Tabletop Gaming and Intellectual Conceit




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    Tabletop Gaming and Intellectual Conceit

    Recently, I have been thinking about the Magic: the Gathering color pie (for those who don't know what it is or want to learn about it, here is a link). I've always favored the blue playstyle, which favors intelligence, logic, creativity, and technology. After some self-reflection, I found that I am completely nothing like that. I am not creative (which isn't necessarily bad), I dislike relying on technology too much, and I am not that smart. However, I've felt like I'm at least above average in intelligence for almost all my life, but I've realized recently that I'm just good at math and school.

    Living as part of the tabletop community for many years, I've found that many many geeks believe that they are a cut above in intelligence, whether they are card players or roleplayers. This intellectual "superiority" seems to be rampant in the community, and even larger society has accepted this conceit and used it as a stereotype. Many see it this way because our games require mathematics and lots of book-keeping, but in truth it rarely delves into anything more difficult than simple math.

    My question is do you feel like our hobby actually draws in above-average minds, or is it simply a stereotype? Do you feel like your Intelligence and Wisdom are over 10? 12? Maybe 18?

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    I'd say that there is probably a slight correlation between intellectual pursuits and intellect, just like there is between sports and physical capability, but it's by no means definitive. Whether that's because one end of the scale attracts or because the other end pushes away, I don't know.

    For sure there's nothing definitive there (other than - as you pointed out - an occasional tendency towards intellectual arrogance; but even then I suspect confirmation bias is at play and the it's nowhere near the problem suggested).

    All guesswork, of course. I haven't exactly performed a study!

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    Perhaps it is just all in my mind, or that those people who fill that idea stick out to me moreso than those who don't fit the bill. If anyone thinks otherwise, feel free to say so!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
    I'd say that there is probably a slight correlation between intellectual pursuits and intellect, just like there is between sports and physical capability, but it's by no means definitive.
    There's inclination, selection, and practice.

    Think of it with sports.
    1) People who are physically gifted are more likely to be inclined to try sports, and to be good at what they try.
    2) Being good is fun = try more sports, and try more often
    3) People who are physically gifted and do sports more are more likely to be SELECTED by teams.
    4) People who are selected by a team may well get a coach or a trainer to teach them more, and they get more practice. The coaching helps maximize the use of the innate talent, and the practice improves both the ability to maximize (muscle memory, balance, etc.) and the actual ability (more speed and strength from actually growing muscles).

    A guy I work with is trying out for a winter Olympic sport. I played kickball with him once, and I realized he's really nothing like a normal guy. He's driven, he's strong, and he's accurate -- even at a sport that's "just for fun". The tools and the honing of them were obvious, even though it's an almost completely unrelated sport.


    I figure D&D is kind of the same way:

    1) People who are intellectually gifted are more likely to try a game that's mental, and to not be intimidated by it.

    2) They'll likely do better at these games, and try more of them, and enjoy them. It's fun to do well, at anything.

    3) People who have a knack for the game and like to play it are more likely to be invited to play. D&D, after all, is a team sport, even if the opponent is just imaginery. Everybody likes to do well.

    4) D&D is mental exercise. You may learn vocabulary, narrative skills, problem solving skills, team/cooperative skills, history, probability & statistics, and mythology. Some of this you may get warped views of, but probablity, for instance, you're likely to learn much better than the average guy.

    The D&D player knows a 95% probability is a super dangerous thing to risk your life on (well, the AD&D player does, anyhow), whereas the average person has no feel for how often a 1 actually comes up (or that 1/20 = 5%, I'd bet).

    Think of the routine probability & statistics you juggle in your head playing D&D:

    -- What's the average damge for Magic Missile for a 7th level caster? 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, so 4 missiles. Damage is 1d4+1, so 1+4/2 = 2.5+1 = 3.5 each * 4 = 14 hp. Calculating time for you? I'm guessing under 2 seconds. Average man on the street . . . I'm guessing he'd give up rather than trying to figure it out, and would get it wrong if he tried.

