This morning, I happened upon an image of a hunter, or perhaps a ranger-warrior, carrying a crossbow in the woods. The image was from Storn Cook, an artist living in Trumansburg, New York. Storn Cook creates images based upon fantasy, especially in the arena of role playing games.
That got me thinking: Why are so many role playing games focused on the medieval era? Dungeons and Dragons started the entire hobby genre, but with the Society for Creative Anachronism, the medieval fetish went far beyond a role of the dice.
Role playing games don't give people the opportunity to pretend to be Human Resource Managers, or Administrative Assistants, or Customer Service Agents. Yet, someone in the SCA might gain satisfaction out of what would have been a simple social task - serving mead, for example.
Role playing creates a mythology that is continually redeveloping, just like real present-day human society, but enables people to escape the rules of present-day human society. It isn't that people's recreations of the medieval world lack rules to restrict human behavior. Rather, the transition from one set of rules to another seems to simulate a feeling of freedom, even as new restrictions begin to refine.
I've got a suspicion that this sort of identification with historical eras past has something to do with the desire to begin the competitive struggle of life over again, without being confined by one's many previous decisions about where to stand in the world.
Ironically, it is the newness of medieval role playing scenarios that makes participants feel vital. What's old can never be new again. It can, however, form the inspiration for an alternative new world in which a person's past is blissfully irrelevant.