Learning To Embrace Scanning

This week, given that I had an enormous amount of time to sit in bed and read, I was grateful to receive a book recommendation from one of my awesome Patrons, John Schuhr. The book he suggested was “Refuse To Choose” by Barbara Sher. I have to admit that I approached this with some cynicism – given that the byline is, “Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams” – but I decided to trust John and grabbed the free to download Kindle sample.

This book has fundamentally changed the way I think about myself and my hobby.

I am not going to lie, I rather suspect that Ms Sher is writing from experience rather than from an empirical study… but the book rang true and has unlocked a whole raft of interesting reflections and responses from me as a person.

I would suggest that this post is going to be interesting to some and not seem relevant to most… so I will give you the quick summary:

I am happy to say that I am what Sher calls a “Scanner”; I have realised, when it comes to my hobby, why I can’t seem to settle on any one game system or setting; I know why I keep jumping game (and frustrating my players repeatedly); and I know that this is a natural part of who I am as a person.

What’s a Scanner?

I think I need to grab a quotation from Sher’s book:

a Scanner [is] a very special kind of thinker. Unlike those people who seem to find and be satisfied with one area of interest, you’re genetically wired to be interested in many things, and that’s exactly what you’ve been trying to do. Because your behavior is unfamiliar—even unsettling—to the people around you, you’ve been taught that you’re doing something wrong and you must try to change. But what you’ve been told is a mistake—you have been misdiagnosed. You’re a different creature altogether.”

Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams by Barbara Sher.

I am the kind of person for whom (again to selectively steal another quotation) these statements ring true:

“I can never stick to anything.”

“I know I should focus on one thing, but which one?”

“I lose interest in things I thought would interest me forever.”

“I keep going off on another tangent.”

“I get bored as soon as I know how to do something.”

“I can’t stand to do anything twice.”

“I keep changing my mind about what I want to do and end up doing nothing.”

“I pull away from what I’m doing because I’m afraid I’ll miss something better.”

Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher.

Until I read this book, I simply assumed that there was something wrong with me. I now realise that there is nothing wrong with me… I am simply different to other people. No, it’s NOT “gamer attention deficit disorder”; it’s not me “being flaky”; it’s something else. What Sher calls being a Scanner.

Learning To Embrace Scanning

Because this is a blog post, I am not going to lay out the entire long (and to me now boring) line of thinking. There has been a great deal of thought, in case you were worried that I had lost my mind.

Where I am up to is simple: I am permitted to have (and will experience) multiple, sometimes short-lived, and highly excited periods of exploring something in my roleplaying games hobby. The main barrier is that I need to make it clear to other people that, once I have got what I needed to get from each individual hobby project, I am going to want to drop it and move on.

In other words, this pattern of starting things and appearing to not finish them is just that: something that appears odd to other types of thinker. I get a huge buzz out of learning and exploring things. I love to delve into ideas, and fantasies, and worlds, and other people’s thoughts. Often, once I have got to a place where I have answered the questions that I had (which, up front, I can never really consciously express), then I am kinda done.

When I put a project down, it’s because – like the bee harvesting nectar from an individual flower – I have got what I came for. Sometimes projects engage me for longer. A lot of the time, projects don’t take long before I become exhausted and done with them.

I think quickly. I learn quickly. I make intuitive leaps. And that isn’t a bug… it’s a feature. It’s what makes me uniquely me. Of course, I am not the only Scanner in the world: I rather suspect that MANY gamers out there are Scanners too. If you suspect you might be, go and download the free Kindle sample of Sher’s book. If she annoys you or it doesn’t compute, you probably aren’t. And that’s fine too.

My First Steps

What sparked me to write this post was the simple task of starting to list out all the outstanding roleplaying hobby projects that I want, at some point in the future, to delve into. As I wrote it, I thought, “I really need to tell those gamers around me about this so that I don’t p*ss them off.”

And so here we are. The list will, of course, be a moving target. Things will have short lives more often than they will have long lives. There is no one true way of gaming for me: I am way too busy discovering all the ways of gaming. And working out which ways of gaming suit me best. And telling people about the ideas that most interest me. Which is why I have a blog and a podcast.

One of the big rewards I get out of my projects is sharing them with interested people. Thank YOU for being interested enough to read this post. I appreciate that more than you can possibly know.

