If it wasn’t obvious from the fact that I’ve been writing for the Stew since 2014, or that I constantly talk about roleplaying games, let me state for the record that I love gaming. Gaming is such a source of joy in my life that when I was without it, I finally dredged up the courage to go seek it out on my own. The creativity and community of RPGs is firmly and adamantly something I claim as mine and I’m not planning on giving it up in this lifetime.
Thing is, that’s me and my joy. Not everyone finds joy in exactly the same ways and sometimes it’s important to recognize when the things that motivate us might be changing.
Recently, while doing #RPGaDay2019, in response to one of the prompts, a friend confessed that he hasn’t been enjoying gaming as much as he used to. It surprised and concerned him that he was losing interest and he wasn’t really sure what to do about it. We didn’t really talk about it deeply, but I felt a great deal of sympathy for him losing that spark. While I could try and give advice on how to get the magic back, I want to take a moment here and talk about how it’s important to understand how our interests and passions change.
Let’s state the most obvious thing here. You need to take care of yourself. When you find that you’re no longer enjoying a thing and it’s become a chore you complain about, it’s time to take a step back and examine the situation. Maybe you can determine how to change that negative energy back into the positive energy it once was, but if you can’t do that, maybe it’s time to move on to something else.
- Understand what about gaming makes you happy. The first step is going to be figuring out what about gaming once made you happy. It can be easy in the rush of gaming’s awesome moments to not really understand what about it makes you happy. Is it the types of games you play? Maybe the people you play with? Could it have been the place you played them at? If the things that made you enjoy it have changed, then maybe that’s the problem. Or, it could be external factors like work or family that are making it harder to find the joy you once had with gaming. Regardless of what the reason is, you need to figure out what you enjoyed and what’s changed so you can determine whether or not it can be fixed.
- Your gaming does not have to meet anyone else’s expectations. Because gaming is a communal affair, it is very easy to get caught up in a community and lose yourself in trying to make your gaming look like what other people are doing. Take for example the Critical Role issue, where we have GMs bemoaning their inability to run games like Matt Mercer. Thing is, no one is Matt Mercer but Mat Mercer himself. Maybe many of the gamers you admire like attending conventions, but you find them overwhelming and stressful. Don’t let yourself get caught up in FOMO (fear of missing out) when you know you wouldn’t have a good time. Recognize when you’ve been changing your gaming to meet someone else’s expectations of what gaming is supposed to be. The only definition that matters is yours and the people you’re sharing a table with, and I bet they’re more flexible than you think.
Make the changes that work for you. If you know what the problem is, try and change it. This doesn’t mean the change will be easy, but things won’t get better if you don’t try. If you realize it’s the games you’re playing, change them, even if it means going back to an old favorite for a little while. If it’s the people you’re playing with, change it up. Yeah, I know this can be hard, but there are tons of online gaming communities at your fingertips. Recognize that you don’t have to keep engaging with the things that are making you miserable.
- Sometimes taking a break is necessary. So, you’ve examined what you enjoy and come to an understanding of what the problem is, but it’s not something you can really change at this time. Taking a step away for a break might be the best choice available to you. I’ve known many people who’ve had to take a break when they started families because it became just too much to try and balance everything along with having to take care of a tiny new human. Or maybe it’s a new job you need to focus on for a while. It’s okay to step away and come back when you’re ready. It might even renew your appreciation of the hobby when you do come back.
- It’s also okay to decide to move on. I know it may be odd hearing someone who writes for a dedicated RPG blog say this, especially when she’s someone who has stated on the podcast that this hobby is for life, but if you’re burnt out, you’re not getting joy from gaming any longer, and nothing seems to fix that, it’s okay to walk away. As I said above, you need to take care of yourself, and forcing yourself to continue a hobby you’re no longer enjoying is self-destructive.
My hope is that everyone facing a time when gaming (whether the games themselves or the community surround it) is making them miserable can find a way to step back, re-examine what they’re doing and what they need, and find a way to enjoy the hobby once more. That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it?