting approach, and am willing to give it a go with Dungeons & Dragons. I think that is a more positive form of game than a cinematic computer game, where the creativity of story-telling takes over from the grind of monster-slaying on a lot of PC games. So I have bought a 5th edition Players Handbook and once I’ve read it will try to find a group on Roll20.

    Hope you have fun! Just be aware that differing groups play the game in very different ways, some more focused on story and character and others more on the combat and number crunching, and every mixture in between. You'll probably have to look around to find one that works for you.

    Not sure how your finances are but in general paid games seem to attract a more mature, stable player base, plus free games can be hard to get a spot in. There are a lot more players than game masters.

    Another place to look for a game is Start Playing

    You also might find some inspiration or enjoyment from one of the many games that stream themselves playing. Probably the most popular one is Critical Role, keep in mind they are all trained, successful voice actors and your play experience won't meet that level.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    Hope you have fun! Just be aware that differing groups play the game in very different ways, some more focused on story and character and others more on the combat and number crunching, and every mixture in between. You'll probably have to look around to find one that works for you.

    I remember that from my high school days… even within our group there were different interests in game types, I remember when one of my friends came up with Car Wars, an almost entirely build-number crunching-combat game.

    Not sure how your finances are but in general paid games seem to attract a more mature, stable player base, plus free games can be hard to get a spot in. There are a lot more players than game masters.

    We will have to see, I guess. Money is relatively tight but I can spend a little on my hobbies. I did a lot of DM’ing back in the day, so I guess that might be a route.

    You also might find some inspiration or enjoyment from one of the many games that stream themselves playing. Probably the most popular one is Critical Role, keep in mind they are all trained, successful voice actors

    I will definitely have a look — sounds entertaining!

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    It’s odd, yesterday afternoon I had a bit of an extended session reading the PHB (Players Handbook) and I noticed some odd effects after an hour or so. My tinnitus got worse, there was a mental ‘excitedness’, and all spiritual thoughts completely disappeared. It was difficult to stay mindful through this. My sleep was also affected, I had a kind of odd sensation of being folded in half on waking in the middle of the night.

    So I think I will take a few days rest, just to let things calm down. Slowly does it.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran
    edited May 2023

    It absolutely can still be an obsession, and new things will usually disrupt and excite us to some extent or another. You're in a different situation than myself and have the ability to remove yourself from the busyness of the world to greater degree, so you may have to sacrifice more spiritually to engage with this sort of thing.

    Lots of GMs like introducing new players to the game and are happy helping with the rules, so you don't have to have all the intricacies personally mastered to jump in and enjoy yourself.

    ETA: Often you have to go through learning the system before you can let it go and engage with the more creative and imaginative side of the game. That said though a player in one of my groups has a high school theater background and even after a year she only has a basic command of the rules. But her characters have lots of personality and flavor, she engages in interesting and fun ways with the story. The way it often works is that she has a concept for what she wants to do and the rest of us help her with the rules that best accomplishes that vision.

    Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Yes indeed. I think it shows my Buddhist friend on the Dutch forum was correct in saying there was still something there, and that by distancing myself from it I wasn’t getting nearer to actually dealing with it. Approaching it mindfully may well be a better way.

    I used to be quite deeply engaged with the numbers side of game systems and different power levels within the game, a bit of a power gamer both in computer games and in RPGs before, who took a certain satisfaction in doing a good analysis of the game system. It’s interesting because I now feel that’s among the least wholesome aspects of the game. Yesterday I found myself starting to look at different aspects of power within the game… it’s a mechanic’s approach to playing, min-maxing the damage output, which in the past always made me an efficient killing machine. So, an old learned behaviour resurfacing.

    I saw a note in the players handbook that having a background with a power ideal would result in an alignment of Lawful Evil. Maybe a snippet of wisdom in the game?

    In a way this is all the opposite to your girl with the theatre background. Hers sounds like a more spontaneous approach to play, which is a good thing.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    Yes indeed. I think it shows my Buddhist friend on the Dutch forum was correct in saying there was still something there, and that by distancing myself from it I wasn’t getting nearer to actually dealing with it. Approaching it mindfully may well be a better way.

    I used to be quite deeply engaged with the numbers side of game systems and different power levels within the game, a bit of a power gamer both in computer games and in RPGs before, who took a certain satisfaction in doing a good analysis of the game system. It’s interesting because I now feel that’s among the least wholesome aspects of the game. Yesterday I found myself starting to look at different aspects of power within the game… it’s a mechanic’s approach to playing, min-maxing the damage output, which in the past always made me an efficient killing machine. So, an old learned behaviour resurfacing.

    I saw a note in the players handbook that having a background with a power ideal would result in an alignment of Lawful Evil. Maybe a snippet of wisdom in the game?

