This one is a little personal. If you aren’t interested – that’s okay. There’s a little gaming in here but it’s mostly reflective. Fair warning. This one’s about work, lack of work, and a desire to do things a certain way… it’s about management and leadership.
I haven’t been posting a lot for a while now. This isn’t an apology post – I either post or I don’t – but my goal is to get back on a regular schedule starting with this post today.
The Personal Bit
I quit my job last Friday. It was a decision that was a while in coming and it was precipitated by many, many factors which are not worth going into in extreme detail. Suffice it to say that while I’m not happy to be unemployed at the moment, I’m okay. My wife is a wonderful woman who makes enough to support us, I have savings, and I have a solid support network of friends and mentors who can help me. I also already have at least one interview lined up so life is moving along.
Why, in this economy, would a sane person ever willingly leave a job? Again, I’m not going to delve into specifics but I’ll just leave it at the fact that the office culture was difficult. I apologized to my assistant when I left because, in many ways, I feel like I failed her by leaving because with me around she had a layer of insulation from the worst of what happened in our office.
To wrap this up, I’ll put it out there that my work situation has been so downright weird that it crept into every aspect of my life. I stopped writing, stopped working on my blog, couldn’t concentrate on the things that were most important to me, even sought help for anxiety issues I’ve never had before. It’s funny to me because I’ve worked in very high-stress jobs in the past, jobs where my work – in a very literal sense – meant life and death to people and I never had stress like this. So, in reflecting on the last few days I’ve realized a great deal about just how unhappy I was. I could go into extensive detail about what happened (not just to me but how it affected others as well) but not in a public forum.
The Gaming Bit
I don’t think I can stress enough how important it is that we respect each other in our gaming culture and in our gaming groups. I write a lot about trust between players and GM on this blog but I think that fundamentally it is difficult to truly trust without respect and to respect without trust. And I don’t mean that as some stupid doublespeak “chicken-egg” thing. I mean they go hand in hand. And the funny thing is – it’s not difficult. Not really.
So here’s some practical tips for players and GMs from the very reflective place I find myself in today…
- Players: Ask your GM questions about the session sometime. One piece of advice often given to GMs is to ask players questions after a session. What did they like? What worked? What didn’t? What do they really think is going on? Stuff like that. And it’s great advice. But I think we can turn it around too. Ask your GM some time, “Hey, how did you feel about tonight’s session?” You can also ask, “What do you think of the group dynamic?” “What kind of games do you really enjoy running?” “Anything you feel we can do to lighten the GM load a little?” Or even just, “How do you prefer to communicate about game stuff?”
- GMs: Never, ever berate a player at the table. Friendly ribbing is one thing but you know what – if you don’t like a player in your game then ask that person, privately, alone, to change or leave. I’ve been at tables where it was obvious that no one liked someone else in the group. Don’t let that happen in your group. Deal with the issue like a mature adult and process it out. It’s the most basic, respectful thing you can do and if the group meshes better as a result… then you will all have a better game.
- GMs: Pay attention to what players are telling you without talking. You can ask people to tell you what they need until you are blue in the face and they may not do it. They might be shy, they might be the new person who doesn’t want to speak up and rock the boat, they might assume that the group has already discussed something like this before. Hell, they might just not know how to ask. I’m not telling you to be a mind-reader (and your players shouldn’t expect that) but just try to be aware. If you have a player who is constantly asking about some aspect of the game or something in the world then talk to them about it. If you have a character who always seems to act certain ways or you notice when they seem to get quiet or disengaged… engage them.
- Players: Along those lines, don’t expect your GM to read your mind. Most GMs love to talk about their world or their campaign or their group or whatever. So if you have a chance, talk to your GM about what it is you want to do/know/experience as part of the game you are in. Deadlands may not be the most romance-oriented setting around but it doesn’t mean you and your GM can’t find a way to incorporate something just for you… just one example. Share what’s on your mind. And if you don’t, don’t spend game sessions making passive aggressive comments about it…
Finally, I’ll finish with this. I’ve made great friends over the years thanks to gaming. Tabletop RPGs have been my primary social outlet for 30+ years and I have learned so much from interacting with all the amazing – and not so amazing people I’ve gamed with. Sometimes, I haven’t been as respectful as I could be. I feel as if I’ve gotten better at it over the years and that’s the thing – being open, respectful, and engaged is a skill that takes practice as much as anything else. The closed social environment of a gaming group is a social commitment as much as any other you have in your life. Respect it and the people at the table with you. And don’t always think of your gaming group as just that. You might only meet once a week in a public space to game but you are all people with complicated “other stuff” going on in your lives. Sometimes, one of the best ways to figure out what you are all like and need is to spend a night away from the gaming table.
Go out for a beer and talk about your influences. Tell stories about your first gaming experiences. Tell each other about your favorite characters (right?) AND actually listen during someone else’s story.
It ain’t tough. Not unless you make it that way.
Good luck, good gaming, and I hope to see you all around here more often. I didn’t get to everything I wanted to say but that’s the beauty of this format – just means I can write about it next time.
Thanks for reading.