23 August 2006

Past Campaigns, Introduction (Finale)

Then again, "finale" might be too grandiose a word.

I suppose I could go on and on about other games and other gaming groups, but you know what? The experiences blend together into a montage of faces, poor dice rolls, character sheets, and snack food. I have trouble placing them all, let alone putting them into any kind of chronological order. For all I know, I've got my chronologies in the previous two posts mixed up. Twenty years of gaming will do that to a person, I guess.

Sometimes, the easiest way for me to remember the when of a game is to go back and check the dates of the files I wrote while running/playing in that game. If they even exist in the first place.

This isn't to say that I have no vivid memories of games long past, but some are definitely more memorable than others. There is also a long list of folks that I used to play games with, but who I've lost touch with. Where are they now? Do they still game? I have no clue. I sometimes wonder if one of these folks will see my name printed on the cover of a book I've worked on and say, "Hey, I used to game with that guy. What a dork!"

I was once referred to as too serious a gamer. In retrospect, I can see why those comments were made. When I scheduled a game, I worked hard at it and expected to play once the day arrived. Some social mingling was expected, sure, but if I'd scheduled a session, it was primarily a means to an end. I didn't see my attitude as a problem, though I can empathize. I was just a different sort of player than some of the folks I played with, and that's neither right nor wrong. Everyone gets enjoyment from the game in different ways, whether it's beating orc butt, telling a rousing tale, or just hanging out with folks you don't see very often. Our problem was that we didn't really communicate well, and it occasionally rubbed everyone the wrong way. That's just the way it is, I guess.

These days, I'm still serious about games, but I'm less inclined to get bent out of shape if we're a little too verbal. I consider the folks I play with to be friends, and I rarely see them outside of the games we play. The first 30-60 minutes of a game session are always spent catching up, eating food (whether bought or provided), and putting the cares of the real world on the back burner. If it occurs to me, I'll try to call a break at the half-way point in the evening, too.

As far as my goals as a gamer, as a player or a GM, they were originally ones of discovery and adventure. When I discovered gaming as a means of interactive storytelling (even though I would have never thought of it in those terms when I was 13), I was excited. I wanted to explore other worlds through the eyes of the players around me. I wanted to fight kobolds, blow hordes of bad guys to kingdom come with an automatic shotgun, and get rich doing it. The mechanics never mattered to me early on. Truly, it never even occured to me to create a character solely to gain the largest bonuses possible, or to exploit loopholes in the rules.

At some point, I did start looking at the rules of the games I played with a more critical eye. I grew to prefer certain systems and genres over others. Sure, I'd be happy to play in someone's Shadowrun game, but I'd prefer to play Cyberpunk 2020 any day of the week. Taste and preference are wonderful things, so long as they don't make you too exclusive. As with life, variety is also the spice of gaming. Play one system or setting too much, and you might not notice the other ones lurking just outside your field of view.

That's not to say that it doesn't hurt to be discriminating. I'd rather pry out my own toenails with a claw hammer than play Rolemaster, but I won't judge someone else in a negative light for preferring RM over my own favorite system.

I also feel that my (admittedly small) role in the gaming industry as a freelance writer and designer has jaded me a little bit. Once you see behind the curtain, you'll never quite think of gaming in the same light again. I had a glimpse of the way things were when I made my first futile attempts at breaking in, back in the late 90's, and it wasn't always pretty. This is a business, and it can make or break some folks. Consequently, there is a side of the industry that a lot of casual gamers never see. As a result, I take my obligations very seriously.

There's also the rare occurance of a rule that I wrote coming up in the games I play or run. It's rare, but it has happened.

On another tangent, entirely, is the assumption that industry folks are all good gamers who know the rules inside and out. As a general rule, I will strive to have extensive familiarity with the rules set I'm writing for, but that hardly makes me an expert that can quote chapter and verse word for word. I crack open my Player's Handbook as often as the next guy. I'm sure that, someday, I'll be an expert on d20's grappling rules. Until then, I'll dog ear that page and refer to it often. Amen.

As for being good gamers..? I can't say. I have had precious few opportunities to play in games with my industry peers. I know enough to say that we don't all have the same gaming styles or tastes, for whatever that's worth, and that merely goes back to my points about variety, and the fact that no one mode of play is right or wrong.

Anyway, that's about it for now. I reckon I can start pulling skeletons out of the gaming closet next; specific skeletons. Skeletons that, like Yoric, I once knew.


Cruel Buddha said...

Rule sets that I haven't worked on / played in more than 3 years are almost completely scrubbed out of my memory in favour of what I'm presently working on / playing.

In other words, I've forgotten quite a few rules that I've written.

Neil Spicer said...

You know, the more I read about your past experiences learning games and playing them over the years...the more I see myself.

I definitely fall into the "too serious a gamer" category. And I often embrace the "story-driven" philosophy towards gaming much more than the "kick butt" style of enjoyment some of my friends favor. But your words definitely hit home in that everyone gets enjoyment out of the hobby in their own unique way. And there's no sense or usefulness that comes from holding up one form as superior to another.

Even so...we should definitely track down a game together at next year's GenCon. Remind me of that when registration rolls around again. Or let's badger JD, or Sean, or Rob, or somebody into running a game for us.

Alan said...

Dissing Rolemaster! For shame! :>

I played a bunch of RM when I was in graduate school, and still have a fond place for it in my heart - the criticals especially.

Regarding styles of gaming, I find myself swinging between the "kick butt and take names" and "let's put together a really cool story" approaches.


brant said...

Both story and action can happen in the same game, and sometimes even at the same time. The players (including the GM) just have to work together to generate mutually enjoyable situations and build on them. It ain't easy, but it's possible with, as Gary said, good communication.

I can't talk much about being too serious or not serious enough. I've been way on both sides of that spectrum, frequently at the wrong times. Heheh. Ahem.