    In a way this is all the opposite to your girl with the theatre background. Hers sounds like a more spontaneous approach to play, which is a good thing.

    For me, going into it I also came at it from an optimization point of view. And its still something I consider in developing my characters. However, what got me back into the game was seeing the streaming games and the way they presented their characters, it looked really fun to me. So in many ways I approach it as a way to learn new skills, including socializing with others since I tend to be antisocial as well. I have one advantage when it comes to that though, I've never minded making a fool of myself in front of other people. So I try things out, some of them stupid or poorly done, but some work and I've gotten better at it over time.

    Also, there are plenty of character options that lean in to a more wholesome play style. The goal of many tables is working together to tell a fun and interesting story, combat is only a portion of that. So you could focus on a support or utility character, like a peace domain cleric or a way of mercy monk, or one of many other options.

  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited May 2023

    We can become attached to almost anything just as our relationship with anything can become the means of discovering equanimity.

    The degree to which we are attached to anything is the degree to which we will suffer the uncomfortable consequences of that attachment.
    The degree to which we are not attached to anything is the degree to which we do not suffer the consequences of that attachment.

    The ego's storyline, which is simply a collective construct of our attachments, is not softened by another storytelling of an attachment. The storyline of the ego is only dissipated by the establishment of a greater life effort in the transcendence of our attachments than in our continued indulging of them.

    Even education itself becomes a limitation when a professional student's underlying motivations become an avoidance of facing life's responsibilities.
    How much more so can an imaginary game be?

    Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    what got me back into the game was seeing the streaming games and the way they presented their characters, it looked really fun to me.

    Yes that co-creative aspect of the game, the idea of just having fun with the theatre of it. In some ways a certain amount of optimisation is unavoidable, it is part of operating within the rules. You take the Quarterstaff +2 over a non-magic quarterstaff because it is better.

    But I feel that you can take that creative role-play into the character creation process as well, which means not feeling forced into making optimal choices such as selecting Fireball as your first level 3 spell if you play a Wizard. It may not be necessary to pick a support-only character.

    The way we used to play back when I was last playing D&D and not DM’ing, the Wizard was a bit of a glass cannon. Nobody else could do as much damage to a pack of enemies as the group’s Wizard, which was often me, at the cost of not being able to stand up to much punching.

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    But I feel that you can take that creative role-play into the character creation process as well, which means not feeling forced into making optimal choices such as selecting Fireball as your first level 3 spell if you play a Wizard. It may not be necessary to pick a support-only character.

    That's kind of the way most of my RP happens. I'm really not very good at the improv or "acting" aspect. I take the choices that fits the flavor of my character, though I still tend to prefer the more effective options. Another player in one of my groups without fail takes the most obvious, powerful combat choices and rarely takes the ones that would make the non combat portions of the game more enjoyable. For example one of the classes gets a free spell that lets them send short messages over infinite distances, but they have the option of swapping it out. Not only can it be flavorful, but it is very useful for RP utility. He swapped it out for yet another combat spell.

    @how said:
    We can become attached to almost anything just as our relationship with anything can become the means of discovering equanimity.

    The degree to which we are attached to anything is the degree to which we will suffer the uncomfortable consequences of that attachment.
    The degree to which we are not attached to anything is the degree to which we do not suffer the consequences of that attachment.

    The ego's storyline, which is simply a collective construct of our attachments, is not softened by another storytelling of an attachment. The storyline of the ego is only dissipated by the establishment of a greater life effort in the transcendence of our attachments than in our continued indulging of them.

    Even education itself becomes a limitation when a professional student's underlying motivations become an avoidance of facing life's responsibilities.
    How much more so can an imaginary game be?

    I'll own up to it, its an attachment of mine. Its good to be reminded of the fact that it does add to delusion. Reflecting, I think I've made the decision (at least for the time being) that trying to live in the world and externally letting go of my attachments leads to me living a miserable life. I'm without any interests and still unable to really achieve meaningful dissolution because I do take care of my responsibilities and that requires me to take on the energy of the world to an extent that removes the spiritual rewards of a tranquil emotional state.

    That said, I absolutely recognize the value of practice and engagement with the Dharma, mentally letting go and reducing attachments. I'm simply not in the pursuit of enlightenment in my life right now and am just looking for balance and a respite from the tumult of the world.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited May 2023

    This morning I realised play is actually a primal instinct. From our very early years it is the way we learn — trying things out, fooling around, adopting funny voices. It is a road to laughter and happy feelings, delight, being young again. One thing that is now obvious to me is that in condemning play you also cut yourself off from one of these primal sources of enjoyment of the normal world. Even the animals play.

