Or do they?
There is the anticipation and dread or excitement before a game, the heady excitement of play, the exhausted denouement.
Those are pale words to describe what sitting down to game is like. It's a good human experience. You are often learning new things, solving new problems, and being presented with these multi-dimensional situations, something the OSR has really pushed for -- factions, elements in play that give you new resources.
The game is about decoding what the Dungeon Master says. This drives much of the discussion in the blogosphere. Is boxed text good or bad? (p.s. it's bad). Railroad or sandbox? How do you respect player agency? What's a good format for presenting information?
The thing is, that isn't the game. What the Dungeon Master says is only part of a game. Everything that occurs at the table has value. The players speculate wildly, the Dungeon Master emphasizes the important points, the players refocus on the solving the current problem, choices are made. Play is more than just decoding what a person says.
It turns out, it's even more interesting than that!
Until recently, humanity labored under the assumption that eventual all energy would be dissipated throughout a dying universe as we moved forward in time, doomed to universal equilibrium, the universe grinding to a halt.
This view, of time moving inexorably forward, created a lot of problems for people trying to solve how the universe worked. Why does it flow one way? Why doesn't it flow in reverse?
It turns out, we may have been misunderstanding the problem.
The idea is, energy doesn't dissipate.
The idea is, objects in proximity become entangled and become more like each other.
So when you put a cup of coffee in the room, the cup doesn't cool off because of high energy atoms flying into the larger room. The high energy atoms are becoming entangled with the atoms in the room, sharing information and becoming more alike! The longer the cup of coffee sits in the room, the more entangled with the room it becomes.
All objects are constantly being entangled with the experiences, places, ideas, and objects they are being exposed to. You don't remember the future, because you form memories by becoming correlated with your surroundings. When you read a book, your brain becomes entangled with the new information and then you can recall it from that point forward.
The universe isn't cooling and dying. It is all becoming one.
We really are all fractured creatures, again seeking to become whole. Which is what makes breaking the egg of gaming really special.
When you sit around a (possibly virtual) table with your friends, playing Dungeons and Dragons, something amazing is happening. You are becoming entangled with something new -- something that doesn't exist.
And when that happens, when you take someone's setting, you are taking an object their experiences, ideas, and internal impulses have somehow produced and through the magic of contextualizing information under pressure it becomes a real thing where nothing had been before.
That setting idea that has become entangled with you, making you more like it, is now becoming entangled with several minds at once.
This idea is not a real thing. And yet, as you become entangled with it as a group, it becomes real. It is a part of you and you a part of it. It is guided and organic. It changes, thrives, lives and dies.
You are Dungeon Master, their guide in the realm of Dungeons & Dragons in a very real sense. The world during play is not a winding down of spent energy in the universe as you sit at the table, exhausting that rather healthy vegetable tray that shows up every week.
You are literally becoming entangled with a place that never was. A new realm is given life, and is real as anything that exists. In fact, it is made more and more real the more that it is experienced; it becomes more and more a part of the universe as the idea spreads.
And eventually, at the end of time, when the universe is again whole, something new will exist where nothing existed before. The breaking apart and reforming of all that was will be more than it was originally. The egg will be unbroken.