Sunday, September 21, 2008

You've got to make the time

The number one killer of a gaming group is schedule conflicts. All too often role-playing games are relegated to the bottom of the list of life priorities. But if you really love to play your favorite game, you have to learn to make the time. Or else you will never get to play anymore.

Work is the usual cause of schedule conflict. That is understandable. Work hours always takes precedence. Unless you have a job with flexible hours or a very understanding boss, there is little you can do except try to convince your group to move game sessions to a different time or day.

Family is the second most common cause of scheduling problem. This is sometimes unavoidable. Especially if you have kids. Having no kids myself, I can provide little advice in this regard. If you are a single parent with an infant, I imagine that gaming is almost out of the question unless you are the one hosting the game nights. If you are a parent with a spouse with children who are out of diapers, it seems to me that some sort of arrangement can be worked out. As children become older, it stands to reason that accommodating your favorite hobby might become easier.

Young people sometimes have problems scheduling games because of a boyfriend or girlfriend who is either uninterested in gaming or thinks it's a waste of time. If your significant other has never gamed before, you could try to get them interested and bring them along to a game session. This usually never works out but it's worth a try. It's very rare that a previously uninterested boyfriend or girlfriend will suddenly take an interest in tabletop strategy role-playing games. Even worse, you might have a romantic interest that is actively trying to prevent you from gaming because it's time that's not spent on her. This latter variety should be dumped. Your partner should respect your interests as much as you respect theirs. But this is a subject for Dear Abby.

Very young gamers can sometimes come into conflict with parents about gaming. Sometimes it's just a matter of doing your homework or getting good grades to earn the right to game. Then there are those parents who still believe the myths from the 1980s about D&D being somehow unwholesome. Even worse, there may be parents who are extremely oppressive. The only thing you can do is put up with their rules until you are an adult.

The bottom line is that it's your hobby. It's your passion. Engaging in your favorite pastime makes you happy. You look forward to the sessions every week and you feel satisfied when they conclude. Along with work, family, and romance, gaming is an important part of your life. If you want to play your favorite game, you have to make the time. You have to make it clear to everyone around you that this is an activity that you love and you should not be somehow ashamed of it.

Look at what others people do. They seem to be able to devote large quantities of time to other activities. An unreasonably high percentage of people in my country spend a half a dozen or more hours each week devoted to just watching some sport on television. Some people play football or soccer with their friends once a week. Or maybe they're members of a bowling or softball league. Personally, I find the time, money, and real estate usage dedicated to golf to be a complete mystery to me. All sorts of people engage in a variety of pastimes. You, as a gamer, like to engage in one of those pastimes. It's what you are. It's what you do.

In my humble opinion, one of the problems that face the gaming community is a lack of unified structure or organization. I have never been a member of the RPGA but perhaps I should investigate that further. I am trying to use to organize some sort of gaming group at my local Civic Center. I know there are RPG tournaments conducted at conventions. Why not outside of conventions?

Anyway, I have found that once you establish gaming as something important in your life and you make a point of devoting a regular time slot to your favorite hobby, the people around you in your life will eventually accomodate it. You might be surprised when your wife says to you one day, "I was going to invite the Smiths over for dinner on Tuesday but then I remembered that Tuesday is your game night."

It can happen. But you have to make the time.


Neon Elf said...

Indeed! I have a regular group of players, we meet weekly on Sunday night. We're all 30+ Three of the 5 of us are married, two with children (myself included). We don't play if someone is out, but if only one person is out, we frequently meet and play board games (euro style strategic usually).

I agree that as long as your hobby isn't conflicting with normal life stuff then it should fit in. If you have a family and kids, and are trying to watch sports for 6-12 hrs a week, go to the gym and play basket ball with your buddies for 3hrs a week and work on your car some weekends then you've got too much on your plate. However, for those who truly accept RPG as a hobby (and have a supportive spouse) it shouldn't be a problem to allocate 4 to 6 hours to your hobby.

