On Perspective and Context

Earlier this week, I flew from Boston to Pittsburgh. I don't know why this flight was different, but I couldn't stop staring at the terrain far below, seeing the imposed order of tiny houses and roads cut out of hilly terrain covered with forest. I saw a wind farm dotted across a hill, each turbine spinning in its achingly slow circle. It made me think about how the concept of "neighbors" had a very different meaning when moving from staring out a window in your house to staring out a window in an airplane.

Different ideas are useful in different contexts. Groupings move from people to neighborhoods to towns to counties to states to countries, each with different concerns and needs. Even language adapts based on the breadth of data being considered. "Local" can mean a ten minute walk, or an hour drive, or two hours in a plane, or even the solar system if you're thinking interstellar travel.

I think our perception of language causes miscommunication. We each have different experiences and perspectives, and that colors what we mean when we use a specific word. Different assumptions cause different meanings. "Community" could mean everyone who has ever played a particular game, or all people at a convention, or the usual suspects at a game store, or your gaming group. Each meaning makes sense. We need to be sure that we're talking about the same thing, or we need to invent language that communicates the particular shade of a concept we mean.

We all start from our own perspective, but where we go from there depends entirely on us. Do we want to close out the world and exist in a bubble all our own? Do we steal concepts from the anonymous well of the Internet and fear the retribution given to Prometheus? Do we dive into online conversations, brash and self-assured, coming to loggerheads with anyone with a differing opinion? Do we listen politely and try to encourage others to do the same? Do we try to understand other points of view and incorporate that perspective into our games and lives?

Can we really afford to fabricate edition-based holy wars for our own amusement? Are we really that bored?

I challenge you to think in a perspective that is not your own, and see what happens. Orcs do not understand power in the same way as humans who aspire to join the aristocracy. Elves and Kobolds have different understandings of "a long time". Dwarves and Merfolk both know exactly what "deep" means. A cleric and a rogue will have very different meanings for "good deeds". A con man and a God of Trickery have very different timeframes for their long cons. And we as gamers have vastly differing perspectives on what "normal" means.

And every last one of those perceptions is absolutely correct.

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