Did you know that you can save like $4 on any given gaming book by buying it online instead of buying it locally? Of course you did. If you’re here you’re an internet person and so you probably know about Amazon, the Googles, and some book of faces all the kids seem to be obsessed with these days. That being the case, I’m pretty sure most of you have purchased some amount of gaming accoutrements via the internet. I know I have.Here’s the question though. Should we be purchasing these things via the internet or should we be supporting our local businesses? I mean, that myopic, slightly anti-social, 43 year old virgin running the shop down the street is undoubtedly a fellow gamer. Not only that, but he is (arguably) living the dream. That dude is making a living selling games to fellow gamers. He has a profession within the industry he loves and is able to make ends meet while bringing other role-players the tools they need to spark and maintain new games. He is a kindred spirit for us; someone to be admired and helped along his merry way. Do we not have an obligation to support him in his venture? Perhaps not an obligation, but shouldn’t we want him to have the profits from our hobby rather than Amazon? Or maybe we shouldn’t? Really are there any benefits for us as consumers or as gamers to buying books and dice locally? The selections are smaller, the prices are higher, and the venues always seem to smell of hard salami and gym socks. What are the benefits of giving our business to the local shop when Amazon makes it so easy, charges nothing for shipping, and remembers what we bought so they can market similar items to us incessantly? The guy at the shop mostly looks down his nose at us for not knowing nearly as much as he does about this comic book or that gaming system. He beats all the local kids at Pokemon and has the best army of Space Marine minis every assembled under a single owner. He’s a geek alpha, he knows it, and has no qualms about rubbing your face in it because he has no social graces. I’m voicing these thoughts to you all because I honestly don’t know the answers. A few years ago I’d have said that buying from a local store was the way to go because the deaths of those stores reduces the number of jobs in that industry for fans to hold. The people at Amazon don’t care if you’re buying the new Cthulhu Tech book or a copy of Martha Stewart’s biography. That guy down at the local shop does because he’s one of us. It used to matter to me that my money went to people who understand and are involved in my particular sub-culture. Now, I’m not so certain. I hate shopping in person so very much. I hate sales people even if they are capable of helping me and understand that “please” works best not used as a last resort. I hate the travel time and the disappointment when they don’t have what I want (“We can order that for you” “Yeah. Sure. I’d just love to make the trip down here again after waiting two weeks only to find you ordered the wrong one.”) and the constant attempts to supersize my purchase that has infiltrated from McDonald’s down to even the most backwater family owned stores. Where is the incentive to buy local? Is it just simply a personal need to feel like I’m sticking it to “the man?” I mean, that’s really what it comes down to. It’s not like any local shop will have something I can’t find online. Even out of print books are easier to find on eBay than by going from shop to shop looking for them in person. Buying online is not only cheaper and easier, it is more reliable as well. The only drawback I can think of to online commerce is the Wal-Mart effect. That is to say that by buying from commercial juggernauts instead of privately owned businesses effectively funnels our collective buying power (which in a capitalist society equates to voting power) into the pockets of a distant, wealthy, and uninterested few instead of to a more diverse local group who are actually sympathetic to our interests. Keep in mind that the reason Wal-Mart and Amazon provide such spectacularly low prices at the moment is because that’s their niche. Once all the local shops are gone, there will be no one for them to undercut. No one to compete with means no more competition. At that point they will stop trying to undercut. Prices will go back to what we used to pay in person, free shipping will vanish and we’ll keep buying from them out of a lack of options. You may or may not believe this will actually come to pass, but that is what those companies are hoping for. What we’re talking about is their “best case scenario” and if they can get it to come to pass, they will lie, cheat, steal, or do whatever else they think they can get away with to make it happen. I’m not being biased, they’re corporations and corporations live by their charters, not morals, and their charters dictate that they improve their bottom lines without any reference to what ought and ought not be done in this endeavor. So it isn’t bias, these are their publicly stated goals. The people in positions of power may or may not have morals, but the corporations themselves do not. They unabashedly say as much. I know this post isn’t about gaming itself, but our past time is an escapist one and that makes us all escapists in one way or another. We tend toward not thinking about subjects like this if we don’t have to. It sort of comes with the escapist territory. We’d rather read books, watch movies, play games, or even just think about a fictional world than resort to contemplating the real one. That one (beyond our personal bubbles) is mundane on a good day and depressing on a normal one and down right frightening the rest of the time. Unfortunately, we (with our big brain muscles) represent the top 10% of the intelligence bell curve. That kind of makes it our job to think about problems like this and try to figure out how to solve them. Seriously, walk down the street some time and count the number of people you encounter whom you think are better qualified than you to solve the world’s big problems. Now try the same experiment while watching CNN. It’s sad.