    I know the dharma is not overly fond of games, but games and play are deeply linked. Games create a bounded space for play, and as long as you spend only a minimum amount of time on the rules and the ideas of optimal play within the system, you can focus on the play and having fun. Theatre, improvisation, and clowning are lively and enjoyable aspects of RPGs.

    In a way sports are the philosophy of optimisation applied to play bounded by rules. The mature mind likes the idea of winning and being efficient and fast, and hence it pursues optimisation and goals. Optimisation and goal-based gaming are the province of the mind, and ultimately not beneficial to a spiritual being. The core of play goes in the other direction, towards a more childlike expression.

    The idea of mindful playing goes a little against the spontaneity and the non-seriousness of play, it brings something a little serious, a little mature. But I’m beginning to suspect play can also be a way to express the things that usually don’t get expressed, to drop your normal persona and self for one that is different and allows you some relief.

    I’m still exploring the field.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @how said:
    The storyline of the ego is only dissipated by the establishment of a greater life effort in the transcendence of our attachments than in our continued indulging of them.

    That is an interesting way of putting it, “the transcendence of our attachments”. My experience is that once you have thoroughly examined your attachments, your bonds, they will drop away when you are ripe to leave them behind. It is a question of looking with insight at what binds you.

    For me, the whole issue of optimisation and being an “efficient killing machine” within the game’s rules is an expression of the mind’s ruthlessness against emotion and the theatre of natural play. This is something I have come across elsewhere in my practice as well, it is where the mind makes the heart secondary to its goals.

    Even education itself becomes a limitation when a professional student's underlying motivations become an avoidance of facing life's responsibilities.
    How much more so can an imaginary game be?

    Yes, the ‘imaginary game’ is a conundrum. It is a source of addiction and access to power in an imaginary realm, a way to have what you can’t have in the normal world. A way to confusion and not seeing clearly, and when the emotions get involved, also a way to get bound up in things.

    But I think there is also a way through all that. That it poses a series of questions which when you resolve them for yourself there is a new freedom, a way of being balanced between the youthful and the mature.

  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Sentient Being Oceania Veteran

    Letting go of games

    Let go of self ...The five clinging aggregates...

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    It’s been interesting reading the descriptions of alignments in the PHB. I used to be the dungeon master for various groups back when I was younger, and in order to do that you end up spending some time on the motivations of evil creatures. The impression I get now is that that wasn’t a healthy thing for me to do, I did it too well.

    The thing is, in the real world there is no such thing as evil. There are only hungry predators, herbivores and grass. So this idea of evil makes no sense, it is only there to justify killing by the good, and to inspire fear in unwitting peasants by conjuring up visions of something awful. But by making in your mind these ideas of evil creatures and good, you accept things into your thoughts which don’t belong there.

    It’s like taking a painting in light shades of grey, and transforming it entirely to black and white. This aspect of the game system and the way it portrays the world I do not agree with at all. Whether that matters in the end is as yet unknown.

    I remember U. G. Krishnamurti saying that each man has to discard the entire heritage of mankind’s thought in order to become natural and independent.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    It’s been interesting reading the descriptions of alignments in the PHB. I used to be the dungeon master for various groups back when I was younger, and in order to do that you end up spending some time on the motivations of evil creatures. The impression I get now is that that wasn’t a healthy thing for me to do, I did it too well.

    The thing is, in the real world there is no such thing as evil. There are only hungry predators, herbivores and grass. So this idea of evil makes no sense, it is only there to justify killing by the good, and to inspire fear in unwitting peasants by conjuring up visions of something awful. But by making in your mind these ideas of evil creatures and good, you accept things into your thoughts which don’t belong there.

    It’s like taking a painting in light shades of grey, and transforming it entirely to black and white. This aspect of the game system and the way it portrays the world I do not agree with at all. Whether that matters in the end is as yet unknown.

    I remember U. G. Krishnamurti saying that each man has to discard the entire heritage of mankind’s thought in order to become natural and independent.

    Your thinking is pretty well in alignment with the thinking today too. Some want to scrap it entirely, others say its more descriptive than proscriptive. Not too many still argue for the older way of it being some sort of essence, aside from maybe devils and the like.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 2023

    I wanted to add two sutra’s to this thread, which I came across elsewhere. First the Buddha on games:

