Why Is Roleplaying an Introvert Hobby?

I’m reading a book called Introvertit – Työpaikan hiljainen vallankumous, or originally Introvert – Den tysta revolutionen by Linus Jonkman. Translated into English, the title would be Introverts – The Silent Revolution, and for som reason the Finnish title also inserted the word ‘workplace’ in there. Its about (surprise, surprise) introversion.

One of the things mentioned (pretty off-handedly) by the author is that he’s a long-time roleplayer. So, this got me thinking, why is roleplaying an introvert hobby? I mean, I’m an introvert. I might have certain extrovert attributes, and I might be able to take an extroverted seeming role in many situations in life, but these are definitely massively outweighted by my introvert side. And I mean massively. When I’m a parties (which hardly ever happens), I tend to look for ways to get out of the situation. I enjoy them quite often, but I’m often more of an outsider looking in than an actual participant. I have a tendency to move out of the crowds and not talk very much with anyone. I often just go to a balcony for “fresh air”, or something similar, just to get a way. At work, I tend to isolate myself in my little work area by putting on my headphones and listen to music and some lecture to drown out my surroundings. At meetings I like to let other people do most of the talking and I’ll just control the situation or give my input if I feel its needed. When I give lectures, I don’t tend to look at my audience very much, because I feel looking at people’s faces distracts me. When I was in the army, I would often remain in the barracks when everyone else went to the cantine, and read, because that was the only time I could really be alone. When we were out in the wilderness doing drills, I would fix the situation in such a way that I would be alone in the back of the communications vehicle most of the day, pretty much avoiding all interactions with other people outside of getting food.

And although WHO lists introversion as a mental health problem, I am very happy to be an introvert. I love solitude. I have never been lonely when alone. I have been lonely in crowds. I know I’m supposed to be outgoing these days in order to network and so forth, but I’m not just that good at approaching strangers and trying to get to know them (and that’s the extroverted version of networking anyhow, actual networking is much, much more than that). Like many introverts, I tend to be somewhat distrustful.

Yet, the number of introverts among roleplyers is huge. These people gather together to spend hours on hours conversing. I GM quite willingly, despite knowing that it will mean that I can’t escape the social situation for extended periods of time. Somehow we stil manage. Not only that, we often invite people we hardly know into our homes to play. I mean, one of the my best friends (an avid roleplayer) tried to kill someone when we were in our late teens, but that hasn’t deterred me from letting pretty much anyone in, as long as I know they roleplay. This is very extrovert behavior.

Before moving on, I should note that not being an introvert does not make you an extrovert. This is false assumption made by many people, who either don’t know better, or who believe extrovert behavior is important, so they would much rather identify with that group. This is wrong. Most people are ambiverts or somewhere between the two. Introversion and extroversion are just the far ends of a spectrum. Most people have qualities from both categories. The key is that introverts need the solitude to be able to relax while extroverts need to interact with people for that very same reason. Most people function fine without their quota of either. Being an extrovert isn’t that good either, because extroverts often have problems working, because they need to look for interaction with people at all times. That doesn’t bode well for things like finishing a thesis.

But lets get to the question presented in the heading for this article. Why do introverts play RPGs?

First, we have vivid imaginations. When other people aren’t there to distract you, you tend to think about things and that’s where the imagination comes in. We don’t mind being alone, because we always have our thoughts and this approach life allows us to cultivate our creative sides. Having outlets for this creativity is one of the basics needs of humans, so introverts often have artistic hobbies and as I’ve argued before, RPGs are an artform.

Second, we enjoy working with details. The actual game session is often just a culmination of a lot of work (although I’m generally against this approach). This is closely related to the previous point. We have great imaginations and often the sessions pale in comparison to the ideas we had regarding them (which is why you shouldn’t plan everything out too strictly).

Third, we are not against social interactions. However, instead of just random interactions, we like meaningful ones. We are shitty at small talk. I always feel awkward when someone asks me how I’m doing. I always feel compelled to answer truthfully, even though the question often isn’t about that at all. Its just courtesy and I know that I should answer the same way, but since I’m an introvert, that’s not how my mind works. However, I can talk for hours about anything that interests me. I remember once discussing whether the universe is fatalistic for hours with my colleagues. RPGs pretty much fall into this category, if they are good.

Fourth, we don’t mind what others think about us. RPGs have had a bad reputation over the years and are still considered somewhat weird. Do we give a shit? Maybe, but not enough to stop us from doing it. Hobbies like that have existed for ages. RPGs are just one of the newer ones in a line stretching back thousands of years. Think campanology or numismatics. There’s always some strange thing certain people want to do and those people are quite often introverts.

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