Monday, 3 September 2007
Thoughts on Morrowind
I think I had mentioned earlier that I'd bought Morrowind, the third installment of the Elder Scrolls series, not too long ago. Now, Morrowind's about 5 years old at this point -- ancient in computer years -- and its sequel Oblivion's already been out and expanded (which I have not played). I have heard from die-hard Elder Scrolls fans that Morrowind is better than Oblivion anyway.
Keeping in mind the game is 5 years old, the game is very ambitious. It boasts a vast world and a lot of control over your own actions, and in general succeeds on this, especially the "vast world" part. But... again, yes, keeping in mind this game is not brand new... I have trouble seeing what the hubbub was about in lauding it as one of the greatest RPGs of all time and all that.
Not to look down on the creators too much. The game is huge. It takes place on a whole continent which pretty much you can travel all over by foot and investigate every nook and cranny. The game has a story to it, but makes no efforts to railroad you into any kind of story -- it's the very antithesis of the RPG type game especially seen from Japan for consoles, where the game is more or less a slightly tiresome activity you engage in between animated cutscenes. If you want a story in Morrowind, you have to make it happen. And if you don't... you'll find plenty to do and not even notice the uberplot at all. You can help ladies find their roguish lovers and join assassins' guilds and go on holy pilgrimages, all of which have their own intrigue and depth. And the character improvement system is really based on actual growth -- you engage successfully in one activity a lot, and that skill goes up. Makes sense.
The problem though, is that all that's great about the game is also what is enormously frustrating about it. It's too ambitous and too huge at times.... you end up doing a lot of wandering around, and the ability to explore everywhere is as much a curse as it is a blessing. Sure, you might find the secret entrance to the ancient assassins' guild headquarters. But you may as likely find yourself wandering down long twisty passages or a grey landscape fighting with rats and giant insecty things and never getting anything for your literal hours of trouble but maybe a chunk of meat and a glass bottle.
Generally Morrowind seems to be the sum of the concept of "Great idea, poor realization." Being able to go everywhere and interact with every object seems cool, until you realize ultimately, every citizen's house is going to be filled with the same random NPC who utters the same information as every other random NPC, and will have the same collection of useless knives, forks, and plates. You know what I realized from Morrowind? I realized I don't need to know the contents of every single house in a city, nor be able to take them. It's not particularly fun nor interesting. When I realize that there was probably some poor area designer who sat down and put in the same plates, bowls, and cutlery into every single abode, I feel very very sorry for him.... and very frustrated that time and dedication hadn't been put into something else, like scripting more unique dialogue for important characters, or tweaking the character leveling system to be less "munchkin-encouraging."
Yes, the "organic" character leveling system needs work. The basic concept -- pick some core skills, practice with them, and improve -- works well and makes sense. The problem is.... when you gain a number of skillpoints from practice, you "level up." Leveling up allows you to raise your basic abilities (strength, agility, etc.) which in turn will allow better skill use later. Where it gets stupidly complicated is that the more skills you raise, the better ability score raise you get. This encourages you to NOT level up until you've raised your skill scores a lot. Except that you only level up on resting... which is also the most efficient way to heal yourself and regain your magical energy ... so I find myself running around with no mana and half damaged because I don't want crappy ability score raises. It's especially annoying because there seem to be few mana-restoring potions in the game. Oy.
And potions. Oy again. You can make your own..... if you have the patience to gather the eight trillion potion ingredients that exist in the world and want to carry them around with you (oh yes, and there are encumbrance rules in play. Joy.) until you find the right combination you need to make the potion.... and you will never have the right ingredients for the potion you actually want, usually, unless you are ridiculously obsessive about collecting ingredients and have nothing else in your pack.
They decided to make shopkeepers "realistic" too.... in that they have a limited and usually frustratingly small amount of gold, meaning it's difficult to sell your loot in any one place. And I wouldn't care about this... except you need massive amounts of goals to purchase skill training to help you raise your skills faster so you can actually finally rest to get your mana back. There is one -- ONE -- shopkeeper in the whole game who has a neverending high max of gold to sell stuff to, and he isn't always easy to get to depending on where you are. Joy.
