There are a couple of different types of gamers, I’ve noticed over the years. There’s the casual player: usually someone who enjoys the occasional game more as a social occasion, rather than as a hobby. This is most often the girl/boyfriend or spouse whose partner games and they join in from time to time, the busy former gamer who doesn’t really have time or interest for more that the occasional session, and the curious who haven’t really gotten into the hobby. There’s a “hobbyist” gamer, to quote Fear of Girls — people who enjoy gaming, do it regularly or often, but still have other disparate interests that do not have to do with the gaming community. I say this is the vast majority of the hobby. There’s the hardcore gamers — people whose life is tightly bound to gaming, with most of their friends and other interests intersecting with the activity. These are often the sliver of the community that attracts to more interest, ire, ridicule, etc. from non-gamers.
This piece is mostly aimed at the last two groups.
There are few things that cannot be escaped in the universe: death, entropic collapse, gravity, taxes…the first two are mirrored in the collapse of a gaming group. There are plenty of reasons for the death or contraction of a group — people move away, they start having families, they get time-intensive jobs, get sick, get divorced, find new hobbies, or have falling outs over various and sundry things. Almost inevitably, one of these things will happen and your gaming group will lose players, or fall apart altogether.
The collapse of a gaming group can be traumatic — with responses ranging from mild annoyance and inconvenience (“But we were so close to discovering the mystery of the Lost Temple of Badu!”), to alienation (“Geez, I didn’t know that dumping my girlfriend would lose me all my friends in the group!”), to feelings of despondency and mourning (lets face it…we all know this guy/girl…) As with all things mortal, it’s okay to feel disappointed by the collapse of a group, a storyline not finished, a group of characters never to be seen (in that configuration) again. Look at the response of fans to the cancellation of Firefly …very similar.
So what to do? First, be disappointed, feel sad the gaming group broke up for a day or two then press on. It’s a hobby; it’s not your life. Find new players: there’s sites like Access Denied, RPG Finder, and the like. Hit the game stores and see if you can find people (although this is getting harder as shops are more rare and people either buy online or purchase .pdf products from DriveThru and their ilk. Gather up the remains of the last group, if you haven’t moved away, pissed off everyone in the old group, or even still have an interest…press on.
If you can’t do that? Get a new hobby. I motorcycle, I shoot, I hang out in coffeeshops and talk to people, I’m in grad school…plenty of people to meet and the likelihood is a few of them are gamers in one of these other activities you take on. Maybe you don’t go back to gaming and become one of the first group of gamers I mentioned. Life goes on.
In my case, two gaming groups have imploded in the last week — all my fault — and while I was the GM for both, that doesn’t mean the groups will coalesce around me again. C’est la vie… I have a few players that are still interested, and the groups wil be truncated, requiring me to reformulate my storylines, or ditch campaigns altogether (gaming is, at this time of dissertational annoyance, my only real creative outlet). It sucks. C’est la vie… I’m hoping I can cobble together new groups. If I can, great; I’m already thinking of new campaigns, characters, stories to tell (and story-telling, as the great Ferenc Szasz once said, is the point of history). If I can’t..? C’est la vie… I have a Triump I can ride, I have guns to shoot, things to see in the Albuquerque area, movies to go to, work to get done.
Ultimately, you can’t let the games become your reality or life.
PS: If you’re in the Albuquerque area, I’m looking for GM/players.
UPDATE: In a particularly interesting turn of fate, it looks like most of the gaming group I thought I was going to lose is coming back to the table…even the person with the most reason not to. I love it when everyone acts like an adult.