Get it? “The Role of the Player”? Role-Player? Ahhhh… I kill me…Anyway, this blog is primarily aimed at GMs but they alone can not make a good game. On the contrary, a good GM can only do so much without the help and support of good Players. Hell, I’d go so far as to say that the Players’ attitudes and contributions probably make up the lion’s share of any given game. Mostly the GM is there simply to facilitate the Players experience. So what does a good Player do to help their GM? We’re going to come back around to this point again and again so we might as well throw it out there right at the beginning. A good player is open, honest, and involved with their GM on all aspects of the game. Point number one: tell your GM what your character is thinking and do it often. GM’s are not psychic. They can not read your mind nor can they read the mind of your Character. So you have to tell them what’s going on in there. Keeping secrets from your GM is never a good idea. GMs you’re going to have to accept that just because you thought something was the bee’s knees doesn’t mean it was what your players were hoping to spend their evening doing. Players it is up to you to keep your GM apprised of how the story is working on your Character so they know what is and isn’t working and are able to adjust the story accordingly. A good GM is trying to build their game toward your Characters, but they can’t tell you where they’re going with everything or what their NPCs are thinking because that would ruin the suspense and mystery of the game. You, on the other hand are perfectly able to tell the GM anything and everything about your end of things. You should jump at every opportunity to ramble about your Character’s point of view to your GM. Point number two: tell your GM what you (the Player, not the Character) thinks of the game. Just because you’re playing a fighter doesn’t make a game that is all combat enjoyable to you. Sure your Character is having a blast, but your enjoyment is the enjoyment that matters here. Your GM may not know this though unless you tell them. I know it is never fun telling your friend that their game is boring you to tears, but you have to tell the GM or you have no one but yourself to blame for the GM not knowing of your angst and/or boredom. Again, GM’s you’re going to have to be open to this kind of information as well. Getting offended that one of your Players isn’t enjoying themselves will not in any way improve the situation. If a Player has worked up the courage to tell you that your game is disappointing them for one reason or another, you owe it to them to be accepting of this information and to try and modify the game so that it works for them. Point number three: don’t cheat. I know. I know. This one should be obvious, but time and time again I find that it isn’t. Players, trust your GM and be honest with them. If they’re a good GM, you really have nothing to fear from missing this roll or that one. The game will unfold and failures can be just as entertaining as successes. Learn to be amused either way and try to think about how your Character would react to this set back rather than being pissed at your dice or lack of appropriate skill points, powers, or whatever. Point number four: play nice with your fellow Players. Yours is not the only Character in the game. You do not need to be involved in every single event that goes down nor do you have to be informed of all developments that come about. A role-playing game is all about point of view and if your Character isn’t present at something, don’t demand that the Characters that are call you or come get you or something like that. Do your thing and trust that the other Players will do theirs and that the GM will make sure that everyone is involved and has fun. Point number five: close that stinking book. Yes, role-playing games have rules. Yes, they are an important part of bringing the story to life. No, you shouldn’t spend all session pouring over the book and only participating when you find the loopholes that let you destroy the moon with a sling-shot. It’s role-playing, people. Put the book down and get into character. Have in-character conversations with the other Characters. Let the rules take care of themselves unless there is a serious question on the table. Then look up the rule, but get back to the role-playing as soon as you can.