The game also generally has a "cold" feel to it... it may be "immersive" in the sense of its explorable world, but the many NPCs are all completely colorless... there is no scripted dialogue for you to speak -- you just pick "keywords" and the NPC responds with information on the subject. 90% of the NPCs have the *exact same* information on a given keyword, and after you pick up a number of keywords, it becomes a chore trying to pick out the one useful or unique subject someone might supply something new one. And since mostly everyone says the same thing, it's difficult to get a sense of any individual personalities. There is some effort put into for some characters, but it's diminished by the fact that even these characters have a few of the "stock" answers for certain keywords, written in an entirely different "voice" than the conversation options clearly written just for them. Also, while you do have full choice to take or not take on certain tasks and can be somewhat creative in your resolutions, there are some specific quests which are bizarrely "railroaded", often infact in part through poor or no sensible dialogue options.
Finally, the graphics are technically brilliant in the sense that it's a full 3D world that allows for excellent movement -- flying even (no restrictive walkmeshes *glares at NWN2*) and with fairly decent animations for its time. But the color palette is absolutely and completely drab... everything seems to be the same shade of grey... and there is very little variation done in character or architecture design (with a few notable exceptions). And when a game is selling itself on its "fully explorable" world, that world should actually look like an interesting place to explore.
But maybe what's the most frustrating thing about Morrowind is..... that it's totally addictive, regardless of all its flaws. It's certainly nowhere near the top of my list as "the greatest RPGs" but it still offers compelling gameplay and backstory; it still offers areas the explorer in me needs to discover. So I'll have to begrudgingly forgive *some* of Morrowind's sources of frustration... but while I'll definitely try to play through it some more, I doubt I'll be trying Oblivion unless someone points out to me where they've notably improved in these areas.
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Guitar Hero and other pop culture stuff
VERY importantly, something you must all know instantly: I beat the Medium level of Guitar Hero Encore: Rockin' the 80s last night.
For you GH fans, this is a worthy supplement to the franchise. A lot of good songs on it, and of many songs unlocked so far, only one cover has sucked (Twisted Sister was woefully represented) and many of them are quite, quite good (I was very happy with "Turning Japanese" and "The Warrior," among others). [Edit: Ha! Apparently the Twisted Sister song is the original one. Who knew?? It doesn't SOUND like the "I Wanna Rock" I remember, that's all I'm sayin'. And Scandal's "The Warrior" is also original, hence why it sounds so good. Heh. Most of the rest are covers, and are good.] And, oh yes, there is a song by that wonderful hair band we all know and love as Limozeen.
The game seems easier to me so far. Mind you, I'd just started tackling "Hard" level songs on the original Guitar Hero, so the Easy and Medium levels are going to be much easier to me, but even so, I was still struggling through the hardest "Medium" songs in the original, while I got 4 Stars my first try through the final encore. They've "recalibrated" how hammer-ons and pull-offs work, making them respond much more smoothly than before, which is great when tackling the fast meedly-meedly parts.
My only disappointments, which are relatively minor are that
1. So far, you can't buy your guitarists new outfits, which was a feature of Guitar Hero II. The game's theme is THE 80's, people. GLORIOUS FASHION HELL, the decade of the best insane rocker outfits and hair ever, and you won't let us play around with that? We can't put Judy Nails in a Joan Jett mullet and leather jacket, or give our guitarists Flock of Seagulls hair and David Bowie make up? FOR SHAME!!! (My only hope is maybe this feature does exist and you have to unlock it in Hard, but I doubt it...)
2. Speaking of Joan Jett, WHERE ARE THE SONGS BY HER?? She is the fucking QUEEN OF ROCK AND ROLL. Yes, in the original Guitar Hero we got "I Love Rock and Roll" but come ON, guys, if there's one artist you need to replay for an 80s themed guitar game... you can't leave out Joan Jett. The very thought of it makes me cry. Again, I can hope maybe a song of hers shows up on Hard or Expert level... but on the other hand, if I ever make it through Hard, I will be amazed.
In other video game news, I picked up the $20 Game of the Year edition of Morrowind (which includes the expansions). I've played around with it a little... seems like an interesting game, though I'm so used to point and click interface, the "older school" of keyboard walk and 1st person view (I call it "older school" because it reminds me a lot of Might and Magic VI-VIII's interface) it takes a little getting used to. I can tell already the worldbuilding is excellent at least, and I'll probably have some fun mucking around in it. That it's a bit open ended might be good in that I won't be obsessive about playing till 3am trying to go to the next plot point... but knowing me, it won't keep me from trying.
