Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a funk, my doctors think it may be a clinical funk, but that’s neither here nor there, the really point is that – for the first time in 25 years – I don’t feel much like role-playing. I still love RPGs and GMing, but somehow it all seems too much work. I don’t want to lose this hobby, I don’t want to become an “ex-gamer”, and I expect many other players and GMs have had similar experiences. Whether it a simple case of “GM burnout”, a lack of fellow gamers, or diagnosed depression, the question is: how does the gamer survive without the game?
The first thing I tried – when I thought my problem was simply laziness – was reducing my workload. I began running simpler games: hack-n-slash dungeon crawls and clichéd sword-&-sorcery adventures instead of character-driven campaigns with complex plots and detailed NPCs. This worked for a while, though the group noticed the drop in quality and I did lose a player, but even these games became a chore eventually.
I suppose a better solution, and one I would suggest to all burnt-out GMs, would be to hand over the screen for a while, let someone else run a few games and try being a player. Unfortunately, none of my players want to GM, so it’s me or nobody running games. Not that I blame them; if you don’t enjoy running games you shouldn’t be doing it. You can’t force people to GM.
Naturally this has led to more and more cancelled sessions. And that way defunct gaming groups lie. With every missed session interest wanes, habits die, and the game’s impetus decreases; campaigns become impossible and even once-off sessions become less likely; eventually the gaming group itself dissolves as everybody finds something else to do on Tuesday night. Things haven’t reached that point yet, but the crisis is definitely looming.
In an attempt to stave off disaster, we often set aside the dice in favor of some other geeky pursuits. We’ve been playing a lot of board and card games like A Touch Of Evil Supernatural GameLord Of The Rings Confrontation Boardgameand Magic: the Gathering. Anything to keep the group adventuring together in one form or another. And personally, I’ve been trying to keep my geek fires burning by watching geeky movies (like Wizards) and web-series (like Standard Action and JourneyQuest and TableTop), reading geek books and comics (like The Walking Dead: Compendium One), leafing through my gaming books and daydreaming, even seeking out geeky music. I’ve been trying to keep up with nerd news by visiting gaming websites and reading gaming magazines. There is an entire culture around RPGs and if the games are too much right now, at least I can explore that.
I don’t really have any answers, I’m still muddling through this but I will continue going to cons and talking and writing about games. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I trust that it will bring more games. I am a role-player and I will role-play again!