    "Or he might say: "Whereas some honorable recluses and brahmins, while living on food offered by the faithful, indulge in the following games that are a basis for negligence:[1] aṭṭhapada (a game played on an eight-row chess-board); dasapada (a game played on a ten-row chess-board); ākāsa (a game of the same type played by imagining a board in the air); parihārapatha ("hopscotch," a diagram is drawn on the ground and one has to jump in the allowable spaces avoiding the lines); santika ("spellicans," assembling the pieces in a pile, removing and returning them without disturbing the pile); khalika (dice games); ghaṭika (hitting a short stick with a long stick); salākahattha (a game played by dipping the hand in paint or dye, striking the ground or a wall, and requiring the participants to show the figure of an elephant, a horse etc.); akkha (ball games); paṅgacīra (blowing through toy pipes made of leaves); vaṅkaka (ploughing with miniature ploughs); mokkhacika (turning somersaults); ciṅgulika (playing with paper windmills); pattāḷaka (playing with toy measures); rathaka (playing with toy chariots); dhanuka (playing with toy bows); akkharika (guessing at letters written in the air or on one's back); manesika (guessing others' thoughts); yathāvajja (games involving mimicry of deformities) — the recluse Gotama abstains from such games and recreations.”

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.01.0.bodh.html

    And second the Buddha on theatre:

    “Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter. But if he holds such a view as this: 'When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas,' that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb.”

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn42/sn42.002.than.html

    Also what Thich Nhat Hanh mentioned in his Five Mindfulness Trainings:

    “I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations.”

    https://plumvillage.org/mindfulness/the-5-mindfulness-trainings/

    FleaMarket
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @Shoshin1 said:

    Letting go of games

    Let go of self ...The five clinging aggregates...

    Thanks Shoshin for the insight.

    I’m still working on it, but it is beginning to look to me as if playing Dungeons and Dragons acts as a lens for what is going on in your mind. You get to explore all kinds of situations that in real life would never occur, and imagine your reaction to them. This means you can either get lost in it, or you can use the play as an opportunity for mindful observation.

    Of course for a spiritual human being there is the question of being authentic and true to yourself. If you’re a dedicated pacifist in real life and even put spiders and wasps outside the house in a friendly manner, you might have difficulty with the idea of slaying a horde of goblins and taking their treasure. You might also find that role-playing coldly efficient killers is bad for your night’s rest.

    FleaMarketShoshin1
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    This morning I’ve been thinking further on the themes of authenticity and expressing who you really are, even in games. It’s easy to say, “it’s just a game, your play is a kind of theater” but if you take on the role of a bloodthirsty barbarian or calculated killer in the game you are still inviting that influence into your mind. In role-playing games where you are playing such a character and acting like it over a number of adventures it can’t be too healthy.

    For Dungeon Masters it is even more tricky because you are acting out and getting into the motives of all kinds of villains and monsters. Yes, it is usually more distant and temporary, but still it requires you to take note of all kinds of dysfunction and alien thought. It kind of opens your mind up to a really wide scale.

    For a spiritual person, especially one who is sensitive and is in touch with his inner child, there are some quintessential difficulties here. Your character encounters a bear, do you attempt to kill it or avoid it? You come across a village of evil-aligned gnolls, do you slay them or do you bypass them?

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Really the question is, does what you do during games playing matter? Does it have a beneficial or harmful effect on your inner self? For me, I can observe the traces of it in my mind, I noticed a while back that when I encounter creatures in a computer game environment my response is excitement at the coming combat. This is likely due to the long habit of this kind of play, in RPGs and computer games, of extended virtual dungeoneering in places where all creatures are hostile.

    By bringing these things to full consciousness I am hoping to relax this impulse, and return to a more natural approach. It is a question of conditioning that has happened while I was not aware, likely because of exciting conflict and being rewarded for that in the form of virtual treasure. It puts me in mind of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s book Freedom from the Known, which is also very much about being free from conditioning.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    I've noticed this as well in my own mind. In the TTRPG space, players who consistently act like this are known as murder hobos, in that they move from place to place with everything they own and use violence to solve every problem. I generally prefer to play support roles and have abilities that allow for other types of actions and motivations.

    "You come across a village of evil-aligned gnolls, do you slay them or do you bypass them?"

    I'll point out one thing that the question doesn't even seem to notice, that many people do. What's to say that gnoll's are automatically evil? Maybe they are complex individuals too? You've played WoW and the whole Horde side is populated with traditionally "evil" types of people, but are perfectly capable of acting according to their own dictates rather than some sort of corrupted essence.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    Really the question is, does what you do during games playing matter? Does it have a beneficial or harmful effect on your inner self? For me, I can observe the traces of it in my mind, I noticed a while back that when I encounter creatures in a computer game environment my response is excitement at the coming combat. This is likely due to the long habit of this kind of play, in RPGs and computer games, of extended virtual dungeoneering in places where all creatures are hostile.

    By bringing these things to full consciousness I am hoping to relax this impulse, and return to a more natural approach. It is a question of conditioning that has happened while I was not aware, likely because of exciting conflict and being rewarded for that in the form of virtual treasure. It puts me in mind of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s book Freedom from the Known, which is also very much about being free from conditioning.