On the movie front, I saw Stardust with K&B and E&J last weekend.... really, really great fantasy movie -- quite fairytale like, reminded me a lot of the old fantasy movies of the 80s, but largely with better acting and special effects. The story was fairly tight, the characters fun, and the themes enjoyable. The only disappointment for me was that Michelle Pfeiffer seemed to have phoned in her performance. That's hard for me to say, since she's been a favorite actress of mine for a long time (and she was fantastic in Hairspray). But she had an ever-slipping, awful accent and her evil witchiness was quite wooden at times... when I *know* the former Catwoman can do evil and bitchy waaaaay better. She did redeem herself at the end though... she did the proper evil villain bit beautifully during the climax. Everyone else in it was pretty uniformly fantastic, and I gotta note the supporting cast really helped make the movie as much, if not more in some points, as the stars. (The *stars*, get it? Hee!)
And on the comic book front, Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey has ended fantastically, though I look forward to her run on Wonder Woman and the future stories of BoP as handled by the new writers (I can't remember who's coming in between Gail and McKeever at the moment). I feel badly I never got "Fight or Flight" back up... but not badly enough to put it up now. I have other Web site updates being worked on... including lots of R.O.D stuff and maybe a redesign for the front page of deathquaker.org (anyone who has ideas on that, PLEASE feel free to share).
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
Buh-wah? Are you really talking about ME?
Okay, 4 and a half readers, I need your help. Read the final sentence on this announcement (apologies if pic too big) and verify that they are actually talking about ME and my NWN module contest submission, or if my delusions have caused me to hallucinate (actual link to the blog is toward the bottom of my links lists over to the right, if you are looking at my actual blog and not the RSS feed).
Out of 10-11 submissions, I had the lowest community score. The company takes into account this score but also their own requirements and impressions for the contest.
This was the very first module I ever made. It's too short, I fully admit, though I did work very hard to stick to the theme and made sure everything I did work into the game worked properly. I did my best, but I was up against very talented and far more experienced modders than I; I took this as a challenge to make myself learn the toolset better. Still to be awarded 3rd (even if all that means is being mentioned this very blog post by Obsidian's community liaison) is not what I expected. I'm sort of thinking this is all some kind of strange joke. No comments about it yet there or at the NWN boards, and I'm not sure what to say...
Damn, now that the contest's over, I've got to get back in there and add on to the module so people who try it will have something longer and better to play!
Monday, 2 April 2007
Finally, a way to enjoy the characters of FFVII...
...without having to put up with that silly game.
You can see, given my intolerance for outdated gaming interfaces, I have to use the spiffy graphical interface version (1).
I named my puppy Sephiroth. I imagine in the Gnomish mines he'll run around picking up daggers and putting them down again while I get slaughtered on my own by a vanilla gnome armed by the RNG with a wand of lightning. 1. Actually, my OS won't run the non-spiffy version, ironically.
Sunday, 11 March 2007
FFVII: Is it really worth it?
A number of people, from RL friends to 'net pen pals, have indicated to me that Final Fantasy VII (you know, the one with the blonde spiky haired guy.... oh wait, I guess that doesn't help...) is one of the B3$t G4mez Ev4R!!!! and that my gaming life cannot be considered complete until I finish playing it.
A long time ago I purchased a used copy and started into it. It was a good start to a story, with a couple interesting characters... but then seemed to quickly descend into a realm of cliched fantasy RPG elements (I do realize that in some cases, the game actually established said cliches, but I also encountered stuff I know was established JRPG protocol playing Dragon Warrior III on the original Nintendo) and obnoxious time-wasting mini games. I got stuck in the stupid RPG desert from hell and stopped playing for awhile. I did eventually pick it up again a couple months later and got a little bit further, blew up a reactor, got bored again, then stopped. I've just started again and managed to get some plot development, almost got sucked in, and then got frustrated again with poor dialogue and obnoxious things like trying to get a party member to join me, who you only can apparently find through a random encounter, and I screwed up getting her the first time because I committed the horrendous faux pas of asking her name. I just lost in an area where there are no freaking save points to a completely ridiculous boss monster who was doing 2000 HP of damage to my characters which have 1500 HP max. (And why
exactly is it necessary to have a game where the mechanics scale your attributes to be in the quadruple digits?)
