Melvin here. I’d like to introduce you all to Erik, he is a friend and fellow Vagabond Gamer. Like Topher, Erik has agreed to be a contributor to the blog from time to time, and after reading his heartfelt post below I think you’ll agree he’s a good fit. Welcome Erik!
I’d contend that for each and every person who calls themselves a gamer there has been a moment in their life that they’ve been having a conversation with someone and thought, “you know, I’d bet they’d really love gaming.” Far too often though we’re crippled by a fear of inviting them. So rather than extend our gaming circle, and to spread the happiness we’ve found in the hobby we simply sit in silence. We let our potential convert slip away.
Why do we do it? Why does the fear exist. In this, the age of the Geek, why do we neglect our responsibility to bring others into the fold? We live in an era where things such as “nerd hot” and “geek chic” are truly a thing. Movie stars, regarded by the mainstream as the paramount of cool, openly admit to being gamers. So why then do we so often find ourselves tongue tied when given a clear opening?
Unfortunately the answer isn’t easily discovered, and more often than not it’s personal. I can’t tell you what it is that’s crippling you, but I can tell you what was crippling me. More importantly, I can tell you how I got passed it. Perhaps a piece of what I have to say will help someone who is unable to summon up their courage and invite that friend, relative or coworker to come to the table.
When I first started gaming, I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. As far as I was concerned each and every person on the face of the planet should have been gaming. I was in middle school at the time, and started inviting friends to come and play on the weekends. I got a handful of friends together one afternoon, sat down with my prefab Dungeons and Dragons module and started to run my first game. Not a single person at the table took it seriously.
As it turned out, most of them were there to be nice. Those who were remotely interested in playing jumped on the bandwagon of turning it into a farce rather than a game. I had adventurers tearing doors off hinges simply for the sake of it. Setting houses on fire if they had no treasure in them. As a 13 year old kid running his first game for his friends, or people he thought were his friends, that’s not the easiest thing to deal with. I was at a total loss of what to do, and in short I just wanted to take my dice and books and run off to cry.
It didn’t take long before one person at the table flat out said “this is boring, let’s do something else.” So my group of friends who I’d invited over to game all left to go do something different and I decided to stay home. I was emotionally scarred and from that point on couldn’t bring myself to even raise the question of gaming to anyone. Not just for the short term either, but for years.
I got into a handful of groups in High School, and a few more at Junior College. Nine times out of ten I’d start as a player and then they’d ask for people to volunteer to GM. I’d end up behind the screen and running the game, but I’d never be putting a group together. I never invited a single friend to come and play. I always just found a group, and made an effort to be accepted. When friends would ask what I was doing at lunch, or what I was doing on Tuesday night or whatever… I’d just mumble nothing. I refused to risk the humiliation I’d felt in Middle School.
Then I met a buddy of mine named Shriane Dream Phoenixx, and this man helped me fall back in love with gaming. He was someone who had fallen so in love with a system that was inherently broken, that he went to great lengths to resolve the issues with it. He sunk hundreds of hours into fixing this game system, and then went about putting together a group. He asked everyone, because he wanted to play and he believed in his soul that anyone can have fun at the table.
After the third or fourth person who turned him down I asked him about it. “Shriane,” I said, “how do you do it? How do you put up with the rejection? How can you just casually ask someone if they’d be interested in playing?” His response was simple, “Because I want to play. See dude, all they can do is say no. Or all they can do is mess up a single session if they’re not into it. When the dust settles, the game is still there, and I’m still going to love it. However, you can’t play without players.”
You can’t play without players. That right there my friends is the cold hard truth. Sure, not everyone you invite is going to want to play. Not everyone who gives it a chance is going to stick it out. However, if you don’t make the effort to bring people in, you’re going to be stuck without a group. The fact is, we as gamers are happy with our hobby. It brings us joy, relaxation and a creative outlet. The benefits we reap from it are vast and there is no reason for us to be ashamed of it. Those who choose to mock it can only do it once, and then we don’t invite them back. Those who believe it’s not their cup of tea can only say no. Those we bring in, however, are the true worth. The friendships forged around the table, and the enjoyment shared makes the “nos” worth it.
It’s not a cure all, and I can’t say that making this decision is going to lead to the situation being comfortable. However, keeping in mind that the worst they can do is say no will help. I wouldn’t be gaming with my local group of friends if I’d not made the effort to ask. Take the risk, who knows what you’ll find.