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Gaming for Grown-Ups

A Little Thing called Time

by Tim Kirk
Mar 17,2003


Gaming for Grown-Ups

This column is going to address a variety of topics that interest me as an adult gamer, but also address the issues, failings, and triumphs of our hobby -- issues I have dealt with on a regular basis. This column coincides with a new issue that is a rarity for me, but a necessity for our hobby -- that of needing a game group. But let me digress a moment and introduce myself.

I'm going to begin by pointing out that I began gaming circa 1981. The first game I owned, of course, was the venerable and notable Dungeons and Dragons. I have as of last September been playing RPG's for nearly two-thirds of my life, though now my primary systems of choice in print at the moment are versions of Unisystem (Eden Studios house system), and Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM) 2nd Edition.

Most of the other games I'm interested in are, sadly, out of print, but that has no way limited my ability to enjoy them -- Marvel Superheroes (the Universal Table "system"), Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game (Saga), Dragonlance 5th Age (Saga), and Providence, among numerous others.

I know a significant portion of this article for many people is going to elicit a "Well, duh!" response, but since I've experienced far to many gamers who don't necessary utilize this knowledge I'm addressing it here beginning with the first major impediment to gaming that most of us as grownups face.

That is this little thing called---Time.

Time at its heart isn't the real issue, of course. The issue is how we make use of it. As grown-ups, we often stack responsibilities over our heads until we are simply dogpaddling our way through the day. Since our hobby takes a considerable (but not incomparable to other hobbies) commitment of time, we have to remember that it may be something we have to schedule. Don't just hope you have an opening at some moment where you can call up a half dozen people and coordinate their busy lives so that you can play. This simply isn't going to work most of the time. Unlike going out for beer and pizza with the guys and gals, it takes planning.

Now, I don't wish to be condescending about this, but first and foremost make sure your general life commitments/obligations to family, work, religion, or other long term time consuming endeavors aren't going to conflict. This is an entertainment after all. Most grownups know this, so I'm just re-covering well trod ground here, but rather than jumping into specific solutions for time conflicts I want to make this very clear. This is a hobby -- your health, your life, comes first. Gaming may be a big part of your life. Admittedly it is in mine, as: both myself and my fiancee enjoy gaming; I write games; and many of our friends also game. This conspires to make gaming take up a lot of time for us.

Planning is very important, and the first stop in our whirlwind tour of problems. Several months back I moved and lost this group:

News Editor,
Telecommunications Company Man,
School Teacher, and
Computer Animator

To be replaced by the group that I've had before in my hometown that consists of this:

Unemployed (due to injury) player,
Giant Chain Store Stocker, and
Nanny/Caretaker of Children for Player 1

The second group you'd suspect would have more ability to play, simply because the first group is made up of career oriented "professionals", but the fact is that the former group typically had more time to game because they made a point of planning when, where and what in advance. They used e-mail to coordinate games, and while they had busy lives they made a point of making time in their lives for gaming. It wasn't always possible or easy but they approached it the same way they approached their other commitments.

Planning is important. And letting your play group know your availability and time constraints is very important.

In my experience, I am also relegated to the role of host. Anyone, GM or not, who takes on these responsibilities should act as scheduler, director, and coordinator for the game. Your group can choose someone, or it can default to the person who is simply most willing to put some effort into the activities necessary to keep the group aware of play times. My suggestion is the use of e-mail, but not everyone in my last group had it, so it made it less reliable than phone calls. Once someone has been chosen to do this, keep them alerted of any times you won't be available, as a courtesy to the playgroup.

Tied to planning is of course the aforementioned life commitments. If your daughter is having a softball game you promised to coach, or you're supposed to be toasting at your best friend's wedding, these are things that have to be out of the way before you game. Some major commitments I'm going to address herein, but you're on your own with the remainder.

Other Issues

Children: Children of certain ages and temperaments simply do not belong around the game table. Since I typically game with friends, this can be an issue. Sure, their children are cute, but they aren't in the game and their behavior can damage the interest and fun of the other players. You wouldn't likely take your children to a friends house and sit them down while you and buddies played poker, smoked and drank (or at least ideally you wouldn't). The same should apply to the RPG game table. Find a babysitter, or employ a relative or significant other who's not involved in said game to watch them. If the person doesn't mind, maybe they could act as a temporary day-care for the entire group's children (but yes, ask first as a common courtesy). If your children are old enough to play and interested, this doesn't mean they should be introduced to the grown-up group. What interests some children in RPG's is not necessarily the same thing that will interest your adult players, and vice-versa.

Significant Others: If your boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband or whatever doesn't game, make sure you can have uninterrupted time to game. If you're playing in your own home, being asked to wash dishes every ten minutes or make supper can also hamper the game and impede the players' enjoyment of it. Make sure when you make the plans, as before, that all chores, spousal duties, and the like are taken care of, or that the significant other in question is aware that they will be done after the game.

Television: Although I've never experienced this, I've witnessed other GM's try to GM around a running TV. This goes a bit to location, which I'll address in a moment, but goes a bit further, as my own attention span is limited because of a small chemical hiccup in my brain called attention deficit disorder. While I can and do focus quite well, I'm not the only one who can be easily distracted out there, and TV is very good at drawing attention to it. Better simply to not have one playing, so that no one can go "Oh this is my favorite movie" and then spend the next hour not really in the game.

Location: Where one plays is important, and I'm sure I'll spend an entire article specifically on this in the future. But since this is more of a highlight of things to start outwith, suffice to say that you should find a place free of distractions that is comfortable for the group as a whole (and with appropriate facilities)

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What do you think?

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