Not to mention, there seem to be a number of "secrets" and things which you can only discover by reading a walkthrough (secret codes to safes and things like that--like, I can see someone putting in a walkthrough to indicate what a hard-to-find code is, but there's _no_ way to find the code IN GAME, even if you try to look). Which is just stupid. I've got no problem using a walkthrough, but you should be able to play through a game and at least get your party members and most of the items you need and the level you need to be without reading a 50 page walkthrough written by a 15 year old gamerboi named XXXfury-us1983XXX.
The user interface is awful and unintuitive. The quasi-pretend-real-time combat is annoying. No spells except the elemental damage spells ever work. All of the female characters are nerfed in some way. All of the male characters are ridiculously butch or femme. The random encounters suck (and the "retreat" mechanism is awful--you have to hold down two buttons and hope you eventually escape, rather than just have the normal "retreat" button most saner RPGs w/ random encounters have). The dialogue is horrendous in a lot of places: "What happened, friend?" "I think I grew up a little!" -- I mean, Who says that???
. Maybe it was a mistranslation and it was actually, "I think I threw
up a little." Yep, strange talking cat-thing, me too. Me too.
I am still on freaking disc 1. I've logged 20 hours of gameplay (which is the length of several far, far more enjoyable Neverwinter Nights expansions and modules). There are 2 more discs of this nonsense. Many promise me, "It will get better!"
I understand this game came out in like 1997. I try to keep in mind it's now a relatively antiquated game. But I remember 1997. There were other good games for console and PC at that time that were not this game, that did not have the crappy interface and mediocre music and piss-poor dialogue and ridiculously stereotyped characters this game has.
In trying to think of something nice about this game, at the moment the only nice thing I can come up with is "Tifa has really nice tits."
So, any of you who are familiar with this game: is it worth trying to slog through this nonsense? Will it really, actually get better? Is Sephiroth really all that and a bag of chips, or is he just one among many cookie cutter pointless pretty boys with a sword that is sadly very much compensating for something he probably doesn't have? Do the love story and sad death scenes evoke tears? Can I get through the game without ever having to see another goddamn chocobo again?
Or should I move on to the Xenosaga Series, Star Ocean, or Final Fantasy X, all of which are sitting on my entertainment center waiting to be played? Or work on my own Neverwinter Nights 2 module or replay more of Planescape: Torment (suddenly fantasies emerge of seeing the Nameless One appear and pounding that sad little sissy Cloud into dust, while Vhailor teaches Barret about what it means to fight for "justice," largely involving sticking his very large axe in places it ought not fit).
Friday, 12 January 2007
What can change the nature of a man?
I managed to get myself rather booged out last night (long story) and couldn't get to sleep, so I decided to play something nice and light and fluffy like Planescape: Torment
I always think nostalgia has to mask my eyes a bit but no.... Torment
is the best damn CRPG ever. I am always amazed at how it sucks me in... the uniqueness of the setting of the City of Doors... the characters. And are you the saving the world with a magic sword? No. You're discovering the mysterious history of a man cursed with immortality. Your ultimate goal is not to rescue innocents, or keep the Multiverse from Sundering in Twain, or defeating the Greatest Evil of Doom... it's simply to help a lost man die. *sighs* It's not just a good game, it's a good story.
I think I'd cry tears of joy for a week if Obsidian managed to put out some sort of 10th anniversary edition in a couple years... or a Torment-based NWN2 module, or something.And now for something completely different
I have, through the strange machinations of the universe, come into possession of a USB Flash drive shaped like a piece of tuna sushi (maguro). It is, of course, from Japan.
Friday, 15 September 2006
Farewell, Noble Guardians
Just found out Guardians of Order is kaput:http://www.guardiansorder.com
GOO made the anime-based "Big Eyes, Small Mouth" RPG and the related d6 based Tri-Stat system. It was a fun game and they were a fun company.
I admit, though, I'm not too surprised. They do what a lot of small gaming companies do: they start getting successful and then start moving too fast, putting out too much of one thing, not enough of another. Quality starts to vary.