    I had this sort of conditioning too when I took up D&D again. And from what people on forums say, its a fairly common thing. Video games are pretty prevalent in our world and most people who would take up TTRPGs have also spent time with them. The playstyle and goals are different, in often subtle ways. The environment is controlled by another human being rather than an automated system and having fun and telling a good story generally takes precedent over the idea of winning. Therefore, optimization and always choosing violence can easily take a back seat to expressing a character that seeks to avoid conflict.

    IMO negotiation and conflict resolution are often more interesting. And violence, rinse, repeat is really boring.

    I guess what I'm saying is TTRPGs are a much more open type of game and you have the ability to make of it what you want. Well, you in conjunction with the other members of your table.

    Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    In the TTRPG space, players who consistently act like this are known as murder hobos, in that they move from place to place with everything they own and use violence to solve every problem.

    Quite an apt description. When I was playing AD&D and not DM’ing, there was a time when our campaigns looked like that, just because they were quite combat heavy. Then I started DM’ing and the encounters became more varied.

    What's to say that gnoll's are automatically evil? Maybe they are complex individuals too? You've played WoW and the whole Horde side is populated with traditionally "evil" types of people, but are perfectly capable of acting according to their own dictates rather than some sort of corrupted essence.

    It can happen in a D&D world, that’s why I specified evil-aligned. But even then, I think evil alignment is often used as an excuse by the good to hand out a thorough beating, and I don’t think that’s justified. If you look at the descriptions in the Players Handbook evil is mostly just being self-centred and violent, which can describe Joe Bloggs who occasionally beats up his wife, and does he not deserve a life?

    I continue to struggle with this…

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    It can happen in a D&D world, that’s why I specified evil-aligned. But even then, I think evil alignment is often used as an excuse by the good to hand out a thorough beating, and I don’t think that’s justified. If you look at the descriptions in the Players Handbook evil is mostly just being self-centred and violent, which can describe Joe Bloggs who occasionally beats up his wife, and does he not deserve a life?

    I continue to struggle with this…

    Since tables and DMs vary quite a bit in this regard, if you do end up deciding to join an ongoing game, I'd recommend asking the DM in your application about how they think about alignment. In my limited experience games that advertise as LGBTQ friendly are more likely to take a more nuanced attitude.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 2023

    @Jeroen said:
    Really the question is, does what you do during games playing matter? Does it have a beneficial or harmful effect on your inner self? For me, I can observe the traces of it in my mind, I noticed a while back that when I encounter creatures in a computer game environment my response is excitement at the coming combat. This is likely due to the long habit of this kind of play, in RPGs and computer games, of extended virtual dungeoneering in places where all creatures are hostile.

    By bringing these things to full consciousness I am hoping to relax this impulse, and return to a more natural approach. It is a question of conditioning that has happened while I was not aware, likely because of exciting conflict and being rewarded for that in the form of virtual treasure. It puts me in mind of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s book Freedom from the Known, which is also very much about being free from conditioning.

    I've played a role playing game Pilllars of Eternity that is structured so you feel LESS pressure to kill everything you come across. Experience points (XP) are earned: 1 completing quests, 2 expanding the bestiary, and 3 finding new areas. One 1 you can complete usually without any violence though sometimes violence is necessary or sometimes you end up picking a dialogue choice that precipitates violence even if you didn't want a fight. Two 2 I think a beast needs to be killed to get bestiary xp but maybe ways around it. So if you stumble on a monster it might attack you on sight or maybe not if it is intelligent. Humans and other Kith are not in the bestiary and killing them is only to solve a quest or loot their stuff if you want to play like that. Three 3 you could get this XP without a fight if you have good stealth which is very accessible.

    A thing I've learned is to NOT look up the best, lucrative outcomes of quests and rather to make mistakes or stumble on success even and just accept mistakes. For example if you wanted to be peaceful with a group of ogres and mess up and have to fight them then my own feeling of regret makes the game more interesting than researching online the correct choices to make some outcome.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    In a way, D&D is like packing several lifetimes worth of experience into one. You get to deal with all kinds of situations that you wouldn’t come across in real life. I think that is why it is so dense from a dharma point of view, there are a lot of decision points which affect what you do.

    The “murder hobo” style of play is very much baked into a lot of computer role-playing games, which are really more virtual dungeon crawls. Even in something like World of Warcraft, you’re generally doing quests which involve killing 10 of this kind of creature or 12 of that. But I remember the old Ultima Underworld games in which you came across a dungeon full of creatures which were all hostile to you but seemed to get along together. It’s a lazy designer’s way of providing challenge.

    I noticed that I seem to have a very youthful energy at the moment, this decision to look more deeply into games and play seems to have freed a few things up inside. Especially the decision to allow play seems to have been good. The idea of games as play bounded by rules is something I feel is right, but I continue to examine it.

