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Amtgard Cavemen
[05/19/2008] [Randall]

I like commercials. Specifically, I like good commercials. Living in England, I remember regarding American commercials with a certain degree of snootiness, but things have come a long way since then. In the past several years, we've had a lot of commercials introduce ideas that have since entered mainstream culture, ranging from the Geico gecko to the barbarians in the Capital One ads. It's good stuff, and I assure you it has something to do with Amtgard.

For a long time I regarded Dragonspine as a bit of a provincial backwater in Amtgard; We're kind of isolated out here. Our proximity to the Burning Lands and to Clan help a bit, but Amtgard here is just a little different than it is in the rest of the world. The rest of the world being Texas, Colorado, and that wide swath of Amtgard where they're just downright strange. I used to think that put us behind the curve as far as the rest of the game is concerned. These days, I think it might be the other way around - that we're enlightened here in the Dragonspine proper, and our approach to playing the game may be the way forward for Amtgard as a whole. I'd like to say that it's so easy that a caveman could do it, but it's really the other way around.

Caveman Amtgard manifests itself in many ways. Caveman Amtgarders are obsessed with rules rather than results. Caveman Amtgarders believe in force. Caveman Amtgarders are conspiracy-minded members of little tribes. Caveman Amtgarders don't "get" the big ideas of the game. And Caveman Amtgarders are lousy at figuring out what makes Amtgard tick.

The rules obsession is easy to figure out. Our game has rules. Most of our players are familiar with rules in other games, and familiar with abusing them. It's even a point of pride in many places to be good at abusing the rules. That's what a caveman would do. Cavemen have teeny little perspectives, and never think to themselves how rules work in the wider world beyond their ability to cheat legally. To evolve, the cavemen have to start thinking about the wider ramifications of their rules douchery. They have to imagine how it looks to a new player when somebody self-righteously runs around acting like a jackass because the rules don't clearly state that they shouldn't. Cavemen don't care about new people, though. Recruitment is a result. Results are for suckers who don't care about rules.

Cavemen also love force. That person didn't take your shot? Hit 'em again. If that doesn't work, hit 'em harder. Cavemen live by the grunt and die by the grunt, so heaven forbid they actually set somebody down and talk to them. This is especially true with newbies and young kids. Cavemen know that teenagers are stupid - even stupider than a caveman - and the only way to teach them a lesson is to beat them with foam swords. If it doesn't work, you're not beating them hard enough. Cavemen don't get that this drives away the members Amtgard needs most. They don't understand that nine out of ten Amtgarders join because they know somebody who already plays. They don't get that most of those people started playing before turning eighteen. A caveman would have to evolve to know those things.

Cavemen are all members of tribes. Their tribe is right. The other tribe eats children. If they're not eating children, they're probably thinking about eating children. And the other tribe? They're cavemen too, and they're thinking the exact same thing. Cavemen find the idea of everybody being on the same side to be somewhere between questionable and appalling. To a caveman, there are lines in the sand. On one side of the line are the forces of truth, justice, and better Amtgard. On the other side are some mouth-breathers. A park where everybody gets along and cooperates is cause for suspicion. Somebody, somewhere must be conspiring to do something.

Sure, some parks actually have mouth-breathers bent on stupidity and ruin, but cavemen could evolve and literally be the change they want to see in the world. By setting aside an ideology of suspicion, force, and cheating, they attract others who have done the same. If there's something mouth-breathing stupid people hate, it's being in the minority. They then have to evolve themselves, or die. And I think the majority of Amtgard wants to reject the caveman perspective. The trick here is that majority might not be playing yet, but that's because the cavemen keep driving them away. Evolve, stop them, and prosper.

Cavemen can sometimes get into power, and they don't get the ideas that make Amtgard on a large scale work. Why should they care anyway? It doesn't matter to a caveman if their kingdom sponsors a chapter a thousand miles away . . . right in the middle of another chapter's city. It doesn't matter to a caveman if things are run stupidly - to a caveman, it's their stupid way, or the highway! Cavemen on the international front believe that their fire is the best fire, and they sit around their camp guarding it jealously, lest anybody show up and steal it.

And cavemen don't get what makes Amtgarders tick. A caveman lives in the moment. A caveman is a creature of superstition and fear. Every action is a conspiracy to take their fire, or abuse their assassin class, or look down on their kingdom, or oppress them. He never thinks about why Amtgard is the way it is, or about how the things around him came to be. And that means he never figures out how to make Amtgard better. You have to understand something to improve it, and you can't understand it if you just swing clubs and grunt. You have to ask questions. You have to think. You have to evolve.

The other side of the river might have whole tribes that prosper and triumph because they embrace the teenagers that are Amtgard's future, work together, and adopt rational solutions to Amtgard's problems. . . but that takes work. A caveman is fundamentally lazy. He wants his routine to be easy - so easy, a caveman can do it.

We started prospering in Dragonspine because we asked ourselves why we joined, and who we knew, and used that information to drive future recruitment. We tried to remember the things that sucked when we started playing and we worked to avoid doing those things to each new generation. We worked to stay mindful of our membership in a larger Amtgard community, and make sure we act responsibly. And I can't remember the last time our field needed a reeve. Maybe we're provincial in the way that Tolkien's imagined his England to be, but I think these ideas are the ideas of the future, and I am saddened whenever I see another park go through the worst episode of our own history. It's true that every park needs to learn these lessons for themselves, but that doesn't mean we can't have evolved Amtgarders standing out in front, showing them the way. Some people don't realize there's a better way. It's up to us to show them.

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