Several years ago, a friend of mine bought their "Ultimate Tenchi Muyo!" guide; this was a GORGEOUS, big paperback book which had full analysis, episode summaries, maps, plus very well thought out, balanced BESM supplementary rules to play a Tenchi-based RPG. There was a small full color section with high quality pictures. It was a gorgeous book and it sold well until their license to sell a Tenchi-based product experied.
A a few years later I bought their "Ultimate Revolutionary Girl Utena" guide. Though the content was the same in nature, the book was half the size in both paper size and length. While almost entirely full color, it was filled with tiny, fuzzy, low resolution graphics that made the expense of it being full color pointless. It had far less detail and only covered the first third of the series, and included blatant factual errors. No large pictures, no maps. The BESM rules section was miniscule, with some basic rules and character stats (some of which made no sense) and very few guidelines for the GM. I can say with absolute truthfulness and confidence that I
could have edited the thing much better.
So yeah, significant drop in quality.
They did still produce gems--the Slayers d20
rulebook is still one of the best anime-based RPG books I've seen and incorporates the d20 system beautifully (which I cannot say the same for their actual generic Anime d20 System, which was clunky and unbalanced). They were still producing some beautiful stuff--it wasn't for me, but I understood their Game of Thrones project was very exciting. But clearly, the consistency
in producing a good product had fallen. And product consistency is so, so important.
Not suprising at all that it happened.
But still sad. Such potential lost, and what good products they do have will soon be OOP.
Fortunately their 3rd Ed BESM product will still be published... but I feel very sorry for the owner.
Thursday, 14 September 2006
Totally random observation
Weird, random geeky thought likely brought on by lack of good sleep:
Is it me, or do the Red Mages from the Final Fantasy series look sorta like Carmen Sandiego?
Friday, 21 July 2006
Thoughts on Game Mastering
I've been running my D&D game for almost a year now--after a couple shaky sessions, I started to feel more into the groove of things, but I still feel like I have a lot to learn and balance. Fortunately for the most part I feel like I'm on a good road, not getting too frustrated (apart from a few incidents of getting really upset with myself for not getting everything sorted out when I should have).
One thing is combat. I'm much more comfortable with it than I used to be, but I still have a lot to work on. I like to multitask, but running combat has always been a challenge for me, especially for this particular system. D&D combat can
be simple -- roll attack, roll damage -- but it allows for lots of complexities like "grappling" (wrestling someone to the ground and beating on them) and "bull rush" (pushing someone out of their space so you can enter it) and such which can get very complicated, requiring several steps--especially when you have players that like to take advantage of these more complex rules. While in general I like the system, it's pretty detailed, trying to allow for a lot of options--this gives people room to be creative with how they act, but it does so in a very "mechanical" manner, requiring learning extra rules and the exceptions to those rules, etc. There's a lot to learn and keep track of there. And then I have to keep track of the different abilities of the antagonists I am running. Often I forget--despite a character/combat sheet being right in front of me--half of the abilities my NPCs have. Last session I forgot my main monster had the Dodge feat, meaning she should have gotten a bonus to her Armor Class (defense) versus one of the PCs, which could have altered how the combat went (especially since several people were successfully hitting her on the nose and that additional Dodge bonus would have helped). The fight was challenging, but I could have made it moreso.
Because I tend to forget stuff like that, I end up playing my NPCs "dumb." As a player, I can manage tactics for a single character I play all the time--after all, all I have to remember is what that one character can do, and since I play the character over and over, that helps. I could have a recurring villain in D&D but that can be harder to pull off than it sounds (PCs have a fantastic habit of killing off bad guys that're supposed to get away). And I _like_ to offer a variety of enemies.
I also think I sabotage myself somewhat. I'm not a sadistic GM--I want my players to feel challenged, but I don't want their death ensured. I want to play for them to win, just have a good ride along the way. But I think I also either underestimate my players or overestimate my monsters, and often give them a fight that is easier for them to finish than it should be because I'm not using all the tactics I have to my disposal. I should use terrain to my advantage and often forget to or won't; I'll lower DCs or durations on certain effects because I don't want to incapacitate a player character early
in combat because then the player will get bored.
It comes down to
1. Learning to gauge proper challenges and always assume the worst: that the players will find a way to tear the thing to shreds.