    Yesterday I came across a computer game called Stray in which you play a cat. It’s pretty much entirely non-violent. I also heard about a game called Spiritfarer which is an exploration of grief, you play a supernatural personage who ferries souls across to the realms of the Dead and hears their stories. Just a couple of games which seem interesting and different.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 2023

    @Jeroen said:
    Recently I made a summary on paper of the things telling me games weren’t a beneficial direction.

    I’ve retrieved and translated my original summary, which were these five bullet points:

    • Violence, habituation, conditioning, getting rewarded for violence
    • Addiction and a challenge-reward cycle (dopamine) without a realistic counterpoint
    • Disappearing into illusory worlds, which keep getting you further removed from reality
    • Play rousing the desires of the player, kindling the passions, greed
    • Teaching goal-oriented thinking, being busy with the mind and closed, not meditative and open

    To a certain extent these were more present in the computer games I used to play (particularly World of Warcraft and Diablo 2, also Ultima Underworld), but to a certain extent I think they are also present in Dungeons and Dragons.

    I think we have addressed the first two points earlier in this topic, but I think it would be useful to consider the other three as well in a bit more detail from the point of view of the dharma.

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran
    edited June 2023

    Disappearing into illusory worlds, which keep getting you further removed from reality

    Its possible, I've had players in games who do seem very detached from reality. On the other side I'd say a game that incorporates the role play aspect of the game well allows people to explore human psychology and ethical situations in a safe, sandboxy way. Many people say it can be therapeutic and that its helped them with their own issues.

    Play rousing the desires of the player, kindling the passions, greed

    Yeah, I think that's probably true. But again, its an open game and can also be used to practice and kindle virtue.

    Dancing kindles passions and leads to S E X! Pool starts with a capital P, that rhymes with T which stands for trouble! Just a cheeky way of saying that not all passions are so destructive, its not gambling on dog fighting or snorting coke.

    Teaching goal-oriented thinking, being busy with the mind and closed, not meditative and open

    That's tough for me to answer. I'm a very process oriented thinker, there are goals in the game to be achieved and reaching the next level is fun, but I'm not sure it really has much of an impact moving me towards a goal-oriented mind set. And then my mind has always been busy, even the times when I've retreated more from the world. My meditative practice isn't so much about calming things down as it is about letting things go.

    As far as openness goes its been the exact opposite for me, I find the game really promotes and encourages the ability to be spontaneous and open. I usually have to prepare quite a bit and think of things my character might say or do in various situations. Having to react in the moment to unpredictable circumstance requires spontaneity.

    In the end, it is a game and not a meditation retreat. So yeah in comparison it isn't near as conducive to spiritual practice and has spiritually negative aspects to it. But if you're living and engaging with the world it can be a wholesome, positive activity, depending on how its played. I'll also add, its only played for a few hours per session with other people vs however engrossed you can get playing a video game by yourself, which is a big difference.

    Jeroen
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 2023

    I've heard of games help coping with anxiety or other negative emotions that can arise for some people in a game. The idea is you get a chance experience a negative emotion that can be overcome. You can go at your pace and turn the game off when you need to.

    I train my dog C (named short for privacy) and it reminds me of the training philosophy of C's trainer I meet with 30 minutes per week on an app. If C is afraid of something we reward him each step along the way and at no point we use force. Carrot instead of stick method. So if I'm training him to let me touch his teeth with toothpaste he is free to back out of that touch, but then he might not get a reward.

    Back to video games and negative emotions I experience in games sometimes a heaviness not knowing what is around the corner. Games are one arena where I have learned (at my own pace) that I can push through negativity and slowly progress through even an entire game. And then I can extrapolate that experience to another experience like it can push me to read each day though it has a certain stress, or to drive somewhere and do something like grocery or meet someone for coffee. Over the last 20 years I've definitely had changes to what I am able to do or am not able to do.

    Thus a game can be used as a tool to learn confidence and trust that many real life stresses can be overcome by persistence and gentle learning. And also the idea is that you (someone) use the game to draw you out into a bigger world rather than the reverse of escaping from the world into a game. The latter I think in moderation is ok just like a sweet every once in a while can be indulged.

    Jeroenperson
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    In the end, it is a game and not a meditation retreat. So yeah in comparison it isn't near as conducive to spiritual practice and has spiritually negative aspects to it. But if you're living and engaging with the world it can be a wholesome, positive activity, depending on how its played. I'll also add, its only played for a few hours per session with other people vs however engrossed you can get playing a video game by yourself, which is a big difference.

