A couple weeks ago, I lost it. The final straw landed and broke this camel’s back. To be a bit clearer, I ended up throwing a bit of a temper tantrum at my gaming group. I hit a wall and promptly had a meltdown.

What wall do I speak of? In my particular case, it was an issue of scheduling. My group has, for the most part, been gaming together for about twelve years. In the early days, we played every Friday evening. Eventually that shifted into every-other-Saturday due to the changes in family and work schedules life throws at you. When every-other-Saturday began to become more miss than hit, we switched to a looser process where we tried to figure out who was available when for each month. I took responsibility for this scheduling, which I didn’t mind, but it did require a degree of effort to try and plan a couple gaming sessions for each month.

As most of you already know, December is a tricky month to keep playing in due to the holidays, but when I asked earlier in November, we had a consensus that December 4th was okay for everyone. Because gamers often have the attention span of a squirrel on a sugar rush, I sent out an e-mail at the beginning of the week to remind everyone. Suddenly, we went from having seven players to just four (this includes a GM).

To be fair, the reasons for not being able to make it were legitimate reasons. A new job, a wife going out of town, etc. But after two years of trying to juggle schedules and keep everyone updated on when we were playing on top of trying to maintain a couple of consistent campaigns, I’d had enough. One of the guys told me he wouldn’t have been surprised if I had rage quit the group right then and there. I wasn’t that far gone, but I was definitely frustrated and knew something needed to change.

Each person and each group is going to have their own threshold for when and which issues cross a line.
Gaming, in addition to everything else, is a social medium. As a result, there are going to be times when issues come up that cause friction and frustration. Each person and each group is going to have their own threshold for when and which issues cross a line. For one group, it might be players consistently showing up late. For another, it might be a GM playing favorites. Another group might be dealing with players bringing outside drama into the session, while yet another might grapple with a player that hogs the spotlight. Heck, if there are other outside stressors, it could be as innocuous as someone taking the last Mt. Dew. While the resulting explosion from the frustrated party may come as a surprise to some, the irritation usually doesn’t come out of nowhere. There are warning signs if you know what you’re looking for.

So what do you do in the aftermath of a meltdown?

Take a step back and get your bearings. That may mean walking away from a conversation or even taking a week off from the game, but you need to give yourself a little time to think and breathe. The issue definitely needs to be discussed with the group, but make sure you’re doing so with a calm head. It’s difficult to resolve anything when you’re angry and frustrated. It’s too easy to lash out unfairly or blow things out of proportion when emotions are running hot.

It’s important to ask yourself whether the situation is going to be a permanent deal breaker between you and the group, or if the situation can be salvaged. Not every gaming group is going to be compatible with you and that’s okay. If the style or substance of the group isn’t something you enjoy, it’s okay to amicably walk away and start looking for another group that’ll be a better fit. Of course, if it’s something else or something that’s bothering others in the group, it should be worth sitting down with the everyone and looking for a resolution to the problem.

Another key ingredient is to own up to your own role in the situation. Don’t be afraid of recognizing that while the problem may not be your fault, your reaction to it may have contributed to the friction. Maybe the issue should have been brought up earlier or your response was unfair to some of the players. Knowing your own part in things can go a long way to helping you work with the rest of the group to solve the problem.

For my particular situation, I took a few days to calm down and determined that despite our inability to keep a consistent schedule, these folks are still the gamers I want to play with. I contacted everyone with an apology and a proposal to try and fix our scheduling issues. So far, everyone seems okay with the idea. We’ll switch back to every-other-Saturday, but set up an automatic reminder system. This gives each member of the group the responsibility to keep us updated if they can’t make any given Saturday.

Have you ever hit the wall with your own frustrations over a gaming group problem? I’m curious what types of things others have had to deal with and how they resolved it.