Monday, May 11, 2009

In a Strictly Observational Capacity

I’m currently on sabbatical from my thrice-monthly gaming group in order to allow me to catch a break from the massive sword & sorcery atmosphere that I’ve been operating in for the last several months. Despite this respite, I’m still attending game sessions to take part in the camaraderie and the social aspects that accompany the hobby. Plus, it’s better to witness what the party is up to firsthand than to read about it in the post-game reports.

I’m uncertain as to how many of the readers out there have taken a similar approach when they needed to take a break from gaming. I know that, in my own case, I usually remove myself completely from the game sessions when I find I need to take a breather and I’m assuming that others may take a the same path. However, if my experiences of the last two weeks are any indication, I think that removing myself from the actual game but still attending sessions in an observational capacity is proving to be a much better choice than my complete absence.

By reducing my role to “audience member” rather than “performer,” I get to enjoy the entertainment value that these games provide without the additional responsibility of influencing the outcome of events. I made a conscious decision and a continued effort to accept my place as an outside observer so I keep my mouth shut as much as I can, even when I may think some well-timed advice could help the guys out. I dislike backseat driving when it comes to game sessions and I try not to be “that guy” during sessions, although I do occasionally slip up.

I’m of the opinion at the moment that my sabbatical may prove to be to the benefit of the rest of the players in the long run, as well as my own. My gaming group is composed of members with a varying level of game experience and many of the players are either fairly new to the hobby or have return to the game after a long absence and only limited previous experience. Not to sound like the “Old Man Grognard” at the table but there is a slight tendency to rely on my own store of experiences during a regular gaming session. It’s nice to watch the players flying without relying upon me to help them out. I think part of the reason that I was beginning to burn out in the game was that I was getting a little frustrated with having to haul a slightly larger workload when it came to game play. Hopefully, the rest of the group is going to learn a few things and become a bit more self-confident before I come back to the table.

Another advantage of being an observer and not a player at the moment is that the party has been in a rut for the past several months. After an initial several months of us feeling as if we were making progress in the game world, certain in game events and decisions made by the party brought things to a grinding halt. Some game sessions became akin to pulling teeth because of lack of direction within the party or because the environment kept us snowbound. Luckily, it seems that the group is beginning to get its focus back and the spring weather makes it possible to visit new locations in pursuit of our goals. I think over the course of the next few sessions the party will be chugging along again and hopefully will have set its sights on a new, pursuable goal. Since I’m away from the table as the party gets its act back in gear I’ll be able to jump back into the game and rejoin the party with a new direction without slogging through the dreary downtime.

The last benefit of observing and not playing is that it allows me to keep my toes in the shallow end of the sword & sorcery pool without getting in over my head and drowning in it. My biggest source of burn out was my constant exposure to it, either in game, on this blog, or writing articles and adventures. There was simply no place to escape it. While I’m at a game session, I’m still around that atmosphere without being overwhelmed by it. When it comes time to dive back it, it won’t be quite as difficult to get my head back in the game simply because I limited my exposure rather than eliminating it completely, which is what I’ve done in the past.I’m glad I’m having this time to relax from the game for a bit and watching instead of playing has kept me in touch with the hobby I enjoy so much. I’m gaining all the benefits of a break from gaming without any of the drawbacks of complete absenteeism. If you ever find yourself undergoing a similar case of game burn out, I’d recommend trying this method to recharge your batteries. So far, it’s exactly what I needed.

7 comments:

kelvingreen said...

r, only I was getting back into gaming after a long absence. It helped me get a feel for things so that when I started to play, I wasn't holding everything up with questions. It also allowed myself and the group to get to know each other before I committed to the game.

Joseph said...

That would drive me absolutely nuts. No way would I be able to overcome the urge to kibbitz...

Amityville Mike said...

No way would I be able to overcome the urge to kibbitz...

It's a challenge, certainly. One that I'm not always up to the task of meeting but I've been pretty good so far, I think.

The Grand Wazoo said...

This is much like going to a bar and just hanging out with a soda while all your pals are drinking up. It is better to be around then not, and observations on the game can be made from an objective standpoint not availible to GM, and players.
Thanks for doing it and sharing! I have only had the chance to observe games I was passing through town on and never one I had long term knowledge of.
Can't wait to hear more about the experience.

Andreas Davour said...

Good that at least there are a group around to come back to!

Most of my sabbaticals have been due to my group imploding or other time crunch reasons for us stopped playing.

Treasure it!

Thanks for sharing.

Vanadorn said...

Glad you are still showing up, Mike.

Badmike said...

Ok, I'm definitely a freak of nature then...I've been gaming since spring of 1977 and have NEVER wanted a break...if anything, I'll always regret having not gamed MORE in that 30+ years!!!!!