Brain Grooves caused by gaming


Mentioned elsethread: the sorts of games we play change our thinking.

At its most obvious, this is obvious: Doing the same thing repetitively modifies how we think about the world.

In what ways – positive, negative, indifferent – do you see your thinking affected by gaming?

Here are a few obvious ones for me:

  1. 3x3 grid alignment. Despite reading lots of books on ethics, I use the 3x3 D&D alignment grid as a shorthand and how I generally think about morality.

  2. Hit points. Oh god. I think of people as having hit points. This is being modified by PBTA in general and Blades in particular, but still.

  3. Spell slots. I think of the harder things I do as spell slots, and wonder if I have enough spell slots to do hard work in a given day.

I’m positive there are lots of others, both that I have and that others do. How have RPGs / board games / etc impacted your thinking about the world?


I think gaming has impacted my observation of and appreciation for narrative, intentionally or unintentionally.

In the “once you’ve been a lighting designer, you’ll never see a well-lit play again” way.


I can’t watch a JJ Abrams anything without seeing 7-9 results and GM moves like everywhere.


oh yeah. I think of a lot of shows as RPGs, and wonder which system they fit. The Expanse is clearly from Traveller, but it’s more AW with it’s partial successes, plot advances on misses, etc.

And of course: Shows are actually scripted and there’s no chance involved. But, RPGs have made me think of the world as a place with chance, partial successes, source of drama, etc. Even though I know that, more or less, the world isn’t actually a narrative.

Since playing Blades, I think about stress and stress removal: Will I get rid of stress by engaging in my vice, or do I risk losing myself in it?

Brains, man.


Back the early Aughts, when my friends and I were playing a lot of 3rd Ed and WoD, it was a pretty common thing for someone to say stuff like “I failed my DEX check” when doing something clumsy or “made my Will save on that one” when they managed not to make a bad decision.

I like to think that I’ve expunged that sort of thinking from my brain, but y’know. Probably not really.


So… did anyone else think people are like beginning characters, like everyone has a pool of points to divide between the stats, and everyone’s fundamentally balanced? So it’s fine to not be strong ‘cause that just means you’re good at intelligence or charisma instead, you know?


D&D has carved very deep grooves into my psyche… Ive been playing for more than 35 years!

I most definitely use the D&D alignment grid as a somewhat-useful simplified shorthand for questions of ethics and morality, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. (Which is also how I feel about the MBTI Personality Type Indicator.) [Aside: I’m Lawful Good / INFJ]

I also think in terms of skill checks/saving throws. Examples: If I fumble something, I “failed my Dex check;” if I sneak up behind someone, I “made my Stealth check;” or if I can’t resist taking a third donut, I “failed my Will save.”

I also think about book/films/TV shows that have an ensemble cast in terms of an adventuring party.


Gosh, yes. Down to “If I pick up some flaws, I’ll have more points to boost some stats!”

AW has helped me get away from this, but it means I think people are Brainers or Choppers or whatever.


Totally this! RPG terms have become common lexicon in our house. Conversations with my husband will often look like:

“That new coworker? I’m learning that he’s got a really high intelligence score, but really low wisdom.”
“If she were a Monsterheart’s character, she’d be the Queen, hundred percent.”
“So…bad news: I burnt dinner. Good news: I get XP!”

It’s a nice way to shorthand a lot of things, and to gamify life when it might otherwise be tedious or disappointing.


This next is touchy, and I’ll back away from it if it burns.

Many years ago, it might have been said on The Forge (or at least, it exploded to this) that D&D causes brain damage.

Is this what was referred to – that we see the world in terms of D&D – and that our thinking is infected by this, even though we know it isn’t correct?


I read the essay in which this phrase was used. My understanding of what it meant is “D&D sets play-style expectations that are hard to shake. This can impede players from appreciating games with a different focus.” But as a term it is both patronizing and ableist. I’m not eager to defend its usage.


Honestly I can’t think of much, though I do end every new experience by mentally designing an RPG based on it, if that counts.


Writing and playing a lot of dystopian games made me pessimistic about our civilization’s long term prospects. And its short-term ones, tbh. I’m avoiding writing/playing dystopian stuff at the moment, because I noticed the effect it was having on me.


You’re right; it burns, and I’ll back away from it and go back to how gaming impacts how we view the world. That’s safer and more fruitful.


I know that my view on life as a chaotic soup of potential stuff that winds up getting shaped by randomness likely owes much to random encounter tables.

Regarding this topic, I think that this article by Austin Walker might be of interest - looking at how playing turn-based tactics games helped him think about and reassess political engagement in 2019.