If you’re not…

Kings made tombs more splendid than houses of the living and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry; in secret chambers withered men compounded strong elixirs, or in high cold towers asked questions of the stars. And the last king of the line of Anárion had no heir. – J.R.R.T

Here’s an assertion, let’s see how it flies:

If you’re not having the best gaming of your life right now…

If gaming isn’t getting better for you as you go along…

If gaming isn’t becoming even more fun as you learn more techniques and refine the basics…

…then you’re fucking up.

I am not saying that your past games were not fun.  I am sure that if you say they were fun, they were fun.  But maybe, just maybe, those past games are so great in hindsight because they are all bound up with a time in your life and those feelings are vaguely about gaming and more about the freedom and beauty of an era.

I am not talking about a particular four hours that for whatever reason stand out above.  I am talking about the weekly act of getting together with friends and getting your geek on.

I am not talking about folks at war overseas or in graduate school or who have just had a huge lifestyle change (baby, sickness, mourning, etc.).  I am talking about looking back on past games with such rose-tinted glasses that it becomes an impossible, unrealistic standard.

I am talking about looking back with such nostalgia at the suffering and expense of the now.  It isn’t that every game needs to be a home run or even that failure and mess-ups are not longer acceptable.  But there should come a point where the grooves far outweigh the ruts.

If this doesn’t become more and more fun as you gather with friends and the trust deepens and we all just get better and better and pretending to be…elves or whatever, then why game?

And maybe I will wake up in the morning and apologize for ever posting this.  I had a nice night of gaming and got all session-high.

Good night.

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29 thoughts on “If you’re not…

  1. It’s true though. We have so many games that cater to so many possible tastes. So many techniques and ways to get exactly the gaming you want. Some of it’s new games, some of it’s better understanding and terms for old ways of doing things.

      • Okay because I guess I only sort of understand what you’re saying here then, and maybe that’s my problem because everyone else seems to get it.

        That the gaming we’re doing right now should, as a rule, be better than the gaming we did ten years ago? Or that the gaming with a specific group should be improving over time as you become more comfortable with one another?

        • The gaming you are doing right now should not be a sickly pale shadow of this romanticized, no longer attainable gaming you did in the past.

          • Did you see the Daily Show report on Republicans always talking about the Good Old Days? It reminds me of that.

            Of course things were better when you were a kid, you were a KID. You didn’t have bills and mortgages and crap.

            • Yes, us talking about that in the kitchen, coupled with some IMing with gaming buddies and a great game last night and a post-game talk with Pete probably inspired this post more than anything.

            • I have plenty of fond RPG memories from my youth. But I would say that, overall, I’ve had way more fun since I got back into gaming in 2001. The games are better, I can afford lots of them, and I have a car, so I can drive to a weekly game, or GenCon, or Forge Midwest, etc. I feel much more part of a community, meet more people, and even organize the local ENWorld Gameday.

              Various issues aside, my adult gaming has been way more rewarding.

  2. Judd, I hope you don’t wake up and apologize for this awesome post. I hope you wake up and find this idea spreading across the blogosphere. I hope you hear a rising chorus of afirmative cheers as we look at each of our games as a new chance to be awesome. Thank you.

  3. Judd, you’re a mensch. I am forwarding this to my gaming buds… some of whom I don’t play with anymore, due to our play getting less fun over time.

      • A lot of the typical reasons, I think. Staunch refusal to play anything but D&D, incompatible play styles (mostly power-gaming creating an “arms race” that left the casual players out in the cold, and made each session into minis skirmish play), and honestly some social BS about who “owned” the group and such.

        It was a great group of people, most all of whom I am still good friends with, but the play issues just wore on us as time went on. A couple of us who see more eye-to-eye have split off and are having a lot more fun. And playing Diaspora! Woo!

        Lesson learned: sometimes you just need to move on.

        • I dig. Tony LB told this great story about having friends with whom he just couldn’t game with anymore. They found other cool shit to do.

  4. My gaming right now is not the best, or even getting better. See my thread at SG? We’re still having fun, thank god, and we’re still trying to top what we’ve done before as a group – but the pressure is off for now. Sometimes you need to fly a holding pattern to keep your squadron in the air.

  5. ::thinks for a moment::

    Yeah, totally. Maybe not gaming as much as during the “good ole days,” but each game now is so friggin poignant. Well, maybe not each one, but certainly hitting a 95% score for sure.

    • I am not saying that looking back on fun past games isn’t a rockin’ and worthy activity.

      But I hear too many gamers, both online and off talk about these golden era days that are long ago and far away and so much better than the gaming now and I wince.

      • No. As I commented on JJ’s post on this same topic, I may miss the amount of opportunities to play that I had back in high school/early college, but as fun as those games were, I much prefer the game I game now. I mean, I’ve grown, and I fully expect the game I game in 5, 10, 20 years from now to be the best as well.

  6. I look back with nostalgia on games from High School. It was a new world back then, and we had almost nothing to do but game.

    What keeps me gaming now is the ritual of gathering with friends and having a few laughs. The gaming itself is often boring and frustrating, but it allows us to riff in a humorous way on the situations and characters and ends up being fun for this reason. The old tropes don’t hold our attention like they used to, and after three of four hours we’re usually ready to call it a night.

    We don’t get better over time, because we don’t know any other way.

    Whoa. I’m starting to ramble. The post touched a nerve.

    • Kevin,

      If you’re satisfied with your situation, then that’s cool. But I think your post has ennui dripping all over it, and that hints that you wish things could be different but, as you put it, you ‘don’t know any other way’.

      But there are other ways – and you can explore them without going too far afield, if you’ll let yourselves.

      It might be as basic as finding NEW tropes that DO hold your attention.

      Or, listen to the back catalog of Sons of Kryos and you’ll begin to see the old tropes with new lenses, perhaps.

      If you want to, that is.

      • Actually, Mick, the old shows are off-line and not attainable at the moment. It is a bummer that I am seeking to remedy.

        Let’s give Kevin some space, guys and not trip over each other trying to dunk him in our holy waters and save his gaming soul.

        • My post was more apathetic than I intended, but I do think my group is “fucking up” by not trying to get better. I want to have the same social fun, but with memorable games too. That would be cool.

          My group is old-school with little interest in RPG theory, but as long as I don’t get too “Iron John” on them I think they’d be open to trying new approaches. There are a lot of good ideas floating around from RPG thinkers such as yourselves, Robin Laws, Luke Crane, etc. that are grounded in observation of what really works at the table. This year I want to start bring some of these things into our games.

          • The advice I generally hear on this is to simply see if they’d be interested in playing a game that embraces the kind of techniques you hope to introduce. I.e., don’t actively try to sell them on theory and stuff. Just say something like, “I have this cool game about playing ranger-jedi mice*; you guys wanna play?”

            * Mouse Guard, of course.

  7. Awesome, if a bit unfocused post. (As many gutsy ones are)

    Having made my online ‘career’ about getting better as a GM to push my gaming group toward better gaming experience I wholly agree with your core message.

    The ‘our game sucks’ comment also break my heart because they reek of immobility and possibly lack of leadership (not the bossy type, the ‘let’s try this type).

    In response to Kevin, I think the solution lies not in ‘discussing’ RPG theory… 95% of gamers don’t care about it… but rather put the theory in the game like I try doing by mixing Indie elements in D&D.

    However, play styles, personal preferences and expectations should be discussed.

    We’re adults now guys, we can’t afford to waste time trying to have fun… heaven knows we waste too much of it at work and in our non-hobby lives.

    my 2 cents

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