    -- What if you Maximize it? Duh, 5*4 = 20 hp.

    -- How does that compare with Fireball from a 7th level caster? 7d6= 7*3.5 = 24.5. So Fireball is better than Maximized Magic Missile, even though it's a 3rd level spell and Maximize MM is 4th . . . but Fireball gets saves, and damage reduction versus fire is common. So it depends on the opponent, eh?
    Last edited by haakon1; Tuesday, 2nd October, 2012 at 07:03 AM.

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    Some folks are giving reasons to suggest that yes, gamers are above average.

    There is, however, a common form of cognitive bias called "illusory superiority", or occasionally referred to as the "Lake Wobegone Effect", in which folks generally tend to overestimate their own abilities.
    Last edited by Umbran; Wednesday, 3rd October, 2012 at 02:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    Some folks are giving reasons to suggest that yes, gamers are above average.

    There is, however, a common form of cognitive bias called "illusory superiority", or occasionally referred to as the "Lake Wobegone Effect", in which folks generally tend to overestimate their own abilities.
    Hah! Yep, the number of times I've seen people give themselves 18 INT in those "what are your real life D&D stats" threads!

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    RPGs are games of What Ifs based on literature and often include the memorization of great amounts of complex rules and complex tactical thinking.

    That is very highly indicativ of being something that predominantly attracts people who tend to be on the smarter side. It's math and bookkeeping, for entertainment! ^^

    I would be amazed to see any survey done that concludes that people who play the games do not meaningfully differ from the general population.



    I would always have said "Int 10, Wis 14" when asked, since I suck at calculations and equations. But a recent pychiatric examination turned out that I'd actually be "Int 17" in a 3d6 distribution.
    Last edited by Yora; Wednesday, 3rd October, 2012 at 08:10 PM.
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    If I had to guess, I think (if we're using D&D terms) that my INT would be around average. If I had to guess, I might have pretty good WIS and CHA.

    I wouldn't say I have much of a formal education. I'm not a physicist or engineer or anything like that, but I would say that I seem to have spent a little more time educating myself via reading and research than most of the non-gamer people I know. I do have college experience, but I was a gamer long before I ever took college courses, so I do not feel the two have much of anything to do with each other.

    I played sports in high school. Afterwards I joined the military; I had planned to make a career of it until being wounded meant I had to get out. Overall, I'd venture to say I'm more athletic than intelligent. I've often made the comment to people I know that I'm just smart enough to realize that I can be stupid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
    Hah! Yep, the number of times I've seen people give themselves 18 INT in those "what are your real life D&D stats" threads!
    3 million Americans are (by definition) 99th percentile IQ.

    Maximum # of D&D players worldwide was (circa 1984) 4.5 million.

    So it's possible we're all 99th percentile. But it's unlikely.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aldeon View Post
    My question is do you feel like our hobby actually draws in above-average minds, or is it simply a stereotype? Do you feel like your Intelligence and Wisdom are over 10? 12? Maybe 18?
    To be fair, one thing thing many RPGs don't do well is distinguish between intelligence and education.

    I don't necessarily think gamers are more intelligent, but there is likely a strong correlation to gamers being more educated.

    - many gamers got their start in college/university
    - many RPGs use a lot of esoteric words to try to differentiate various concepts
    - many RPGs encourage (?) research into historical periods, or various non-fiction tomes to inspire settings and adventures
    - many RPGs present (even if actual campaigns don't feature) the options for puzzles and the like, and while solving puzzles does not necessarily correlate with intelligence, a lot of people associate the solving of puzzles with an intellectual pursuit (crosswords, sudoku, Rubik's Cube)

    What's more, most/many people associate with people of similar interests, so if one educated person gets into gaming, he or she is more likely to draw in new gamers from his similarly educated circle of friends. Thus you get a bit of reinforcing spiral - the "first" gamers were educated, and they brought in their educated friends, and they brought in theirs, etc...

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