Roleplaying is Indicative of a Delusional Mind?

According to Wired, the Isreali army does not like roleplaying:

Israeli officials view a fondness for Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) as being indicative of a delusional mind, RPGers are out of touch with reality. “The game indicates a weak personality,” one security official said. “One of the tests we do, either by asking soldiers directly or through information provided us, is to ask whether they take part in the game,” he added. “If a soldier answers in the affirmative, he is sent to a professional for an evaluation, usually a psychologist.”

Ok. Where to start?

Back when I was in High School, we did play D&D, hidden in a corner, under the stairs. Yes, I admit it, I was a nerd. Oh! Didn’t you know that I’m a nerd? Though I prefer “hacker” these days.

Back then, there were serious concerns that playing D&D was like being in a dangerous cult. I was attending a very religious institution whose moto is now akin to learning to serve (s’instruire pour mieux servir), I kid you not! All the adults around me were horrified to hear about what we were doing. Things took a turn for the worse when we grew an interest for Lovecraft. As far as I know, none of us turned into a dangerous killer. One of is is a senior software engineer, another one is a robotics engineer, and the last one… I lost track. My point being that there is zero evidence that we turned into evil people, though we all gravitated toward nerdy jobs.

Now, I learn that in Israel, I would have been sent to a psychologist?

Ok. Let us face the truth: we all play role games. That is what life is. You can turn yourself into a soldier. Yes, you might kill people or get killed, but deep down, this is roleplaying. When American soldiers go to Irak to fight for democracy, is this reality? What is real?

Roleplaying has nothing to do with being delusional. These people know that they are not facing a freaking dragon in the physical world. Nevertheless, this dragon is real in that they interact with it, learn from it, and eventually can even kill it. This dragon might change their life (for example, they may get defeated and sink into depression… who knows?).

While we are at it. I hate the way we use the word virtual. Second Life is not a virtual world. The Web is not virtual. Email relationships are not virtual. They are not. They are real relationships, real worlds. A world where people dress up, meet, have fun, learn, get to know each other, build things… that is a real world.

This is not a simple matter of semantics. Saying that things are delusional or virtual amounts to dismissing it as having lesser importance.

Which one is more important? My so-called virtual identity on the web (represented best by this blog) or my so-called real identity (my physical body)? To many of the readers of this blog, by virtual identity is far more important since they never get to meet me. So, this Web identity is not virtual at all! Not for them! But my physical body might as well be virtual, for them.

We know of Jesus (sorry, I’m not religious at all, but this is a good example) through books. How is it different from knowing someone through email? Is Jesus real? Many people think so. Christians and muslims do, at least. Is he virtual? Any more so than me?

What is virtual then? It is is a representation of what is. The software model of a store is virtually the store: it represents the store, but it is not a store. Be careful though. is an actual store, not a virtual store! But my blog is a virtual notebook. It is not a notebook! But it can represent a notebook. If I use an icon to represent my identity, it is a virtual identity. But my identity on the Web is not virtual. In object-oriented programming, the objects and classes represent virtually the component of your system: the software class “Student” is a virtual representation of a student.

Please send this post to the Israeli army. Anyone?

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

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