2. Studying and studying the monsters and pre-devising tactics so I can offer a more challenging, more exciting fight.
3. Choosing encounters that are challenging, but don't have so many special abilities that I lose track of them all. Why attack someone with a Pit Fiend if I can't keep its spell-like abilities in mind and just attack with its claws?
Again, it's not that I want to beat
the PCs, but I want to give them a good run for their money. I have tried to write down monster stats in a way that's easy for me to access what they can do quickly, but sometimes I'll still not pay attention. Finding ways to remind me of what the creature can do before combat will help me provide a better fight to the group.
I also know in general, both in and outside combat, I rely too much on dierolling to make decisions or teach the players something. E.g., my instinct is to let the Ranger roll his Handle Animal check to try and use Animal Empathy on a creature that actually isn't an animal to let him find out that it isn't an animal, when instead it would be more efficient and interesting
to say, "You start to whistle and cajole the creature, but you sense something's not right. This isn't any natural creature--this is a magical beast, and will unlikely respond to your efforts."
D&D in particular can be system heavy and encourage dierolling--especially to inexperienced GMs--where it may not necessarily be needed, but I know I still overdo it. How much dierolling you do in a game is often more the domain of the GM than the System itself. I ask for too much die rolling when I run Storyteller system, a character-oriented system clearly NOT focused on rolling dice all the time. And I'm not sure why I do it, because I know I certainly prefer the alternative as a player where possible (though also as a player, I like the option to roll dice when I feel I can't explain adequately what I want to do... if I'm playing a charismatic character that I _know_ would know the right words to say to the Queen even if I don't, I'd rather make a Diplomacy check than have my theoretically silver-tongued character suffer from my own inarticulate nature, but that doesn't mean I want to turn every single conversation into a die roll. I play role-playing
games after all). I think as a GM I fall back on dierolling more than I want as a security measure... both because I can say, "Well, the system says you can't do it," if someone argues with a judgement call that I make... and because sometimes I'm uncomfortable making those judgement calls to begin with. Certainly there are clear times when one absolutely should leave something to the dice... but there are other things--especially in realms of social interaction and knowledge--that I need to trust myself and the players to do their thing, and only call on the dice if I suspect metagaming (which fortunately, there's been little in the campaign).
I think maybe what this boils down to is I am uncomfortable with my authority as a GM... but this causes me to alternate between being wimpy (making fights too easy) and using the system to allow me to be a control freak ("Well, the dice says you can't, so TOO BAD! Bwa ha ha ha ha!"). I think this is less and less a problem as time goes on, but it's still something I need to overcome as time goes on.
I know one thing I've done better about is preparation. I used to run stuff a lot more on the fly, but I've discovered writing a session adventure has been enormously helpful to me. Even if players do go off the plan I've imagined up, I've found that writing down the details of the situation help me think on the fly when they do take option C even if I've only offered A & B. I spent a long time both thinking about and writing up the adventure I ran recently, and even though there were a couple of significant moments where players had taken a left turn I had not foreseen, I was able to review what I had planned and come up with a plausible, reasonable result for the choice they had made.
Hopefully more preparation will also help me keep my hands off the dice when I don't need them and improve my combatant memory.
Friday, 14 July 2006
Time for Gaming (and other things)
There's an interesting article at the Wizards of the Coast Web site about finding/making time to game (and I think it can apply to other things).http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/sg/20060714a
Its concluding summary is nicely concise: "Don't confuse commitments with cop-outs or excuses with reasons. If you'd rather be doing something else than playing D&D, go for it. But don't pack your hobbies in the attic without taking a good hard look at what you have, what you do, and what you want."
It's an article I understand and appreciate, esp. as the author of the "Fear of Non-Commitment" article buried in my rants
I think one thing that frustrates me is that people who are chronic "cancelers" don't quite understand how irritating it can be to cancel gaming... they say, "Well, it's just gaming." The problem is, it isn't. Sure, the activity isn't in and of itself earthshakingly important, but planning the activity requires coordinating and getting together with friends--friends that, if you often are busy, you may not get to see very often. I would say friends are
a high priority, regardless of the activity you are planning with them. And if you plan something with them and then cancel on them, especially if it's last minute--regardless of activity--you have wasted your friends' time. It's not about "canceling gaming." It's about canceling your friends and your social life. And if you do it consistently, it's telling your friends that they are not ever on your priority list.
