A little while ago I wrote about defending my LEGO hobby, and how hard it is to explain to others that you collect something that most people consider to be a child’s toy. This past week, however, I was reminded of something that’s even harder to explain to non-geeks: roleplaying.
LEGO does have the advantage, in that just about everyone knows what it is. I’ve yet to come across someone who has never actually heard of LEGO. Sure, most of them don’t understand why anyone would collect it, but they at least have a point of reference in their minds.
Pen-and-paper roleplaying, on the other hand, is something that very few people are familiar with. While video games, comic books and other geeky interests have become fairly well-known in recent years – thanks to TV shows like Big Bang Theory – roleplaying has not. Even Big Bang Theory only features Dungeons and Dragons in a single episode in their first 5 seasons.
I’ll admit, it’s a bit of weird thing to discuss in public: talking about demons and magic and combat in a random queue is bound to get a few odd looks at the very least. But I’ve found it difficult to explain to non-geeks as there’s nothing to really compare it to. Even explaining roleplaying video games is tough when you have no frame of reference whatsoever.
I always give the explanations a try when people do ask. You never know when that person may be genuinely interested or might even want to give roleplaying a try. But generally the response is confusion; clearly I’m not explaining it well enough.
I’d love to hear how you explain roleplaying to others, or even your thoughts on why it’s still a strange and obscure thing to many people.