Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Turn And Face The Strange

One of the many benefits of doing this blog over the years is that it has put me in touch with some truly wonderful people. 

Not only in a creative sense but in a real, honest-to-goodness friendship sense. I have gotten to speak with them by phone, in person at conventions, and every now and then I receive responses to my posts via Facebook Messenger, text, email, or other means more personal than a comment at the end of an entry.

Just yesterday I received such a message from WQRobb of the blog 'Graph Paper Games' (which he should totally get back too). Rob, who is a good person the likes of which our modern world doesn't have nearly enough of, read my previous post and had this to say...

"Just read your last post.  I have thoughts on the matter.

So in the last year there has been a lot of reporting and conversation among clergypersons regarding our emotional (and spiritual) responses to the pandemic and the subsequent quarantine.  While all of us are struggling with isolation, loss, and depression, the response of clergypersons has been even beyond the pale. A surprising percentage of clergy have even had suicidal ideations.

The reason: we are not only experiencing the normal absence of social interaction but we are also not getting the emotional validation from our congregants and furthermore, we are not living our vocation in a normative fashion.  And most of us have a very close personal identification with our vocation.

So even though I go to work every day and work very, very hard, to find some way to continue to minister to my parish, it doesn't feel like I'm doing anything. I feel like a fraud or a failure, I'm just filling in.

So even though you are gaming a lot, you're not doing it the way you have done it since you were a child, you're not getting all the emotional payout from it, and really, being a gamer, especially a GM, is a huge part of you being you."

Wow. Is that not 'Wow'? I think it's pretty darn Wow. 

To sum up, even though I am gaming, I am not gaming the way I game. I am not doing it in the ways, means, approach, and application that it took me 44 years to develop. No matter how much effort and energy I put into it, it is going to feel off, second-rate, or at the very least less than optimal. 

Knowing this though...helps. 

It means, to me at least, a little of the self-applied pressure is off.

It's no longer, 'Why aren't I doing this as well as I know I can?'. It's being OK with, 'This is the best I can do given this situation." Instead of being frustrated that I can't seem to paint another Mona Lisa, I can look down at the crayons on my table, realize all I have is crayons so what was I expecting, and just enjoy making the best drawing I can with what I've got.

That said, I think my next games going forward, at least until we meet in-person again, are going to be shorter 'art pieces' instead of longer 'blockbuster' campaigns. If the art-pieces turn into campaigns 'cause everyone involved loves them so be it, but it isn't the intended goal. I want to experiment more. My best outing so far during this pandemic was far and away the Red Dwarf / Yellow Sun game because I tried different approaches and took creative chances. I want and need more of that. 

Thanks Rob and thank you readers for indulging me. 


Barking Alien


  1. You're welcome. BTW I moved a while back to You should check me out there!

  2. At one point, years ago, I looked up the "seven deadly sins", and specifically Sloth. Turns out sloth didn't mean "laziness" in general. It was a condition of idleness unique to clergy. The only class with indoor desk jobs in an era of almost universal physical labor and/or socialization in public.

    Sloth was depression. Being stuck at a desk, working entirely inside your head, if you have no social or physical outlet, is a recipe for it. So I'm not surprised clergy are being particularly hit hard, that's not a new phenomenon. And of course, our society has so many more jobs that are indoor, non-physical, and non-social. Add to that most other outlets being shut down, and we're all now "guilty" of Sloth. Except now we know it's an affliction, not a sin.

    So what does that mean for gaming? It's gone from pastime to desperate coping mechanism. Wayyy too much pressure is on it at times. Perhaps all the time. We're just going to do the best we can.

    Perhaps we need to adapt how we game to better fit this concept. Maybe more emphasis on lighter, shorter games so our expectations aren't high for something we don't have the brain power to "turbo charge" like we sometimes could. Perhaps more collaborative storytelling to take pressure off a single GM. I don't know what else. But it's definitely a learning process, until the world can open back up.

    1. Well said and insightful as always Carl.

      Much of the pressure is of course self-inflicted. Only I care that my games aren't as awesome as they could be. The players are, generally speaking, having fun and that's enough.

      No one is expecting gaming to 'save us' from our current state of affairs and yet we get upset when it doesn't do that.