Do you want to see the list so far? Remember: it’ll be constantly changing.

But I guess I want to share it to see if anyone out there wants to dive in on those projects as and when they turn up in my schedule. If you do, drop me a comment or call-in to the podcast or contact me on social media or write me an email or whatever to get in touch.

Many of these could be done online, which really opens up the opportunities to connect with lots of people – another thing that really motivates me in any project. Just don’t forget – each of these might well be short-lived and one time only. I’ll let you decide if that’s worth risking getting involved in with me.

Here’s the list so far, well… the first 20 items:

  1. Learn to play Old-School Essentials (currently active)
  2. Dig into the Dolmenwood setting (currently playtesting for Gavin)
  3. Learn to play Swords & Wizardry
  4. Have a go at Star Trek Adventures
  5. Learn to run a Traveller space hex-crawl game
  6. Learn to play Traveller5
  7. Learn to play Mongoose Traveller
  8. Play in Middle-earth – 5e or The One Ring, what’s the difference?
  9. Run an old-school mega-dungeon campaign with OD&D
  10. Dig into Arduin as a world
  11. Publish my own artifact deck of fantasy objects
  12. Learn to play Rifts – Savage Rifts appeals more than Palladium Rifts?
  13. Dig into the Rifts Universe Dig into the Palladium Fantasy World
  14. Do a comparison of all the editions of D&D from OD&D to 5e – compare by playing?
  15. Learn to play Mutant Year Zero post-apocalyptic game
  16. Create a low-fantasy, early human campaign world (aka “Age of Blades”)
  17. Learn to play GURPS in an easy and free way that suits me (currently active)
  18. Learn to find a way to communicate the ease of GURPS to other people
  19. Dig into the Imagine RPG materials and work out why I like them
  20. Dig into Rolemaster and work out why I like it so much
  21. …and so on…

From here, I’ve agreed with my wife that we’re going to work through the MASSIVE stacks of RPG books and work out which ones are projects to add to the list and which ones are things I’m done with (and can therefore be given away, or sold).

To that end, I imagine that I will be re-activating my eBay account and selling off old tomes as and when we identify some I no longer need.

Personally, I am going to have to be very mindful that I don’t need new shiny game stuff for a while. I’ve already cancelled Kickstarters and started putting anything potentially interesting onto my Amazon wishlist.

“Go look at the Big List, Che, there’s plenty to do on there.”

The Practical Upshot

For anyone else who shares in my gaming hobby, such as podcast listeners or blog readers or players in games, I guess the practical upshot is that there are three things to be aware of:

Firstly, I may not “finish” games and campaigns (in the traditional sense); actually, I am finished but it might not look that way. This is why I leave a trail of “half-finished” ideas behind me: I’ve learned what I needed to learn, and I am moving on.

Secondly, I may be seeking to simply try out or experience some game idea. Sometimes playing it once is enough, other times I can run the thing for longer… but I never know how long it’ll take for me to learn what I came to learn.

Going forward, I am going to try and take some old advice from Colin “Spikepit” Green (he said this during the interview I did with him some months ago in Ep412) and schedule games on a timebound and limited basis. For example, I currently plan the Dungeons of Thaarl on a next-session-only basis and I aim to run at least four sessions in Dolmenwood. This is as much as I feel I can commit to in one go. That said…

Finally, if you’re a player in any game I am running, it is VITALLY IMPORTANT for you to regularly and repeatedly communicate to me how much interest / enjoyment / entertainment / value you are getting out of that game. One of my key internal rewards (despite how narcissistic this still sounds to me) is knowing that what I am doing is valued by other people.

Put another way, when I know that other people are enjoying a game I am running (or something I am writing, or whatever) then I am much more likely to remain engaged and energetic about that project. As soon as I so much as suspect that people don’t enjoy it any more, it’s probably doomed. Sorry about that.

And that’s about all I have to say about that right now. I probably come off as either completely crazy or incredibly flaky, but… well, all I am trying to do is express who I am. As you probably realise, I really do seek to be accepted by my peers. I am hoping you’ll understand… but I am emotionally ready if you don’t. You are probably very different and I sincerely believe that is ok too.

Game on!

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