I’ve been uneasily wandering around in my hobby these past few months between different desires which, until today, I hadn’t quite realised I was desiring. It took The Alexandrian’s insightful blog post today to help we see something that is essentially obvious. Of course, as I commonly like to say, obvious never is. Not until someone makes the obvious more obvious.
The tension sits between me wanting to get back to having a gaming group and the separate but similar desire to play in some games. These are different things that might look very similar but which, as Justin Alexander points out, aren’t. Being in a gaming group is something qualitatively different to wanting to play some games. I want to enjoy both.
The Gaming Group
I used to play as part of the Friday Night Roleplay group which, pre-pandemic, met at my house and played RPGs. While it started as a genuine gaming group in which we got together as friends every two weeks and decided to play something we all enjoyed, by the end it was a fractured and damaged entity which the pandemic killed off. The reason was that I lost sight of the fact the Friday Night Roleplayers were a gaming group.
When we began, I was running Alternity for the group because we all enjoyed the game and wanted to play in a modern campaign. Around 2000, we tried out D&D 3rd Edition and we played that for a few more years. When 4th Edition D&D arrived, we tried it out… but ultimately didn’t enjoy it. That’s when, as the resident GM, I made a fatal mistake: I started treating the gaming group as a venue to play games.
Gaming groups exist as a place where we meet, as friends, to play something we all agree would be fun. For us, this began when I introduced the friends I had gathered to Alternity and we moved the game to my house on a Friday night. But I lost sight of this, especially as I gave in more frequently to my butterfly tendency to flit from game to game. Instead of being a stable group of friends united around a game we all enjoy, it became much more about whatever new game I wanted to try.
Playing Some Games
Post-pandemic, I have grown used to seeking an audience to play different games. In some ways I have become fed up with only being able to play some games for a short period. But the clarion call of, “Hey, who wants to play X Game Title?” has become the norm in my experience. I sometimes equate this to the Regular Kind of Game, but that’s not really fair. Playing some games is simply the most visible and convenient way to approach roleplaying games when you connect to people online. For me, it has become the norm.
In recent weeks, since I downsized my game play to zero sessions with other people, I noticed a growing trend in my behaviour alone: I have started butterflying myself around, looking at games I fancy playing and even buying a few new titles. In other words, without a Gaming Group and also without any games I am playing with other people, I have defaulted to the most-ingrained behaviour I have. I’ve begun to ask, “Hey, does anyone want to play GURPS with me?”
Or Rolemaster Unified. Or GenreDiversion 3. Or Magical Kitties Save The Day!
The point is that I am hungry for both experiences but I am actually getting neither.
There is a serious question that I need to ask: “Can I see myself back in a Gaming Group anytime soon?”
More than that, can I even see a scenario in which I can find a group of friends who want to commit to being a group and with whom I can agree to run or play in just one thing we all enjoy? Given the disparate and fractured schedules my friends inhabit, I am seriously doubtful – certainly regarding face-to-face play.
Mystamyr forged a gaming group through the best part of a year in 2021-22, but I was too blind to see what was happening. Now I’ve allowed it to slide into inactivity and I am wondering whether that was the right thing to do. On the other hand, I am also itching to simply play some different games and it’s healthy to (finally) realise that you don’t need a gaming group to ‘play some games’ with good folk.
It’s a simple distinction but I think that Justin was very wise to post that short blog about it. I feel as though I need to find a better balance in my gaming life between the question of joining or creating a Gaming Group and simply ‘playing some roleplaying games’. I also love his tip about keeping an Open Table in your back pocket – I need to do that too.