When I was younger having a couple in the gaming group was rare and always caused huge amounts of drama as most things did when I was younger. However, it seems to have become more common as more and more of us pair up and start settling down. Lets face it, gamers either try to pair off with other gamers or they try to convince whomever they have decided to spend their life with that they should spend that life gaming. This can be difficult though because couple is a completely different entity than either of the individuals are on their own or even together (were they not in a relationship). Some people are less willing to indulge in some conversations and activities if their significant other is present. Some couples feel the need to confer on everything even if their Characters wouldn’t. How do you deal with this? Well, first you have to understand that this issue falls into three categories: Player/Player couples, GM/Player couples, Player/Observer couples.Player/Player couples are the easiest to deal with because as the GM you can enforce some policies that both of them have to adhere to. Most of this type of couple tend to have one member who is “more into it” than the other. What you need to watch out for is the “more into it” Player trying to play two characters for the price of one. Tackle this by starting your game with a C-gen session and requiring that significant others can’t make characters together. If the “more into it” Player doesn’t have a hand in the C-gen of the other’s character, they’re less likely to feel any kind of ownership of it. If the “less into it” person is inexperienced (and they usually are) assign someone other than their significant other to help them through C-gen or help them yourself (this latter being the better option). While the game is running, keep an eye out for the “more into it” Player suggesting courses of action to or performing the math/rolling dice for or even speaking for their SO’s character. Politely but firmly discount what the “more into it” Player has said (I’ve used the phrase “Hay! Who’s talking to you, chuckles?” and it worked well for me), make eye contact with the “less into it” Player, and ask them directly what they’re doing, what their roll was, or what their character said/did. Make it clear that they have to be involved. Also, taking them aside and running them through encounters without their SO being present will help a lot. In other words, cut the “more into it” Player out of the loop. A little time and attention can do wonders for meek Players and that’s really what this comes down to. Give them your time, but remember not to focus all of your time on this one Player or your game will suffer. Player/Observer couples, in my opinion, are just a Player/Player couple taken to the extreme. One person wants to come to game, but insists that they don’t want to play. How do I handle this? I refuse. No observers at my games. No exceptions. I mention that I don’t like observers in advance, but otherwise say nothing till the first session and then I insist that they make a character. In this way I turn the Player/Observer couple into a Player/Player couple and deal with it like that (see above). This may sound unreasonable to some of you, but I’ve never done this and not had the former Observer ending up becoming a Player for life and thanking me in the end for forcing the issue. 100% success rate. Hard to argue with, huh? GM/Player couples. That one’s a doozy. I’ve seen whole gaming groups crumble because of this and it’s hard to deal with because as the GM you’re part of the problem. I was once in a game where we were all supposed to make pirates. We all did, except the SO’s girlfriend who made a horse-archer. It was amazing how many boats we encountered that were built perfectly to house horses. All of the bad guys conveniently got close enough for the horse to jump onto the opposing ship. Every pirate’s treasure was hidden somewhere easily accessible by horse. A pirate captain even challenged our “leader” to a duel… that duel to consist of a joust followed by an archery contest. So lame… I was also told of a game where the SO alone was allowed to take a set of abilities which were (with some effort) able to double for any other abilities in the game and (because of a quirk concerning the way their SO’s character was built) those abilities would cost them half price in terms of xp. By the end of the game that Player had to imagine reasons for why their character would let the other Players participate in things rather than just saving the world on their own. Seriously, it was as if they had gotten twice as much advancement fuel as the rest of the team. I’m told the story was very imaginative and the game well run, but in spite of that the end game sounds more than a little lackluster to me because of the incredible power gap. Ouch. Here’s the best advice I have. Do your best not to steer the game completely in your SO’s direction. Include lots of face time with the other Players. Make a point of alternating which Player each session focuses most on. Oh, and for the love of god don’t let your SO become noticeably more powerful than the other players. If another Player becomes a little more powerful, no one will care. If your SO becomes more powerful than the others, it will be instantly noticed and the reason for it assumed (probably accurately). Finally, talk to your SO about it. The person with the GM’s ear for the largest amount of time outside of game tends to have some advantage in the amount of GM thought that has gone into seeing things from their character’s point of view. That’s just to be expected. However, if you acknowledge the possible issues and explain to your SO that for the purpose of game they’re just another player and that you may not want to discuss game with them at times they should understand. A good SO will anyway. If they don’t. I pitty you, and not just for your gaming career.
