Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Community Unplugged

Yesterday's Firefly play report marked the 100th Entry of the Failing Forward Blog. I'm not a toot-my-own-horn-type, but man...100 blog entries. There are only a few things I've done 100 times in this world. Of those things, most of them aren't worth mentioning. But 100 blog entries? Damn, self. I'll write more on that later, but I'd just like to recognize that, before I've done another 100 entries and forgotten about it!

I have decided to hold back on the analysis portion of Sunday's Firefly game. I'll get back to it tomorrow or Thursday, maybe, but I'm not particualrly inspired to write about it right now.

Speaking of that Firefly game...in the days since we got together, my group have been circulating emails to each other on how happy they are with the group and the game and how grateful they are for being a part of it. One player in my group remarked that she's lived in this area for three years and hadn't made any friends until now. Not only do we all really have a great time playing RPGs together, we genuinely respect, appreciate, and just plain like each other as people. I am very grateful to have them in my life. Behold the power of tabletop gaming! It's not just the game.  It's not just the rules. It's the people. It's the connections. It's the friendships.

Contrast this to a recent column I read on MMORPG.com. There, the writer laments the breakdown of communication in MMORPGs. He talks sadly about how built-in social elements in MMO's of the past are gone, "modernized" out of existence, and with it, a chance to meet new people and make new friends. He openly wonders how the MMO industry can get that sense of community back, and make MMO's a genre once again where players can meet new people and form bonds and friendships and so on.

The one thing I hate worse than watching a troll ruining a perfectly good comments section is being a troll myself. So I have come here, to my home on the internet, to express my thoughts on the topic:

There never has been, and never will be, an online gaming community stronger, more intimate, and friendlier than one formed at a tabletop, face-to-face with other people, playing a tabletop game.

Yes, yes, yes...I know all about the weddings that have happened in World of Warcraft. I've heard all about the friendships and bonding that can happen in MMO's. I'm not saying that stuff can't happen. I'm saying it happens more consistently, more often, and overall better in tabletop gaming than in videogaming.

I know most people wouldn't actually argue that point, but I just feel like it's a point worth keeping in mind, as videogames become more and more the main facet of a gamer's life. I feel like it's important to point out to the greater, non-tabletop gaming community that yes, there is a way to game and make meaningful relationships. Those weddings and what-not? Sorry to say, but they are exceptions that prove the rule. The reason they've become internet legends is because they are so uncommon.

In an MMO, I'll play for a few weeks. I'll join a guild, maybe engage in some fun chats with guildies. If I'm playing a game that scales well, like Guild Wars 2, I may even actually play with them. But then, one day, I'm done playing the game. I cancel my subscription or uninstall the game. And those "friends" I made in that guild are gone. They might as well have been figments of my imagination. Does it have to be this way? Of course not. But it is, for me and for many other videogamers.

Many of us turn to videogames to get a break from reality, not to create a new one. Tabletop gaming allows both, simultaneously. When I started a Dungeon World group over a year ago, I had about ten people who were a regular part of it. Two sessions in, I abandoned the game. I still regularly talk and interact with people who were in that group, and we'd only met twice prior! Later on that year, I started a second group, using Fate Core (and later switching to my own AW hack, World Gone Mad). That group fell through after about three sessions. Sure enough, I'm still good friends with several of the members of that group, too. And now I have this group. We've been playing together for not even a year, and many of them are better friends than I'd ever had in my formative years in high school, or college, or the Army. When I think about the powerful bonds I've formed with people in face-to-face tabletop gaming, and I compare it to the "communities" that MMOs/videogames have? I almost feel sorry for them.

So, as always, I end this strong opinion post with a multi-part disclaimer that anyone with a brain would take as a given. However, since there are people out there who, in their righteous fury, fail to see the forest for the trees (I, too, have been guilty of this in the past; no high-horsin' it here), I offer this:

1. I LOVE VIDEOGAMES. My post is essentially about the great friends I've made since I became actively involved in tabletop gaming as an adult. Though I do sincerely believe videogames cannot match this social experience, please do not extrapolate from that that I hate videogames. Even despite a 100-entry blog mostly about tabletop gaming, I am an avid videogamer, and I am not suggesting some kind of hippie movement away from consoles.

2. Your mileage may vary. I'm sure there are at least a few videogamers out there that can tell me all about the amazing bonds they've forged with fellow guildmates and what-not. Good for you. Go write your own blog about it!

3. What about people who live in remote areas and can't get a real group together? That's a different topic that I may tackle some other day. For now, know that I'm not talking about you, and I sympathize with your plight.

3. I am no one. I claim no official authority here, neither on tabletop nor videogaming. I am not a paid journalist. I only have a few regular readers. If what I've written deeply offends/upsets you, you may want to take a close look at your life decisions, because Random Nerd on the Internet should not be able to affect you like this.






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