Sometimes we do have things we need to place ahead of friends and even family. Often, perhaps. Sometimes we have unexpected work-related duties that may mean not getting paid or even risking one's job if we don't accept them. Sometimes emergencies come up, or a loved one suddenly gets ill. But when such things happen all the time
it gets extremely frustrating for all parties involved if the person suffering the bad time just keeps cutting themselves off from the rest of their friends (and sometimes they make themselves more stressed out for not being able to keep commitments).
The article makes a good point that planning some leisure activity is an important, healthy thing to do. It helps us clear our minds and relax... and the busier we are, the more we need to remember to plan time effectively so we can still relax. Social activity is equally important if not more so; putting the two together actually makes sense if you don't have a lot of time to work in one or the other if you don't have a lot of free time.
Sometimes, of course, we are too busy to schedule any such thing, even if at the detriment to our sanity. Esp. if in a demanding job or in school, taking care of kids, etc. sometimes we have to just
focus on those things for awhile. And that's okay too, as long as it doesn't become notably long term (because you and the people around you will just become dangerously miserable). (Added note: this doesn't mean stop focusing on something like "taking care of kids" because of course you can't, but there are times where that's all you can do, and there are times you can call a babysitter once in a while to make sure you have a relaxed mind to have a good relationship with them(esp. since older kids want some alone or leisure-with-their-friends time too). And this isn't aimed at anyone--I note this because I only know a few people with kids and they might feel singled out--but because the idea of "kids" is one of the more important priorities, because it involves other very important people in your life who rely on you.)
What I find frustrating (as I have often said before) is that there are people with more important priorities who will stile try to schedule gaming (or going to the movies or simply hanging out, etc.) with their friends even though they know
they are insanely busy--and then they inevitably cancel and cancel--they feel bad, their friends feel bad, and it just ends up being worse for everyone. What frustrates me more are people who don't want to admit they're too busy to plan, or don't want to reprioritize even if they have that option.
It's always been my opinion that if you are too busy, don't schedule activities extraneous to work and family to begin with. I was in a game where many of the players simply had obnoxiously uncooperative work or school schedules and it made trying to get together for anything
, let alone gaming. The game happened infrequently and was more often than not cancelled or rescheduled on a regular basis, which became stressful for everyone. I had often suggested early on, "Look, everyone's nuts
. Maybe we should put this on hiatus until we can get our priorities taken care of and our schedules straight." (Note: I originally written "priorities straight" but honestly had meant what I had edited it to. :) )
This was always met with, "Does this mean you don't want to game with us, Rep? Because you don't have to play if you don't have to. We don't want to make you do something you don't want to."
Wondering how the HELL what I said implied any of that, I would reply, "No, that's not the point. I am the only person here with an ordinary 9-5 desk job with no after hours work obligations; I have a busy social life but I don't have an SO or anything. I WANT to game; I feel like I have the most flexibility to do so. The problem is that everyone else seems to have trouble scheduling this and it's stressing us out, and I think we need to address that."
This went on for about two years, always ending with me being completely ignored, until someone else finally said, "You know, maybe we should just put this on hiatus for awhile." And everyone else went, "Huh. Yeah, that's a good idea." I'm glad they thought of it. (In seriousness, I am really glad they decided to do it because it means I might actually see them more often, even if for shorter periods of time.)
In another gaming group where I run, we've set a specific time: 1st Saturday of the month, 2-6. That way, well ahead, people know to keep that day clear. Even though in our group we have busy and disparate schedules, it's easy for us to keep that one day clear and game. It doesn't work EVERY month--but it also means that if someone can't show up or does have to cancel, I can either prepare to run without them OR we have PLENTY of time to reschedule. And pretty reliably, we've had gaming once a a month. Yeah, ideally, we'd like to game more (and sometimes we do) but it at least guarantees we've worked in some much-needed social time and play time within our busy schedules.
And there is of course the fact that RPGs are hard to plan because they are time consuming (usu. 4-6 hours) and require preparation at least on the part of the GM. If it's too much or becoming a chore, but you still want to "game" with friends, then plan to play a board game or something instead.
If you want to game with your friends, you can with some simple planning. If you don't want to do it--accept it and move on.
But in any case, don't forget your friends along the way.
(Edited for clarity and yet making more babbly and long than before.)
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