Why Do We Game?

Image by: Ann Douglas

I have been asking myself this question on a not-infrequent basis over the last few weeks. You see, there are these things happening in the American calendar that we like to call Holidays. Largely, they consist of over-indulgences of various kinds and massive schedule interruptions. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen these Holidays spread out to encompass a larger amount of space than they seemed to do when I was younger. Then, we had two celebrations to go to for out family. One for my Mom’s side of the family and one for my Dad’s. What I’ve realized is that, with two siblings who, along with their husbands, make up the core of my gaming group, you’re going to have a lot of schedule conflicts around this time of year.

This should have come as no surprise to me but, unfortunately, it did. Maybe it’s because I’ve been getting more in to gaming over the last year. I think I might have blinded myself to the realities of having a gaming group that, on occasion, wants to do something other than game.¬†Sacrilegious, I know, but it takes all kinds.

At first, I took it in stride. We had played two good sessions of my Pathfinder Pirates of Freeport game (audio is coming, I promise; school has been kicking the collective ass of everyone involved in that process) and I was really primed for the third session. Our second session had taken place on November 7th. Now, when you’re looking forward to something, it seems like fours days pass for each one that actually goes by. I went to GASP-Con the following weekend, so that was out. Then, the next weekend, one half of my group was out of town for the weekend. The week after that was Thanksgiving and all of the madness that it entails.

Through this whole process, I was getting frustrated, fed up and otherwise just plain irritated with, well, everything relating to gaming. I took bad attitude and lack of planning to GASP-Con and so did not have the time I could have had there. The weekend half my group was gone, I had hoped that I could play something with the other half of my group, but they had plans already. In addition, the Mutants and Masterminds game in which I play has been on hiatus for a long-seeming set of weeks due to the school busyness that I mentioned before. I wanted to game so badly. Why was I putting myself through this?

Thanksgiving weekend was the kicker. We planned to play on our usual Friday night. I figured it’d be no big deal, as my whole group, plus my wife and parents, were all going to pick out some Christmas trees. What I didn’t count on was the Black Friday sales. My gaming group, save for me, all went out at Midnight for some ridiculous sales. This led to them basically not sleeping all night and these are people that like their sleep. We did end up spending the day hanging out together but gaming was not in the cards; there was no way I was going to ask them to concentrate in the ways gaming requires after their lack of sleep.

Frustration. Building.

We rescheduled the game for Saturday morning. No one had any plans, so we thought we’d start the game, break to watch some very important college football and then resume the game. That all worked out until half of the group was 1 hour, 45 minutes late. They basically got there in time for kickoff. I bottled up my rage and enjoyed the football. After that, we re-convened at a different house to begin playing…. and my sister got called in to work. To sum it all up, we started the session at 6:30pm. The session was planned to start at 10am.

The weeks without gaming felt empty to me. I couldn’t put a finger on exactly what it was I was missing but I was missing it, badly. Even when we got to start the session, I ratcheted back my expectations to make sure that I wouldn’t come out disappointed.

Then, it happened.

I had crafted a scenario in which the group was investigating a haunted house. If they failed their Will saves upon entering the house, they would be trapped in a repeating of the events that led to the house becoming haunted. if they made their save, they would deal with the house as it stood in the present. They had gotten to the point where the mystery of the house had been solved, or close to it, and I had left to use the restroom.

When I came back, my players were all sitting at the table, discussing the situation, in character. No prompting from me led to this, it just happened. I sat down on the couch behind my usual GM seat and just watched. It only lasted for 5 or 10 minutes but for that time I was so content. Something I had made prompted this level of interaction from a group that only 18 months ago had never rolled a die in an RPG of any kind.

And I think that, for me, answers the question of my post. That is why I game. GMs spend hours setting up scenarios and adventures for their players. As we’ve all seen, though, all of that work lasts only until the firs tplayer sits down at the table. After that, it’s their game. The hope is that what you’ve made will be something that engrosses the players to the point that they forget that they’re sitting around a table and they just… flow. It doesn’t always happen, but knowing that something I created was effective is something that makes me feel really good. It justifies all of the work put in and it gives me a sense of catharsis that is incredible for me. Perhaps it’s a self-created problem that would be solved by simply not gaming, but I think it’s worth the time.

That’s my reason for gaming. What’s yours?

[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games[/tags]

5 thoughts on “Why Do We Game?

Add yours

  1. I think you nailed it. I can always tell when I’m going my job as a GM when I can leave the room and the game goes on without me, usually with in-character debate about what to do next or what a particular bit of information means. That’s the magic that keeps me coming back.

    And happy 100th post to you!


  2. I first started gaming as a way to write the stories that I enjoyed reading. I always had an active imagination and gaming gave me an opportunity to exercise it, but as a social activity (which made my mother happy, she worried about me being alone too much).

    Nowadays, I game to have fun. When I play, I’m helping to tell a story. Back when I was playing Living Greyhawk, our table ran into something that could only be harmed by magical cold iron. None of us had a cold iron weapon; but someone had an everburning torch, which was made of cold iron (under the 3.0 rules). One character cast magic weapon on it and using the torch as an improvised club, we beat that monster to death with it. Months later, there was the sweet, sweet moment when someone said, ‘wait, I heard about that. That was you guys?!’ We had created a story, one that had been told and retold to other people. As the Norse would say, fame is the true immortality.

    When I run, it’s a chance to let other people tell their stories in the environment that I have provided. I have done my best to see that my players have a good time and have stories of their own to tell. Whether it’s the brave Warwick, knight and wannabe paladin, or Nermal, who thinks his fellow band members are nuts because they believe that vampires are real, or Ricardo, the pessimistic seer; what matters is the stories they tell.


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