Well, I’m glad to see that you all didn’t fly away aboard the good ship Rapture with “Macho Man” Randy Savage over this weekend. If you had, who would read my blog? Oooh Yeah!Anyhow on to today’s topic. First, find a group. If this is your first game, any group will do, just get started asap. As with any endeavor there is always a reason to put it off till later and the longer you wait, the less likely you will start at all. Next, you probably shouldn’t be the GM, but if your whole group is comprised of first time gamers, someone needs to start the GM rotation and it might as well be you. If you’re going to GM, don’t do it reluctantly; jump on that shit. Get jazzed about it. The GM more than any other group member has to be into it and own it. Remember, it’s your job as the GM to keep your players interested and the story moving along. If you don’t really want to be there, it will show in your game. Pick a setting. I would recommend Pathfinder (or D&D 3.5) to start with. Avoid anything modern day or science fiction (and D&D 4th Ed which is a bored game not an RPG). We all have some kind of experience with the Fantasy setting even if it is just in the form of fairy tales so it is easy to latch on to. Also, with Fantasy your options are fairly limited at every stage of the game. This is a good thing to start with and I’d even recommend a further limiting by restricting your alignments to any Lawful and any Good. Evil is best left for later games and you’re not nearly as likely to offend any of your new players and drive them away so early in the journey. Now make a character while your players are making theirs and then throw yours away. You just want to know what they went through in this section, not to take on two roles in the group. Why no modern day games? Because we all know too much about modern day. If you run in a fantasy setting you can simply declare whether or not the king is evil or which countries are backward without the need to justify your declarations politically or rationally or historically. Also, if you’re running your game for a group of geeks, some of them will be more informed on some subjects than you are. Having your computer enthusiast friend play a hacker in your game and dictate to you what they can and can’t accomplish in your world is pretty lame especially for your first or even just an early GMing experience. Go with an entirely fictional world where science takes a back seat for your first trip out. You’ll thank me later. Don’t let the Players play themselves. For some reason (and I was as guilty of this as anyone) it is attractive to new gamers to try and imagine what their personal stats (the player’s stats) would be and then to make a PC that is them in paper’n’dice form and play that. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Think about it, if one of your friends playing themselves betrays you playing yourself. What does that say about your friendship? Besides, they get to be themselves everyday. This is role-playing. Bite the bullet and be someone else for a while. When you get right down to it, that’s kind of the point of this escapist past time. Use a table and keep the game regular. I recommend reading my earlier GM Tools post on Tables. Put simply, a table keeps people focused on what is being done at that table. This is good for new gamers. Keeping the game regular (on a certain night of the week, every week, with as few exceptions as possible) does what a table does with space except a schedule does it with time. With these two things in place you have a an easy path of focus for your group to adhere and most people take the easy path when given a choice. Trust me. It will help keep your group going. Start with a mod. A mod is a game story (with encounters, NPCs, maps, dialogue, and advice) that has been pre-written for you. They sell them where ever gaming books are sold so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding one. Or check the internet. I’m sure there are free mods available somewhere. I don’t use mods anymore, but I used to and when I did, they were a great help for a n00b GM. At the time I had no idea how to put together a story. With a mod it’s all right there for you. Use enough of them, and you should get the hang of what sort of developments need to happen at which points in a game. Once you have that down, you can take the mod training-wheels off your game and ride like a big boy. Till then, use them. That’s what they’re there for. Don’t fret if the PCs stray from the line-course of your mod. Actually, I’d say you should encourage this. As I mentioned earlier, I used to use mods and to my knowledge absolutely none of them ever turned out the way the writers said they ought to have. The mod is just a framework. It should only spark the creative juices. You and the players should supply the constant flow of it. If your players wander off to a section that has been left undefined by the mod’s author, make something up. It might be the wrong thing and it might not turn out well, but these are the risks GMs must take. Wing it often enough though and you’ll eventually learn to use those wings pretty well. Finally, don’t be too stingy with the xp and the gold (the advancement in other words) and keep the game moving along. An extremely easy combat during the first session is a good idea for any game regardless of the experience levels of the people involved and I’d say no more than one combat per session. If you’re finding that combat is taking up all of your game time, cut some of it out. I’ve seen 5 hours of gaming cover 5 rounds of combat (that’s 30 seconds of in game time) and that’s lame. All of the story development happens outside of combat so if you’re having too much combat, your story is going nowhere. Try and let your PCs level fairly often (once every couple of weeks) so they get an idea of how characters progress and so you can justify ending the game after 6 months to a year. You don’t want it going on longer than that. Why? So you can quickly move on to your next game and apply what you learned in your first game. If you never move on, you never get to apply what you’ve learned.
