Easily, I have been most affected by GMing games. From the beginning, living in a small town with a small gaming community, I was often the guy that was willing to pick up the baton and run the game. I was nearly always able to come up with something on the fly, I had a good grasp of scene beats and purpose from having been a film buff from an early age, so I was the guy that ran most of the games. That didn’t change in the intervening 30+ years; others would take up the reigns, but almost always dropped back to playing because they didn’t like the preparation for the game.

It’s what I like to do best. And because it requires retooling plots, characters, and ideas on the fly, or in the hours after the players upended your apple cart in the play session, I learned how to edit on the fly. The ability to plot, to create realistic settings and characters, and to toss what isn’t working, now matter how much I liked the material, had the effect of making me a fast, excellent researcher; a good editor with little worry about axing things that didn’t work; and a solid storyteller.

My desire for verisimilitude — from the early days of running spy-fi with James Bond:007 RPG, to knowing the history of the Victorian period for my Space:1889, to ’30s America for the Hollow Earth Expedition game — much of my professional life has been guided by the interests my gaming has engendered. I went into intelligence because of my love of the genre. I studied history because it’s a writer’s medium ( it really is a genre of storytelling; it’s not a social science — sorry, folks, but we’re just novelists with pretensions to truthiness.) I focused on the late 19th Century, then my doctoral studies mostly revolved around technology and society in the interwar period of the US.

I’ve gotten jobs because I was a gamer and the guy hiring was a gamer, and understood what I meant when I talked about how game prep made me a better researcher.

So, if gaming has affected (afflicted?) any portion of my life — it’s the skills that being a good GM made me develop.

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