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My Final Five #4: How RPGs Influence My Life

This is the fourth article in my final five series [1] for Gnome Stew, and I have chosen this comment by reader jpmg90 [2] as the inspiration for today’s article:

I think that an article about how rpg’s have impacted your life would be good as well. In my short 22 years, it basically determined my living and financial situation in college as well as my current friends and my gaming group.

Many things in my life would have been different without Tabletop RPGs and just thinking about that puts a smile on my face :)

I agree that RPGs have had an influence on my life as well, and while it may not translate directly into advice for GMs I would like to address both the good and the bad influences that RPGs have had on my life.

The Positives

The positive influences that RPGs have had on my life far outweigh the negatives. RPGs encouraged me to read more at an early age, to pursue a better understanding of mathematics, and to develop a healthy way to express myself through role playing. Later in life RPGs have been my break from a very intense work ethic. I tend to put in a lot of hours at my job, and while that to me is a good thing, RPGs have been my way of getting a weekly dose of fun so that I can recharge before heading back to work.

RPGs have been a catalyst for my creativity. Not only have I enjoyed hours upon hours of developing characters, game scenarios, and house rules, but I have even profited by working with my fellow Gnome’s on two of Engine Publishing’s titles (Eureka [3] and Masks [4]). I have also developed a passion for blogging [5] which began with writing for Gnome Stew. When you discover your personal voice greater success is sure to follow, and I have RPGs to thank in part for the development of my public persona.

The biggest influence of all though has been the friends that I have made while playing RPGs. I have made lifelong friends at the gaming table, and one of them introduced me to my future wife. Although my wife is not a gamer herself I might not have met her at all if it were not for that RPG connection, and that means I never would have had my children. Such monumental parts of my life were partly the result of my RPG hobby.

The Negatives

There are ways in which I think RPGs influence some people in a negative way. What I will share with you in this section are the bad traits that I have found to be more prevalent within our hobby than outside of it. This part might ruffle some feathers, but I feel that this article would be incomplete if I tried to play off RPGs as being nothing but a bed of roses. There is always room for improvement.

The first negative aspect of RPGs is the sedentary style of play. You sit at a table for several hours, and a lot of groups that I have been a part of add alcohol and junk food to the mix. In moderation these are not bad things. A night to relax with friends, eat some delicious pizza, and have a couple of beers is a great thing. But there were groups that I belonged to where people took it too far. I have looked around the game table and seen too many friends who play RPGs and who are dangerously obese. I fear that for them less gaming and more exercise is what they need. This seems to be a symptom of our hobby’s culture from what I have observed.

Another bad influence that I believe RPGs have had on gamers is the sexist materials found in some games. I have opened books where there is the male version of a warrior character type in full plate mail armor with only his face exposed, and then the female version of that same warrior character type is dressed in a bikini and posed to look like a pinup model. When I go through my older RPGs this was not as prevalent, but with newer materials it seems to be more common. Sorry, but I look at this sort of thing and think “Really? Make a quality game and not watered down porn, please!”

The last negative influence I am going to call the “loser factor”. I have seen gamers use gaming as an excuse for not being confident. I have actually heard the words “I cannot do that. I am just a gamer!” spoken by people at the game table in response to life’s challenges. I do not encounter this sort of attitude at the gym, Toastmasters, and in other social groups that I am a part of. It saddens me that it appears amongst some of my gamer friends.

Is this completely the influence of RPGs? I do not think so. RPGs should be encouraging people to tackle challenges and not avoid them, but because our popular culture tends to look at RPGs as the hobby of “losers” some gamers have fallen victim to believing in the stereotype. My response? Vin Diesel. [6] Enough said.

The Good Outweighs the Bad

Some may agree with what I have pointed out here, and some may not, but in the end I feel that RPGs have been much more of a positive for me than a negative. Plus I believe that the negatives are cultural aspects of our hobby that can be altered if we collectively want to change them (and perhaps I am wrong in suggesting that they should be changed, but this is how I feel).

Obviously my personal experiences and observations are not to be confused with some absolute truth regarding RPGs and how they can influence a person’s life. I expect others to have very different views on this matter. I consider this to be another positive of RPGs, because our hobby attracts a plethora of wonderful personalities to the game table.

That is all for now. Share how RPGs have influenced you by leaving a comment below, and if you have an idea for my last article be sure to leave a comment here [1].

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "My Final Five #4: How RPGs Influence My Life"

#1 Comment By Roxysteve On March 25, 2013 @ 11:20 am

I met my wife directly as a result on my running a Call of Cthulhu game in pre-internet days. Etc etc.

I get quite uncomfortable when people refer to themselves as “gamers” because all too often they are defining themselves by doing so (and in the unflattering way you allude to in your article).

When I say I’m a “keen gamer” (never just “gamer” and only when I’m asked) I am saying that when I do play games I enjoy serious ones like Avalon Hill classics or SPI wargame sims, games with rules, and that being the case you should expect “rules lawyering” to be a part of the experience (as I do).

I’m also saying that such games are only part of my life and not the be-all and end-all. The advent of my wife eventually caused the destruction of my very popular and highly anticipated “Masks of Nyarlathotep” campaign sessions mid way through the arc as other stuff took up the time. Oh well.

#2 Comment By Prest0 On March 25, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

When I tell strangers I’m a gamer they usually ask “PC or console?”

#3 Comment By jpmg90 On March 26, 2013 @ 8:22 am

Wow Patrick, I’m honored. To think that now my interaction in the gaming community has influenced an article on an award winning GM advice site. 😀

I do agree that there is a bit of a social stigma on ‘gamers’. Given that though, I think the gaming community has grown because of that, seeing a group that they can finally act themselves in. (As you mentioned this isn’t necessarily a truth, but an observation)

Also thanks again for choosing my comment for the topic of the article. Made my day.

#4 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 29, 2013 @ 10:39 am

The honor, sir, is all mine. Thank you for the inspiring comment.

#5 Comment By Scott Martin On March 26, 2013 @ 11:48 am

My positives and negatives align closely with yours, and I agree that it’s been a very positive influence on my life, and in most of the lives of fellow gamers.

I do agree that some aspects of gaming culture are problematic. I have very high hopes for new players who select roleplaying as one positive experience, rather than falling into it as part of a geek refuge.

#6 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 29, 2013 @ 10:43 am

I am also seeing a trend of gaming being seen as merely a characteristic of an individual, and not as THE defining quality of a person. I hope that this perceived trend continues.