Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away?

Image by Kaibab National Forest

I’ve been thinking a lot about gaming burn-out recently. You see, every 3-4 months, I go through a phase where I am just not into gaming. It’s usually characterized by a lack of motivation to do anything game-related, negative thinking about the gaming situation that I find myself in, and a gnawing sense that I should be doing something else with my time. Most times this happens, I chalk it up to being burnt out with gaming. I figure that it’s time to pack it up and move on and focus on a different hobby.

This time, it’s different. I’ve been writing for Troll in the Corner for a few months now. In that time, I’ve acquired a lot of gaming knowledge, seen a lot of awesome things, and I’ve gained a measure of responsibility. I have books to read, systems to review (and test if possible), and articles to write. I love what I do here, and that means I have to keep my head in the gaming scene.

So, how have managed to keep this thing going? Well, I’ve figured out a few things during these last few months; maybe you’ll find some of those things useful.

Don’t Get Stuck in Your Own Head

This is the thing that I struggle with the most when it comes to gaming. I GM most of the time, and I worry far too often about what people will think about the game I present to them. Not that I shouldn’t be concerned with the quality of my game sessions, but if it seems to me like one of my players wasn’t as in to the sessions as I had hoped, or if I don’t get effusive praise for the session, then I tend to get into a funk. I find myself imagining conversations with my players where they tell me that they would rather not play RPGs anymore. It’s not a fun state in which to be.

Gaming is a mental exercise, but getting caught in my own mental webs get me nowhere. If I find myself walking those mental circles, I do my best to just snap the hell out of it. I love gaming, and I especially love GMing. If I spend too much time wallowing, then I won’t focus on actually making the game a good one. Paying attention to the details of the story I want to craft is far more important than paying attention to the ramblings of a bout of poor self-esteem.

Don’t get lost in your own mental mazes. If you really want to game, then clear the cobwebs, put pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write for the game. If you’re a player, write a story starring your character; if you’re the GM, plot out a new adventure. Do something that will help you advance your character or your story.

Don’t Get Distracted by the New and the Shiny

You’re playing  a game system that you, hopefully, love. You’ve spent hours reading the books, you know the rules forward, backward, inside and out. You’re getting ready to make a new character, or start planning a new campaign, and you get distracted. Maybe a friend has told you about a new game system, or maybe you heard about something new on a podcast, or from a web blog. It sounds awesome, and you abandon your plans. You start reading this new system, get all hot and bothered for it, and you start working on the new system.

Now, if you and your group are all looking for a change, then this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If, however, this is something that happens every three months, or after two game sessions, then it really becomes a problem.

My current system of distraction is Savage Worlds. I love the system, but I never get to play it. As much as I would love to begin a Deadlands game, or run Realms of Cthulhu, I know my players. They love their d20s and love Pathfinder. I am a huge fan of Pathfinder, but Savage Worlds calls to me. However, if I spend my time pining for a system that I have few opportunities to play, then I will miss the great gaming that I can get from the system that my group uses.

Find Ways to Get Re-Energized

One of the signature moments in my gaming-filled summer was my time at Origins. It stands out (and probably always will) because it was my first gaming convention, ever. I have since been to bigger, and better-organized conventions, but Origins was something magical for me. I jumped in with both feet, immersed myself in new games and new systems, and I don’t think I will ever experience anything like it again.

What that time did for me was solidify just how much I love gaming. No other hobby that I can think of could keep me up until 6:30AM, and then have me back, engaging with people a mere 3 hours later. For weeks afterward, I was on a gaming high. It was that energy that helped me prepare 5 gaming sessions for KantCon, and it has stuck with me as a high-water mark of gaming in my life.

If you’re feeling run down, find something that will recharge your gaming batteries. For me, it was attending my first gaming convention. For some, it might be a marathon gaming session. For others, it might simply be taking a break.

The End Result

If you’re feeling at the end of your gaming rope, then do something to get out of it. In my opinion, one of the worst things that a gamer can do is drag along, not really enjoying what they’re doing, gaming-wise. If you’re a player, it brings your group down if you’re the one player checking your email, screwing around online, or generally not paying attention. If you’re the GM and you’re burnt out, then you’re likely doing nothing but giving your players a bad gaming experience.

I’ve been both of those things to groups before. I’m not proud of those times, but I’ve learned from them. I have a much better grasp on how I do things and how to handle my inevitable cycling down. Right now, my gaming future looks bright.

7 thoughts on “Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away?

Add yours

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I think this is definitely a real problem I’ve had since becoming a DM (oddly enough, when I was only a player it never happened, no stress I guess).

    I’m actually working on a fun project for the blog that is based a little around the idea of staving this off. I’ll be sure to reference this one back when I’m ready (might be a little while though).


  2. Wow, this happened to me a little over a year ago. Totally burnt out, didn’t want to game at all. 😦 Was a sad time for me. Now I’m a bit better, still can’t think up a campaign at all but that will come with time. At least I can get together with my friends and game again!

    Thanks for the tips Tracy, I’ll try them out and hopefully get on a better track.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: