It’s Only A Game, But…
It should come as no surprise that a lot of gamers take their hobby very seriously. And why not? Fans of other forms of entertainment take their interests seriously, sometimes obsessively so, and why should table-top gamers be any different? Devotion to the hobby is wonderful, as it implies that something or someone has spurred the interest in such a way that there are people who have found something special in role-playing games. I would say that I am one of those people, though I will fully admit that any hobby or interest, taken too far, can be a bad thing. It’s like drinking; a little is fine, but a lot can cause some serious problems.
Why do I feel the need to bring this up? Well, because tabletop role-playing games are, at their core, social games. They require more than a single participant to play, usually somewhere around five to seven. What this can mean is that various players will bring various levels of interest to the game. Some will take a game very seriously, thinking about character motivations, personal history, political maneuvering, and the like. These players I find to be a joy to interact with, bringing a level of excitement and drama to a game that can be hard to find elsewhere. They will usually hang on every word a gamemaster says, think critically about what they are doing and why, and will (more often than not) make a large impact on events that take place in the fictional world you are creating with them. Then, there are players who are just there to have fun. This isn’t a bad thing, by any regard. They come to the game, hang out, take part in the battles, occasionally bring up interesting points at the table, but are usually content to sit back and let the more “serious” players do most of the interacting with the gamemaster. Again, this is not a bad thing, as the point of the game is to have fun, and they certainly are doing that, otherwise they wouldn’t attend.
The only time problems arise from this is when you have both in the same group and there is a conflict of character/player interest. This usually happens when one of the more serious players finds something the less serious players did or didn’t do detrimental to the story as a whole. This can lead to character conflict, or worse, player conflict. Character conflict isn’t nearly as bad, and can make the game more interesting. More than once, I have seen it draw a less serious player into a more serious interaction with the game. Player conflict, however, is never a benefit to the game. This is when people stop having fun, and when they stop having fun it usually means the end of the game is near at hand as players may stop coming or, worse, actively seek to derail the game in some manner as “payback” for any personal slights. Typically, it falls onto the shoulders of the gamemaster to be the mediator in such matters, but let’s not forget that gamemaster’s are people too, and they will more often fall into the more serious camp of gamers than less often, as a gamemaster must devote a great amount of time on any one game.
We all play these games to have fun. What that means to us will vary from individual player to player, and there is nothing wrong about that. Just because I, myself, lean towards being a more serious gamer, I have found that there is nothing wrong with seeing a game as just a game. As long as everyone is having fun, that is the important part, and sometimes that can be a good thing to remind yourself of.
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