Sidetrek #1

Our College of Gaming column usually focuses on guidance and advice on how to be a better game master and player. We explore a lot of different rule concepts and how they have developed over time. We also offer personal suggestions based on our own experiences as the game table. But sometimes it is important to look at our hobby at a broader perspective and to move away from the granular mechanical aspects in favor of the richer social ones.

All game tables are social gatherings since multiple people are present. Events like our Guild Game Nights are very social with thirty-odd people across two rooms and six or seven tables. Have you noticed the buzz in the air at those gatherings? And, no, I am not speaking of the volume level but the feeling of a group of people sharing in an experience. That sort of vibe is an important part of human sociology and it enforces the positive communal nature inherent in a shared endeavor. It also strengthens the enjoyment of the activity when we sense others enjoying it at the same time. I think one of the reasons why we find ourselves in a gaming hobby renaissance is because of that very social positive reinforcement.

Gaming conventions, even small ones, are orders of magnitude larger than our biggest Guild Game Nights. The sensation of a few hundred people freely engaging in and enjoying a common pastime is exhilarating. Taking part in an unfamiliar game with fellow hobbyists who know it better than you do often results in the adoption of a new favorite and certainly lowers the learning curve. Exchanging stories, tips and opinions on various aspects of gaming is an even richer experience in a large-scale face-to-face environment than it is in the relative anonymity of social media. And being able to submerge oneself in the escapism of the adventure game hobby for an extended period of time is a remarkably freeing and relaxing respite from our often stressful real lives.

Another positive outcome of attending a gaming convention is the surge of creativity it generates. Seeing highly-detailed miniatures and terrain spread across a room full of ten-foot tables, browsing through new (and old!) game books, sitting in on adventure scenarios and hearing the ideas of others always is inspiring to the naturally-creative gamer. New characters, new encounters, new campaigns and/or new settings seem to spring up in mind for days after a good convention outing as do thoughts on how to take someone else’s ideas and put them into my existing hobby output. And finding common ground with a fellow gamer that results in a creative partnership is even more thrilling.

Medium- and large-scale gaming conventions happen all over the country with many within an easy travel distance from Lakeland. Whether nearby or farther ways, make the effort to find one and attend. Our hobby thrives on such interaction and so does our sense of being creative humans. Go to a show!