“That’s a good idea!” “Nice job!” “Way to roll that 20! Daddy needs a new Sword of Wounding!”
Recognition is when you give positive reinforcement to your Players for a job well done or even just for a fortuitous roll of the dice. It’s important to remember that you are on the side of the Players rather than rooting for the house. So go ahead and tell your Players when they did well or when they had a flash of genius; especially when that flash of genius was something you hadn’t thought of. However, there is more to it than this.
You’re the GM so your recognition of the PCs’ actions is just as important as verbally encouraging your Players. Yes, I’m talking about the Players and the PCs as if they’re different people. Stay with me on this. As the GM you can tell your Players if they done good and that’s just fine, but the real fun of the game is when what happens in the game itself. So you need to be sure to give encouragement from both directions: In-Character as well as Out-Of-Character.
Out-Of-Character seems to me to be by far the easier of the two for most GMs to accomplish. I’ve been in many games where the GM complimented me on a good idea and commiserated with me in the same breath over how it failed. Personally, as GM, I’ll reward imaginative, out-of-the-box thinking with In-Character success far more often than I will for a randomly successful die roll. I mean, I’ve never had a set of dice thank me for a fun game. Players on the other hand…
So when someone comes up with a good idea that really impressed you, lower the difficulties of the rolls that are necessary to accomplish it. Point them in the right direction. Give some benefit to thinking around problems instead of rolling through them. And there’s no reason not to tell your Players when you’re doing this! Even the rule-players (as opposed to role-players) will enjoy this because it puts some kind of cost/benefit rule into their minds regarding creative thinking! Everybody wins!
In-Character recognition is something you’ll have to be more crafty for and we’re not talking about more gold or XP or whatever. The sort of thing I’m referring to is having a big baddie who has been thwarted by the PCs once before acknowledge this during their witty banter. Something like, “I’ve underestimated you before, Mint-Berry Crunch. Trust me. It shan’t happen again.”
- The Ewok method; big battle won, locals through a party with the PCs as the guests of honor.
- Formal raising of rank for a PC in an In-Character ceremony before their peers, if such a thing is appropriate, can also work.
- Give a religious character an audience with their deity or even that deity’s right hand messenger if you’d like to work up to talking directly with god.
What’s awesome is that during any of these things more responsibility can be handed to the PCs and they’ll usually be happy to take it because they’re experiencing the rewards of success right then and there.
Further, if you feel up to it, you could even explore what I call The Ghostbusters Method:
“Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes… The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”
Think about it. What better kind of recognition of the actions of a few could there possibly be except when the cosmos at large pauses and notices what they’re doing? Astrological signs like eclipses (Heroes), comets (A Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin), conjunctions (The Dark Crystal), or a guiding star (The New Testament) are really good examples. Things like these are good because they don’t directly alter what’s going on, but they let your PCs (and Players) know that the things they are doing now, while seeming trivial, will eventually be of monumental importance. It not only reassures them that they are on the right track, but tells them they are doing a good job on it. Of course they are. The heavens just did a double take.
The important thing you should take away from this is that rewards do not just come in the form of XP, gold, magic items, or other “on the character sheet” forms. These kinds of rewards don’t even need to be given in public! 1-on-1 Face Time will sometimes even aid in underlining the importance this sort of recognition to your PCs and Players because now it’s not just cool, it’s a secret as well. Be creative. Your Players will reciprocate in kind and your game can’t help but benefit from it.