The problem with an overall structured organization is that gaming groups are typically friends on a more personal level. I've been playing/seeing some of this group for 3 years now, several hours a week, almost weekly! We're friends and we get along outside of the game, as well as inside.

This is the best chemistry you can have for an RPG group. We make obscure references to movies, and the others instantly recognize it, etc. We can role play better together. By understanding the players, we can understand the separation between character and player, as well as have good character chemistry.

I don't think any large group of people could have that level of cohesion and closeness and would lack the spark that really makes a gaming group what it is. Going back to the hobby thing, some guys meet and play cards, but it's really an excuse to socialize (in so much as men do). So is Role Playing. Yeah we play a game, but we also talk about family, friends, politics, world events, Local events, etc.

Gamer Dude said...

A problem for sure... Another aspect that sometimes pops its ugly little head into gaming schedules is distance. Unfortunately, as you grow older, you're going to come across gamers who live further and further afield. This can cause issues.

Example: I started gaming with three buddies in Jr. High around 1977... I still game with two of them on occasion. The only problem is distance. They live quite a ways away now (1+ hours) and due to other circumstances, we aren't able to get together more than once per month. Sometimes less. For me though, it's the drive.

I'm the one who doesn't live in the same area as the majority of the group...So I drive. It can be a serious hassle and to be completely honest, I find myself bailing on occasion, just to avoid that drive. But these are the guys who I would (and did during university) hang out with at the drop of a hat. They're some of my best friends, sans gaming.

Neon mentioned that some people just have too much on their plates. I'm a likely candidate. I have a family (wife and 2 children), I am an avid mountain biker (4x / week), alpine skier (winter only of course), and home owner (w/ all the chores that entails). But I'm lucky in that I've got a VERY flexible job and a super cool boss. I make it work.

But saying that, I DO sometimes encounter some familial friction. I have a second group (much more local) that I regularly play with and we try and get together 3x / month. Now this isn't always possible, but when we're able we do schedule as often as possible. This has in the past caused a bit of consternation on the part of my significant other. So, I back off.

Which can cause a few problems w/ the group, see it's my place that is usually the game destination.

Anyway, the it's a combination of things...age, distance, availability of gamers (if you're remote you're not going to find the plethora available in a metro area), family, work, other hobbies / pursuits, conflicting schedules, etc. I agree, it's tough, but sure is worth it if you can make it work.

Oh, golf.... heh, I completely agree. ;-)

Gamer Dude said...

Hey as an aside, I was perusing Grognardia and happened upon your Illustrator map. Would you be interested in sharing some of your tips and tricks in Illustrator? I haven't done much recent work with Illustrator and could use all the help I could get. You can ping me at jeff dot faller at gmail dot come if you're willing.

M.gunnerQuist said...

Would you be interested in sharing some of your tips and tricks in Illustrator?

Perhaps that would make a great subject of a blog article.

When I first got into drawing maps on the computer, I checked out some of the map programs people were selling on the internet. I tried some of them out. But these programs were nowhere near as flexible as the art programs I already have. Then I realized that these map programs were for people who did not have experience with expensive professional computer art programs.

David said...

I must admit that when reading your gaming history here, I was a bit confused with all the attendance problems.

The group I've played with since college, notably the only group I've played with whatsoever, hasn't had this issue in any significant degree.

I first picked up the dice in college, during my sophomore year. Of course players would be in and out with regards to projects or papers, but once we had a day that we all agreed on to play, usually weekly, it was pretty much set in stone. If you had a paper due Monday, you finished it Saturday. You were busy on Sunday night. It was a commitment, not just something you could cancel on a whim.

That said, we did have people not show up from time to time, but you just let that character fade, typically, while everyone else fights harder to make up the absence.

Still, we were all friends. I suppose a random pick up group of people from the internet could be a bit more finicky.

Of course, after college, the group dispersed. We play now Tuesdays over Skype, an internet telephony service. It's a little more riddled with attendance issues, but not nearly so bad as you mention.

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