Editor’s Introduction: Hello my gentle readers! It has been some time since the last post here at Omens and Portents. This article is an attempt to remedy the slow pace at which I’ve been able to post of late, as well as provide new voices and perspectives to the blog, and also expand our topics. As you know, we’ve tried to be more broadly OSR, including other genres and game systems to the topics we discuss here.
This article is written by one of our new contributors Christopher Bishop. Christopher’s work has been featured on Multiverse and he is a welcome addition to Omens and Portents. Chris has been gaming since 1982 and behind the GM screen since 1985. He has GMed all over the place in tents, on the side of mountains, and even 1 mile deep inside a cave. A self confessed RPG system junkie, the only thing he loves more is his family and gaming is real dang close!
So without further ado, take it away Chris!
The Ever Widening Gulf Part 1 of 3 : Politics at the table
It was just like any other Saturday. I pull up to I Want More Comics. A couple of my early arrival gamers come up to assist me with unloading my Highlander. Everyone arrives, I update us on where we left off and the game begins. About an hour into the session however all hell breaks loose. A 5-minute bathroom break leads to someone looking at their phone and a political discussion ensues.
Soon an argument builds with people drawing lines. I am not innocent in this, being the resident libertarian I find myself squarely in the middle of most of the debates. Before I know it 40 minutes has eroded away from our game time and a few of the players are in a huff over things said by others. Now my crew of gamers is fairly quick to forgive and this fight leads to no lasting ill feelings. But still, this lately has felt like the rule rather than the exception.
Rules are made to be broken
I have long operated my table under the idea of “no politics at the table”. A decade ago that was not even an issue I had to deal with. Sure the occasional comment would be tossed out, but all in all, it was a rarity that any real debate surrounding politics came about. But since around oh…really 2011 or so this has changed. I would be a hypocrite to say that I have not changed as well.
Like most Americans, I listen to the news on the radio, read social media and watch news agencies just to keep tabs. In a way, our modern politics has become as much entertainment as watching a reality show. We are fixated on it, and for some very good reasons. This reality show really does impact our daily lives.
Why do we game in the first place?
The problem with all this is, gaming is supposed to be about entertainment. Getting around the table, even if it is with complete strangers, is where we let our hair down. The problems of the modern day should slowly take a back seat to the concerns of Midkemia, Westeros, Toril, etc. After all, did we not wait all week or all month for the opportunity to do just that. Roll dice, assume a role other than our self in a world other than our own.
Tangents are common in gaming. When gamers get together, especially once they get comfortable they are bound to let a few things slip regarding their life. Things become personal and that group of strangers slowly starts becoming friends. The problem with that is, generally how someone first acts at the table when they are uncomfortable changes once that comfort level has been established.
The fallout of being passionate
The sad reality is, folks have become so entrenched in the political atmosphere of today that they do not know how to shut it off. Attempts to discuss this with them lead to anger because the anxiety state is so high they feel as though stopping the fight for a few hours to game will somehow cause the war to be lost.
It becomes much worse when opposing sides at the table start going. Not only do two people shouting never end in anyone listening, but generally the game is on tenuous ground at best after that. I understand how hard it is for a lot of us to just let go. But I beg you to really think on what I am going to say next.
The simple joys in letting go
Look, as a past military member, I am here to tell you, even the highest ranking general in the worst possible conflict finds a way to unwind. Sure”me time” is different for everyone. I think it is fair to say for a lot of us gamers, it is well…gaming. This is our sacred time to unwind, roll some dice. I am not Chris the libertarian from Colorado, who is a disabled veteran in a wheelchair. I am Gorgoth the half-orc fighter from P’Bpar.
Gorgoth doesn’t care about Republicans or Democrats. Hell, he can’t even spell Republican. Gorgoth cares about his “lil buddies”, good battle, good shinies and the inevitable tavern brawl he will embroil his group in. He doesn’t need a wheelchair he is fleet of foot. He doesn’t care about the 2020 race because it’s not part of his world.
So in closing, I implore you to consider choosing to take a break from the chaos of social media, put your phones on silent and just focus on playing the game. Who knows, maybe just maybe if you spend less time shouting and more time playing you might find some common ground with that person who does not espouse your political beliefs at the table. We are all human after all.
Please join me in 1 week for part two of the ever-widening gulf. The topic will be the age gaps in gaming and some ideas on how a little understanding might help to alleviate a lot of problems.