For those who may have read my signature you have no doubt noticed I included several slams against a group of people called the Character Optimization community. This is unnecessary and I know that. It's a playstyle that I don't happen to enjoy or understand. There's someone out there who really wants to talk to you about his "killswitch" whatever the hell that is.
But I was thinking about this the other day. To me, a game with people who like Character Optimization is like a game with race cars (also known as a race). Everyone is building something to achieve an end goal in the most efficient way possible. That goal varies depending on the builder. Damage or Accuracy? Armor or HP? Fuel Efficiency, Speed, Handling, there are trade-offs. And a great deal of the control is in the driver's hands. I wouldn't know how to play one of these characters in the most efficient way but there are objective standards with the end goal of winning the race. The mechanics are designed to minimize risks and make the character less prone to losing or being prone as the case may be. The goal of the game is winning.
And to be sure, no one wants to lose. No one wants to feel like they suck. But, the race car simile isn't how I want to think of my game. I think of my game like an ice cream sundae. It doesn't really matter what you put on the sundae, you're still eating ice cream. And everyone's sundae is equally valid if you're doing what you want. No one feels inferior because they didn't mod their ride. And while no one wants to lose, winning the race doesn't make sense because the point is to enjoy the sundae. I'm not building a car to win the race, I'm making the sundae I'm going to enjoy the most. Because the enjoyment is entirely personal and inaccessible to another person.
Well, that's one opinion. Race cars are built by teams after all. The creation and enjoyment of an ice cream sundae is a largely selfish pursuit. There is a social element in bandying about the correct way to accomplish the objective of winning the race. This is the part of the Character Optimization and indeed life perspective that I find most subjective. I know it exists, I know someone out there enjoys this, but it is completely inaccessible to me. This belongs to the realm of arguing about Darth Vader's alignment or who is the greatest quarterback of all time. My perspective is that a team is unnecessary. Yes we could all work together to build the most powerful character of all time. But only one person gets to drive the car and everyone can build their own car. Now, I can see that this is like saying, "why play football when you can't be the quarterback?" D&D is, to me, entirely non-competitive. I want to feel challenged but its at the core a collaborative experience.
The social experience is what drives the game. For the Character Optimizer, the building is the source of the experience. The game itself then becomes about the execution of perfect form and technique. The perfect ice cream sundae also has rituals and techniques it falls into as well. However, no matter how set I get in my ways or my rogue, there should never be a wrong way to experience it.