If you’ve been gaming as long as I have you’re sure to have encountered one or more of the following player types.1. The Bearer of the Perfect Character
This is the guy who comes to your game with a character whose history and experience is detailed and extravagant. At first you’re amazed at how much thought obviously went into this C-gen. Then you hear the seven words which make your heart fall “The last game I played him in…” Now you understand that the history of this particular character is so detailed because this player has been playing this same character since it was a zygote. Beware this guy. He may be willing to tone down the accumulated power of his character or change the name, but in his head the character will have reasons for this (in hiding, power drained by a big baddie, amnesia, etc), but he will always want you to allow certain things based on the precedents set by his old GMs. He will also only be able to hold on to his thin veneer of newness for just so long. Eventually he will want his character of many faces and many names to be revealed for the well traveled, knowledgeable, and powerful juggernaut he truly is. Don’t fall for it. Tell them they have to make a new (brand new and unrelated to any old PCs) character or take their business elsewhere. Trust me. You’ll be happier for it. 2. Curly
This is the guy who comes to your game, often as someone’s friend who wants to learn to game, and can’t take the game seriously. They have their character say or do things that are amusing to them Out Of Character and make no sense In Character. Usually these outbursts are followed by phrases like “C’mon. It’s just a game.” or “I’m just having fun.” or “What’s the big deal?” Dump ’em. I know that sounds harsh, but unless you’re playing something comedic like Paranoia all they can do is detract from your game and they won’t ever understand your reasons for not liking this. Getting into character and taking the game seriously are necessary parts of this past time. This person will pull the other Players out of their characters and out of the setting. Think of it like you’re directing a play. If one of your actors constantly shows up not knowing their lines or can’t get through a single scene without breaking character, your production would be better off with someone (anyone, even an NPC drone) in their place. They may be the blood brother of one of your players, but that doesn’t give them the right to ruin your game. Give them one chance to shape up and then politely ask them to go to a bar somewhere and play the class clown instead of doing it in your game. 3. Perry Mason
Also known as The Rules-Lawyer. This is the player who knows the book rules of whatever game you’re running inside and out; probably better than you do. They have all the books and have been playing in this setting for years and can guess what monster is lurking in the shadows from the first three words you speak about it like they were playing Name That Tune. How lame is that? Perry is a hard player to deal with. First of all, he wouldn’t know this much about the rules if he didn’t have a section of his heart hollowed out specifically so he’d have a place to carry the rules around with him where ever he went. He loves the rules. It is the first part of his joy from gaming. He like maps and minis and pouring over indexes. Most of all he loves being right. My primary advice is to run using a setting Perry is inexperienced with. Believe me, it won’t take him long to become experienced with it (see the above paragraph on loving the rules), but it will at least give you time to learn it along with him so you don’t have to constantly be interrupted by this guy telling you that you’re wrong. Further, you should state at the beginning of your game that you reserve the right to modify or flat out junk any rules you see fit with no warning. All modern games come published with this advisement printed somewhere in them, but it usually helps to be up-front about it. Finally, you should encourage them to give logical reasons why something should or shouldn’t happen rather than rules based reasons. “The car shouldn’t blow up because gasoline isn’t flammable in that fashion” as opposed to “The rules say that a car needs to take 30 points of structural damage before blowing up and it can’t have taken more than 25 because of X, Y, and Z.” Reward one and shrug off the other. If you’re consistent, Perry will learn this rule as well. 4. Samson
A hair cut? Really? That’s it? This is the Player that takes flaws which are extremely crippling, simple to exploit, and a little silly because they believe that if they throw themselves upon the mercy of the GM, they’ll get the extra build points and never have to deal with the flaw being used against them. Paraplegic hackers who never leave their homes, blind monks who “see” with other senses, modern day characters with phobias of elephants or polar bears, etc.Deal with this guy by being blunt as well. State at C-gen that all (not some, but all) flaws will come into play in your game and that the intensity with which they will do so will be based on the number of bonus points they granted the Player in question. The paraplegic hacker’s home will be assaulted early and often. The blind monk will have to cut the red wire. Afraid of elephants? Well the big baddie wants to meet under a flag of truce… at the zoo. Make sure this is understood at the beginning and then take a player who still tries this aside and make sure they are fine with a game populated by polar bears before beginning. Tell them that if they wanted something like this to be more flavor than substance, then they should take it for no points and you won’t worry about making sure it comes up. Then create a check list of your Players’ flaws that gave points and make sure each of them gets kicked at least once a month in a real and hindering sort of way. If you do this and follow through on it, these guys will eventually learn to take flaws based on a character idea rather than just for points. Remember to not be vindictive though. Be sure that you use your imagination and incorporate these flaws into the game in a believable fashion. There are more of these, but this post is getting a little long. I guess we’ll add to it later.