    That is certainly true, and I think we all need the release of a little play once in a while. Ultimately I think all these challenges can be overcome, and it is possible to interact with at least some games in a wholesome manner. You’re very right, it is a game and not a meditation retreat.

    But I also think it is important to keep in mind what is beneficial, what is neutral and what is actually a harmful influence. It is a question of observing yourself and seeing when you start to cross that line.

  • Steve_BSteve_B Veteran

    I remember Pong. It was sorta fun.
    But I don't have the patience for games really. Or TV. I get restless, have to walk around, do something else. A pleasant evening watching TV with my wife is a rare, rare event.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I’m just going to put some thoughts together…

    @Jeroen said:
    Disappearing into illusory worlds, which keep getting you further removed from reality

    I think there is something to this. In computer games the world is defined for you, so it’s easy to become absorbed in it and just accept it, without realising that it is made by other people, artists and designers. It responds to your actions in a limited way, you have agency and control over your actions. That is part of what makes an open world game like Tears of the Kingdom enticing.

    In Dungeons and Dragons the world is described by the Dungeon Master, and it takes place in your imagination, so you’re more involved with the story and less busy with look-and-feel. You still get involved in knowing the rules, the lore, so its still more absorbing than say a book or a film because you still have influence, a stake in what happens.

    Books and films also have this property, that you can get enthused in them. But because they are purely passive you tend to get less involved. There is no idea of a stake or imaginary property that’s yours, or a character that is yours that you build up over a long period of play.

    It’s all illusory, and the Buddha would likely have said it all just takes time away from practice, inducing confusion along the way. Which is true, but I think as long as you can let go of a character and a play world easily, and you don’t get attached, it is not so much of a problem.

    Play rousing the desires of the player, kindling the passions, greed

    I think this is definitely true, because in games you can have everything that you desire, from a flying castle on down. Plunder a dragon’s hoard, rob the tomb of a lich, set up your own wizard’s tower. All kinds of scenario’s which you can imagine can be yours.

    It is a downside. But in a way this is also a method to come to terms with the fact that ownership too is an illusion. But that really depends on if the DM thinks that way. If he is more of a standard thinker about possessions then it becomes more of an exercise in bookkeeping.

    Teaching goal-oriented thinking, being busy with the mind and closed, not meditative and open

    I think this is again more true of computer games, where you tend to think of the most efficient way to play and you continually find quests which take you through the game world. You are continually seeking ways to fulfil the quests and get rewarded by experience points and levels and items for them.

    In D&D it is still there in a certain way, but an adventure generally has only a single objective, which is often only partially defined and left as a goad to get the adventurers moving. It is much less defining for play, except if you are a murder hobo and go straight for the “enemy” jugular.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 2023

    So, in the case of a game like D&D acting like a series of imaginary encounters with enemies. Is it actually useful to imagine yourself in that situation, having to kill for the sake of alignment in the game? Do you learn anything from it? Is it good for you in any way? I appreciate there are ways for some characters to play without killing, but that is a relative rarity. It’s worth thinking carefully about.

    If I listen deeply to my heart, it tells me I have done enough imaginary killing in my life. There is no need to do more, the only thing I have to do is watch, wait and learn the lesson. Time and mindfulness bring maturity.

    Of course, your path may take you in a different direction…

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran
    edited June 2023

    @Jeroen said:
    So, in the case of a game like D&D acting like a series of imaginary encounters with enemies. Is it actually useful to imagine yourself in that situation, having to kill for the sake of the game? Do you learn anything from it? Is it good for you in any way?

    I would say I don't even think of it in those terms. I don't think of it in terms of killing for a game. First its not actual killing, you may be correct that imaginary violence has some impact on one's actual predilection towards violence, but... It hasn't changed my feelings or behaviors at all regarding insects, and most research on the impact of video game violence on real world behavior seems to show no correlation.

    For me the main reason I play is for the real world fun of it with other people, I really enjoy the challenge of trying to express a character I imagine to others. So that is a skill I seek to learn.

    The games I've been in present ethical dilemmas. Trying to sort through them seems like a good. Its much easier to take the most virtuous stance when you don't actually have any power or responsibility to make an impact. A recent example from my game, our group is acting as a scouting party searching out a dangerous area and preparing the way for a much larger and more vulnerable group, we encounter different potential threats, some more aggressive than others. Dilemmas we've had to think about, when attacked by a pack of ambush predators do we allow some to escape when their attempt to kill us backfires, potentially exposing our allies to the danger? Do we stay hidden from a dragon heading overhead in their general direction or do we attract its attention putting ourselves at risk? What do we do about a pack of large animals that could be very dangerous but are usually non aggressive unless threatened?

