South Park Self

enter your code in mice

Ah, Google Translate. Absolutely the only thing that's keeping me sane in the process of trying to own and administer a house and bank account in France and French, but every now and then it produces small, furry gems such as my subject line. I have no idea why a French banking login requires you to enter your PIN number in mice, but the idea has a certain charm. Perhaps you need to tune and record their squeaks.

I'm at home today, having acquired either my mother's evil 'flu germs, or those of stv: either way, throat hurts, head hurts, bones ache, sinuses colonised by Sid, and someone's been bloody well chewing under my chin again with really blunt teeth. I managed to give my final lecture on Frankenstein this morning, but I'm really not sure I was coherent. Then again, I'm really not sure I'm ever coherent when babbling enthusiastically about science fiction.

I walked back to my office after the lecture with one of the 3 actual students in the class who admitted to actually reading science fiction when I asked. He is, of course, a CLAW member, and, emboldened by my confession of about 5 years on the CLAW committee in my time, told me enthusiastically all about his Shadowrun campaign. This has reminded me of an epiphany I had recently, which I shall enshrine here because it was extremely illuminating and I don't want to forget it.

See, I'm not really an administrator, I'm a frustrated academic; I just happen to be very good at administration when I put my mind to it. Part of this is because I have a mind and the will to use it, and part of it is because I have trained myself into successful administration by dint of many years of administering not particularly diverse and far-flung student and hobby groups, including role-players, Tolkien fans, the SCA and the like. If you can administer role-players, you can administer anything. Herding cats ain't in it. It's a Kafkaesque challenge of which mere mortals were not meant to wot, and mere Humanities academics and students pale in comparison.

But I realised the other day, that's not the only thing that role-playing has taught me. The curriculum advice job I do, I do very well (and I have absolutely no false modesty about this. I kick its butt). This isn't just about fundamentally liking students and having a relatively high empathy stat, although these are important. It's actually about an experience of a very basic role-playing and particularly DMing skill, viz. the ability to process satisfaction through a numerical system.

Most Humanities academics aren't actually very good at curriculum advice because they don't grasp the technical aspects of the system we use to build up a legitimate degree structure: its underlying numerical logic, its wildly different iterations under different circumstances and with different individuals, and its rather clunky perpetration through a maze of exceptions, additions and special instances. I shouldn't, as a mere lit professional, be any good at this either, but I've played AD&D. I know all about clunky systems with an underlying numerical more-or-less logic and a maze of additions and exceptions. I'm not only used to dealing with such a system, I'm used to applying it creatively to try and create satisfaction and fulfilment in my players, which is absolutely what I'm trying to do for my students. You have to obey the rules, but the point is not the system itself: the point is either the role-playing experience, or a successful degree qualification built up from course choices which are adapted to the student's skills and enjoyments.

This realisation makes me very happy. It's official, kiddies. Role-playing gives you real-world skills, and not just the ones to do with strategic thinking, persona as a social interaction tool, and following the geek references in Wil Wheaton blog posts. Nope: it's all about systems, and how to exploit them for the greater good. Human civilisation in a nutshell, really.
  • Current Mood: contemplative enlightened, ill
Another skill from roleplaying is why real-world IT security companies prefer to hire role-players.
Our practice in taking on roles is useful for getting into an attacker's mind-set when analyzing a system's security.

We should put together a leaflet for CLAWs orientation - real-world reasons to roleplay :)