February 14th, 2016

This weekend I’ve been thinking a lot about gaming and how I set myself up to not meet expectations. This came up from watching some TGN Squadron videos, starting with the usual Heroes of the Storm videos but then branching out to beta play of the upcoming The Division MMO. It looks like a ton of fun, and certainly watching the four of them playing in the video together was a blast, but then I realized that I probably wouldn’t have anyone to play with if I were to pick it up.

It’s not out yet, so I can’t say that for certain I suppose, but still, this has happened to me a lot lately. Heroes is a huge case in point, where I’ve spent a lot of time (and money) on the game and mentioned it to lots of friends only to have none of them want to play it. That’s understandable, since nothing is for everyone, but I seem to keep repeating this experience in game after game.

Most recently the new Star Wars Battlefront MMO shooter has fit that description. I put a lot of hours into it initially, and did have a friend play with me for a bit – I won another digital copy through an online contest and gave it to them – but that was just for one night. It was an awesome night, but that was over a month ago now and I’ve not played it since then.

Time has been an issue, with the dreaded W word that I don’t talk about here being more onerous than usual lately, but a good chunk of it is the lack of people to play with in the games. And yet I keep buying and/or playing them.

This spills over to tabletop games as well; I own a large number of board games that are mostly for 3+ people, many of which I haven’t played since buying them, and yet I want to buy more. I keep meaning to inquire if people would like to have a games night amongst our circle of friends but they all live in the city and, well, it’s hard enough to ask if they’d want to play period, let alone having to ask someone to actually host it on top of that. See also real life getting in the way, etc.

Nowhere is this problem more glaringly obvious, however, than with penned paper roleplaying games. From where I’m sitting in our basement as I type this I can see the mountain of D&D 4th edition books I purchased with lofty aspirations of creating campaigns and playing with friends (both online and in person). I purchased the player’s guide, DM guide, monster’s manual, books on loot and rewards, campaign books, a ton of stuff.

Total number of times I’ve played D&D? Zero.

And now the 4th edition, which it turned out a lot of people hated after all, has been supplanted by the 5th edition. Of which I’ve also played zero games, and so far own the player’s guide and DM guide. I know, I know. Glutton for punishment here.

There’s also a few Pathfinders books and some Shadowrun stuff thrown in for good measure, along with D&D figures and dice sets, many of which still sit in their original packaging. Sigh.

D&D really sticks out to me because of an incident from our trip to Emerald City Comic Con a few years back. Wizards of the Coast had a fairly large booth there where they allowed people to play test some of their stuff, by grouping up and rolling large d20 on a life sized map where you and your friends made up a little party and fought a monster or two. You had to line up for it, and while Sara was checking something else out I did just that.

There was a group ahead of me of 3-4 people, and when we got near the front of the line I got waved in with them to a little prep area, where they handed out cards for people to use temporarily, on lanyards to hang around your neck (you passed back in after). They explained the rules there and once the group ahead of you was done you had at it.

I was lumped in with them and it was all good, until the combat was about to start and one of the demo people asked the 3-4 people if I was with them and they said no, then proceed to play amongst themselves. So I turned around to go back in line, I figured, only to see that by that point the group that was behind me was in the prep stage and seemed to be another group of friends.

I just turned and left, pretty bummed out to be honest. All I could think was that here I was at a convention, in line with people to play D&D, a game historically associated with so-called “outcasts” or geeks/nerds who were excluded from other things, playing together, and I was being excluded from that. I don’t know, maybe it’s silly, and I was, what, 35-36 at the time?, but I remember having a lump in my throat and feeling pretty shitty about the whole thing.

One of the people working there must have noticed because while I didn’t get to actually do the play test they let me keep the lanyard I had – an elf ranger I think, it’s around here somewhere – and they gave me a D&D tote bag or something too. Which I was a little embarrassed about, because damn, I felt pretty pathetic as it was, but looking back they were really nice about it.

Despite all of that, I still set myself up for failure with this kind of thing, though more so in the digital realm these days. The only upside has been I can still play with strangers in most of those MMOs, which is less fun and sometimes leads to people being assholes on the internet, but at least I can play at all, right? All of that came bubbling back up to the surface of my mind from The Division, and knowing me I’ll likely give it a shot anyway because, well, look at all of the above and how often I’ve fallen for this kind of thing.

One of these days, D&D. One of these days.

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