    I guess the question is, is it good to think about these scenarios or is it bad to put yourself in a situation where you have to think about such things? I remember a quote by Nagarjuna saying something to the effect that he feared becoming a ruler, because then he would be forced into situations where he would have to face tradeoffs and make decisions with some negative karmic consequences. Like I've said before though, for me, I've made the decision to some degree that I am engaged with the world and the world is messy, the most ethical decision many times comes down to one of several bad choices.

    So I'm not killing for a game, I'm imaginarily killing for imaginary meaningful reasons, which can be ethical in nature. And I am learning things, which are good for me in some ways.

    I appreciate there are ways for some characters to play without killing, but that is a relative rarity. It’s worth thinking carefully about.

    It is hard to play a %100 pacifist character in D&D and should be agreed upon by the other players in your game. My understanding is there are other TTRPGs that are better suited to a pacifist playstyle. My knowledge is pretty limited, but Call of Cthulu is a fairly popular one that doesn't have combat.

    JeroenJeffrey
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 2023

    In the end what I do about my dilemma doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything for anyone else. I totally respect your choice @person to engage with D&D, its a very personal decision and more wholesome than many computer games, and I really appreciate the time and thought you’ve put into your answers here.

    I came across this section on the consummate virtue of monks when searching AccessToInsight for references to games:

    "Whereas some brahmans and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to heedless and idle games such as these — eight-row chess, ten-row chess, chess in the air, hopscotch, spillikins, dice, stick games, hand-pictures, ball-games, blowing through toy pipes, playing with toy plows, turning somersaults, playing with toy windmills, toy measures, toy chariots, toy bows, guessing letters drawn in the air, guessing thoughts, mimicking deformities — he abstains from heedless and idle games such as these. This, too, is part of his virtue.”

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html

    There seem to be a few of these kind of sutras. I find that reading the dharma can sometimes bring me back to some measure of equanimity and clarity when I’ve wandered off the beaten track a little.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    I’m just going to put some thoughts together…

    @Jeroen said:
    Disappearing into illusory worlds, which keep getting you further removed from reality

    I think there is something to this. In computer games the world is defined for you, so it’s easy to become absorbed in it and just accept it, without realising that it is made by other people, artists and designers. It responds to your actions in a limited way, you have agency and control over your actions. That is part of what makes an open world game like Tears of the Kingdom enticing.

    In Dungeons and Dragons the world is described by the Dungeon Master, and it takes place in your imagination, so you’re more involved with the story and less busy with look-and-feel. You still get involved in knowing the rules, the lore, so its still more absorbing than say a book or a film because you still have influence, a stake in what happens.

    Books and films also have this property, that you can get enthused in them. But because they are purely passive you tend to get less involved. There is no idea of a stake or imaginary property that’s yours, or a character that is yours that you build up over a long period of play.

    It’s all illusory, and the Buddha would likely have said it all just takes time away from practice, inducing confusion along the way. Which is true, but I think as long as you can let go of a character and a play world easily, and you don’t get attached, it is not so much of a problem.

    That sounds reasonable to me. Its like, what do you want out of it? I like that its more engrossing, that makes it more interesting to me. But if you're goal is meaningful meditative progress then it absolutely acts as a distraction, sometimes you do need to externally give up an attachment in order to let go internally.

    Play rousing the desires of the player, kindling the passions, greed

    I think this is definitely true, because in games you can have everything that you desire, from a flying castle on down. Plunder a dragon’s hoard, rob the tomb of a lich, set up your own wizard’s tower. All kinds of scenario’s which you can imagine can be yours.

    It is a downside. But in a way this is also a method to come to terms with the fact that ownership too is an illusion. But that really depends on if the DM thinks that way. If he is more of a standard thinker about possessions then it becomes more of an exercise in bookkeeping.

    Here its about what do you want? Do you want power, fame and riches or do you want to help the downtrodden and oppressed? The rules are the bones of the game, you can flesh it out however you want. A group could decide they want to be a band of power hungry raiders and assassins, but that isn't an inherent part of the game.

    Teaching goal-oriented thinking, being busy with the mind and closed, not meditative and open

    I think this is again more true of computer games, where you tend to think of the most efficient way to play and you continually find quests which take you through the game world. You are continually seeking ways to fulfil the quests and get rewarded by experience points and levels and items for them.

    In D&D it is still there in a certain way, but an adventure generally has only a single objective, which is often only partially defined and left as a goad to get the adventurers moving. It is much less defining for play, except if you are a murder hobo and go straight for the “enemy” jugular.

    There is a dichotomy in the way differing campaigns are thought about, though they actually exist on a spectrum between the two. That of a railroad and a sandbox. They each have pros and cons, but I think most people do prefer more of a sandbox style where they can choose more freely what to do. Video games are much more railroad, with side quests thrown in to do whenever.

Sign In or Register to comment.