I would be quite surprised (nay, flabbergasted) if you don’t know what an MMORPG (or just an MMO) is, but for those of you living under a rock somewhere MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. It is where you pay a monthly fee to create a character with a bunch of combat skills and even sometimes a few non-combat skills (tailoring, mining, buggery, etc) and take the time you’d otherwise spend reading, playing real (paper’n’dice) games, eating, sleeping, paying your bills, watching TV, etc to instead live, fight, politic, and socialize in a digitized fictional realm. Now this is all well and good (I’ve played in my share of these, too) but here’s the problem: it’s too easy.Wow. I think I just heard all of you from thousands of miles away through the glowing guts of the very internet itself start howling in unison about buffs, nerfs, game balance, noobs, and mad skillz. Be cool. For the record, that isn’t what I’m talking about. Here’s what I’m talking about. To form a real game you have to go out, interact with real people whose opinions you must care about and respect, get the books, decide upon a GM, make characters, set aside a regular time every week, show up, and use your imagination. To play an MMO you just need a PC, the game, an internet connection, and a steady supply of faceless and expendable internet douch-bags. It’s too easy and so in a pinch, gamers I would otherwise respect take the path of least resistance and instead of putting in the leg work for a real game, they settle for an MMO. Shame on you. I’m sorry to hit you all where it really hurts, but here’s a good rule of thumb: If you do not play real games anymore, then you aren’t a real gamer anymore. Would you call someone who was in a band in high school, but hasn’t dusted their instrument off in years a musician? No, of course not. You are what you spend your time on. If you spend your time weaving baskets then you are a basket weaver. If you spend your time driving to work, then you are a commuter. If you own a bike, but don’t ride it, you are not a bicyclist. Similarly, if you do not spend your time playing real games, then you are not a real gamer, even if you used to. There are the standard arguments to what I’m saying and I have no respect for them, but I’ll list them here all the same. The first is that MMOs are gaming just on the computer instead of in person. The second is that it’s hard to find a group to play real games with. On the first: MMOs are not gaming. Period. They do not involve imagination. They are not free form in any way. They are a box that you are not allowed to think outside of. A very pretty box to be sure, but a box all the same and one with no more Role Playing in it than a choose-your-own-adventure book with all the big decision pages dog-eared. Don’t believe me? Here’s a test. Can you tell when school gets out on the East Coast because suddenly everyone is a “fag” or becomes enthralled with removing their female character’s clothing/armor and dancing simply to watch the pixels gyrate? Is that really part of the Runtera (or whatever) culture? Still rolling your eyes? Here’s another. What percentage of your conversation while MMOing (which I prefer to pronounce “mooing” for obvious reasons) is devoted to In Character dialogue rather than Out Of Character rules/tactics discussions? Uh-huh. Oh and I know that such poor percentages exist in the paper’n’dice world as well, but I wouldn’t classify those games as “real games” either. What’s that? You play on a Role Playing server do you? Same question… Be honest and think about the last real game you had fun in for comparison… Yeah. That’s what I thought. On the second: Boo-hoo-hoo. When I moved to Seattle I had everything I owned on my back, slept in a hostel, and worked very long Christmas hours in a warehouse that was a 2 hour bus commute away, oneway. No car. No money. No books. No dice. Yet I was able to build a gaming group. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find away. Sure my first couple of gaming groups were pretty lame and one of them was a game purely run by a dude whose whole motivation was trying to score with a stream of random, cute, gamer boys. The only long term players in that gamer were the GM, his boyfriend (who was more powerful than god in the world) and the several inedible chunks (straight guys) who had gotten caught by mistake in the net. I attended though, had fun and eventually used people from that group to build myself another, better group. In other words, it was important to me so I worked toward what I wanted and didn’t just give up. Tenacity and imagination, people. Remember when you had those? Remember when you actually laughed at jokes instead of typing “lol” without so much as a smile on your face? Remember when your character would come to a fence and you had the option of climbing over that fence instead of simply respecting the borders of the map? Remember when there was the option of tricking the bad guys instead of just mashing your numbers into their numbers? Remember when you interacted with real people instead of spending your evenings twitching, dressed only in your underwear, before the blank stare of your flickering god? Remember when you got XP for role-playing as well instead of just for killing things? Remember when the grinding was what you did to pepper instead of to a million re-spawning identical creatures for a pittance of XP each because it’s not like you were going to do anything else of worth tonight? Free yourselves I say! I’m aware that pretending to be an elf is not much better than letting the computer pretend for you in the grand scheme of things. No one is going to win any Nobel prizes for either past time, but at least one of them exercises your brain and helps make you into a more interesting person! Take your lives back! MMOing is for cattle, not gamers! This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper. – T. S. Eliot