Criminal Profilers are to Psychopaths as Role-Players are to . . . ?
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Article by FireCat
Copyright 01/09/2001
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As a gamer I believe in finding new ways of thinking, then applying these to all past experiences. I am often inspired by casual mention of old phrases, and place what follows into a campaign . . . or an article.

This article was inspired by the saying "It's just a game!"

Several years ago, our gaming group would schedule for all day and night, but take a break in the evening for dinner and the NBC lineup. We would watch The Pretender ("Hey, you're not our regular GM!", " . . . I am today."), and then a show afterwards called The Profiler. The Profiler was about a criminal profiler who had strange glimpses of insight into the criminals they were seeking; this made her unusually successful in the job, because her intuition was more often right than not. Apparently, some profilers guess wrong on the details, and this is to be avoided; they study every aspect of the target's life in an effort to put the pieces together -correctly-.

This strikes me as having more than a passing similarity to roleplaying. The profiler can't merely add detail because it's something they're interested in and would like the target to be into (so the case can be solved more quickly). And, while they identify with the targets as closely as possible, there is psychological risk of the target getting into THEIR head - affecting their objectivity. So, they must get close enough to *know* the target, more intimately than they know themselves, without allowing their mind to affect any details, . . . and without allowing the target's mind to have influence over their own.

Given that they might often be called upon to deal with psychopaths, I don't blame them.

Psychopaths. What is a psychopath, anyway? Sociopaths are those who neither agree with nor fit into society; thus you could have a professor who teaches peace in a war-like society (Seaquest, DSV). But there are certain qualities that it is agreed upon, today, are common to all societies. So a sociopath is defined as one who can't get along with/in ALL societies, because of those basic qualities. I suppose a psychopath would be someone who didn't get along with ANY of the other "normal" psychological conditions?

I've heard psychopaths referred to, most commonly, in a manner similar to solipsistic. The psychopath believes that noone but them, in the universe, truly exists - is truly real. Their lives do not matter, because they all exist in the imagination of the psychopath, and maybe only to entertain her. To the psychopath, it is all a game - albeit a game played with the lives of other people - and that these constructs actually believe they have free will, sentience, the fact that they can think and exist by themselves, well . . . all of this merely lends flavor to the game.

But isn't this how you treat your roleplaying? When you examine the beliefs, exemplified by their deeds, of another gamer, what - exactly - do you notice? Contemplate not just the people you play with, but the munchkin that entered your game and was tossed out. For what? Entering the town, killing NPC's and PC's indiscriminately - but that wasn't what upset you, was it? Not the killing part. It was that he treated your PC's no differently than the NPC's.

Would you have tossed him out had he shown such casual disregard for the lives of the NPC's -only-?

No, of course not. Hypocrisy -loves- company; so long as he offered a justifiable 'RP' reason for the murders, it'd be understandable. It's only because he demonstrated such -honesty- in his ways, that your group couldn't stand to be with him (too much like looking in a mirror, only, one that didn't favorably represent the more reprehensible aspects). Even if they admit they have psychopathic qualities, they'll explain that they are -directing- them, only towards those who -deserve- it, and aren't -really- psychopathic, otherwise.

However, think about psychopaths for a moment - don't get along with any 'normal' psychological conditions - does it seem reasonable that, for purposes of concealment, they might learn to get along with -other psychopaths- for a while?

If so, exercising some control over their urges . . . employing some restraint towards those others (who may just seem like extensions of their own personality) . . . shows nothing at all - except, perhaps, that you are willing to cheat if you found a way, to enable yourself to have more "bodies" in this game of 'life' (the point, of course, is to take it all away - and who is better suited for this than you, without whom none of it would (have) exist(ed)?).

Yet the question comes, if you can cheat that way, why don't you cheat with the rest, and give yourself 'super-powers', for instance? Besides the obvious "Well, then the prey would pose no challenge for the hunter, and I would have no fun."?

I have only the greatest respect for those role-players that will start RP'ing during their character's birth, and never stop or step out of character until the character's death. You know, the ones playing me and you. They spare no expense in the realism of our recreation; we can even philosophize about our own origins. (Oops, wait, that's meta-gaming.) And when it comes to cheating, and why you can't? Because, your player is a better RP'er than you are.

(I trust my instincts, too - even when all of the evidence points in another direction, I have chosen to follow my intuition over that. In a way, this indicates player knowledge. I suppose this, too, means that I am a meta-gamer?)

And as for you, I would salute that munchkin before I inclined my head to you. At least the munchkin had some integrity, and didn't try to control or hide his nature.

I admonish you - the next time you say "But, it's just a *game*!", or hear someone else say so, think back to what I have said here . . . and think about all the psychopaths, whose views, beliefs, and thus actions, you are justifying by doing so.

And for now, examine yourself; are you a profiler who has developed a tendency towards psychopathic behavior, or something far worse? If you had a choice, which would you rather be?

After this is posted, some genuine psychopath may take an interest in me. Frankly, if given the choice, I would be proud to be known for associating with a psychopath. It would be infinitely preferable to being seen around the table with my fellow gamers. (My twin sibling, however, will be glad to take my place.)