I’m a big hiphop fan. I’m surprised and not surprised that hiphop hasn’t been merged into an active product yet (someone might tell me about Wyrd is Bond but that’s more about gangs and tribes than hiphop). I’m not surprised because I think a game that really loves hiphop is something that overall gamer culture is probably not ready for. I know a lot of gamers who are at least into hiphop as I am, but I don’t know that RPGs publishers know that these people are there and potentially looking for something that embraces the music and culture in an interesting way. There are cool things about gaming culture, but it’s not a sterling example of a subculture ready to truly adopt the other (working on changing that!).
I am surprised though, because the fundamentals of making hiphop music and RPGs are , to me, pretty damn similar. A tabletop group when it meets is a lot like a freestyle cypher. Both are groups who meet to create a story and expression through speech. Both follow informal and formal rules to produce that speech (creativity needs constraints), and both are rooted heavily in a sense of improvisation and experimentation. We push each other and play quite literally with our words, forming sacred spaces where imagination is the prime value.
That’s when it all works, anyway. Half of the fun of playing at freestyling and RPGs is learning the skills to get you to that space consistently. Time is a factor, but more important to developing that skill is your commitment to experimentation and improvisation. Building your “vocabulary” gets you consistently to that space and lets you bring others with you.
In my head, that’s how hip hop and RPGs are very similar. Having done of both (I’m a much better roleplayer than rapper, sorry!), these are the commonalities I see.
Tomorrow I’m going to talk about ways we can use hip hop as a creative launching point for RPG play.