Why We Game: An Ode to Friends

Last week was pretty amazing. I went to my third and best yet Gen Con. I was busy as ever and I’ve got some great news to share. This very site took home the Gold ENnie award for Best Blog! Thank you so much to everyone who voted for World Builder Blog. I am still over the moon with this win and honored to have such an award on my wall.

While the win is exhilarating and a great recognition of the work done on this blog (not just by me, but also by Geoff Winn and Greg Blair), that was not actually the high point of Gen Con.

For many creators, working on RPGs can actually be a solo business. Adventure writing, mechanic design, worldbuilding, blogging, podcast/video editing, research, and story writing are generally done alone. This is true if you’re working on something professional or for your casual homebrew game. Even projects done with other collaborators are often completed by emailing a draft created by an individual with the message, “Let me know what you think. Thanks!”

Don’t get me wrong. All of that work is fun, but for most of us, it’s not the reason we play roleplaying games.

The Beauty of Gen Con

Gen Con is Nerdvana. Games everywhere and plenty of people eager to sit down and play. Every person you meet knows what Dungeons and Dragons is, understands how to roll initiative, can tell you which edition of the Star Wars RPG is their favorite, and is ready to debate the finer points of story verses mechanics in almost any game. You can buy nearly any gaming product desired, meet your favorite authors, designers, artists, podcasters, bloggers, and streamers, eat nerd-themed food, drink nerd-themed drinks, and sit in panels where big names announce new products or wax poetic about the philosophies of Lovecraft. Throw in a little deep cut cosplay, a few old-school arcade cabinets, and the chance to play exclusive alphas and betas and you can understand why more than 60,000 people flood Indianapolis every year. Holy crap do the people who organize this thing deserve HUGE ups, thanks, and high fives!

While all those things are heavenly, none are the main reason many of us head to Gen Con. The reason we go to Gen Con is the same reason we game. It’s the same reason we go to smaller gaming conventions and sometimes organize our own private weekends with our best friends.

Why We Game

I’ve had a great year in this industry. The blog won an ENnie, Rudy Basso and I launched a new podcast, I got to interview some amazing folks for the Tome Show, got paid to work on at least four published or soon-to-be published adventures, created and sold multiple best-sellers on the DMs Guild, and DMed two games for awesome people at Roll20CON. At Gen Con I got to record a live Round Table Podcast with an audience, moderate a panel about the digital future of Dungeons, record panels with people like Ken Hite, Rob Bowes, Ben Loomes, throw a party for Tome Show fans, and co-run a three-table epic written by Rudy Basso and me.

I’m going to pat myself on the back and say I’ve put in a lot of work these last two-and-a-half years. I am a better designer, writer, podcaster, and worker than I was long ago. I am proud of the accomplishments I’ve made and the person I’ve become in the industry. Without all that I would still play tabletop RPGs. I have since I was nine, and I have no plans of stopping.

Now you can say it’s all about story, which is partly true. It’s fun to play pretend. Or you could say it’s mechanics, which is also true (clearly it plays into our choices of Pathfinder vs D&D vs 13th Age vs Dungeon World). You could say it’s the perfect combination of both. But really, that’s not it either.

We play these games because it brings us closer to our friends. It gives us a reason to get together every week and interact. We can be silly and play pretend together like we’re kids again. Is there anything better?

Think about it. How many times have you sat down with a stranger to play an RPG and by the end of the game you are more comfortable talking to that person than you are some of the folks you see at work everyday? How many of those people go on to become your friends that you see or talk to outside of gaming? How many of those people introduce you to new friends through games?

It’s not just new friends. We stay in touch with our old compadres through gaming. How many people have a gaming group that’s run for years? How many old friends have you re-connected with thanks to virtual tabletops or forum games? How many people have something new to talk about with their friends because they want to praise or tear down the latest supplement for their favorite game? How many people have friends who actually listen when we talk about our character or our campaigns?

These games make our lives better. The people we meet make us better people. The memories we make are good and stay with us forever. The stories we tell together entertain us and ignite our creativity. The mechanics we encounter make us better teachers and students. As a community we build and create something we could never make individually. More importantly, we have a blast doing it.

These games are a communal experience. Never forget that. A horror game only works if everyone agrees to embrace the scary. A gritty game only works, if everyone agrees to think of hit point loss as more than just numbers. In other words the games only work if we all play. If we all pretend.

Thank you all for playing with me over these last few years. I look forward to all the imagining, pretending, and worldbuilding to come.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

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