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Games with James: My Crippling Addiction

Contrarily to my last two articles, I am writing this purely to express my love for tabletop games. In between gaming reviews, I will occasionally do tangential gaming articles as I take time to play and think over games that I will be reviewing, especially if the game I am planning to review is particularly time-consuming. 

I should discuss the structure of this article before getting into the thick of it. This article isn’t going to be the same type of review as the last two, as I will not assign scores since the topic is so vast and just as vague. This article will be structured with three different categories from the past two: Creativity, Sociability, and Form. The Form category will be split into a few different sub-categories, as there are multiple forms these games can take. I will not be doing a gameplay/balancing section—each tabletop system has its own pros and cons, and I would rather not tackle that beast unless I am doing a specific review of a system.

Now onto the topic at hand: tabletop games. I have to admit, I love tabletop games. I first got into them during freshman year when I was invited to play Dungeons & Dragons by some people I knew. After taking time to understand the system (I had never played a tabletop before), I quickly gained interest, attempting to form my own tabletop group after that game. That group eventually fizzled out, which was expected considering the trials we had gone through. Then my life was void of tabletop games until the beginning of my junior year, when I joined one of the best campaigns I have ever taken part in. At this point, I became obsessed with tabletops. I joined game after game, filling my schedule to the point where I had overlaps. Along the way, a couple of those games fizzled out due to interpersonal issues or character death; however, some groups I am in have continued playing to this day. As long as I’ve had a tabletop group to play in, I’ve been happy. With that, we are ready to get into the review itself, starting with Creativity.

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Creativity. Tabletop games represent the peak of my creativity and imagination. The possibility of such a variety of unique characters is astounding to me. Though some can seem similar in concept, each have their own quirks, making their personalities wildly different. I especially enjoy tabletops that allow each character within the game to have a unique power—the process I go through to create a character based around that power, or vice versa is one of my favorite parts. I have even attempted to make homebrew (fan-made content) for some of the systems I have played in, which could be something as simple as a race or as complicated as an entirely new style of play for the system. This has to be one of my favorite parts of tabletop gaming as a whole; however, the process is not without shortcomings. I do have some difficulty acting out specific characters’ personalities and/or voices. Furthermore, when I get into character, sometimes I have difficulty altering my mindset and manner of speech, which can get in the way of how I want said character to appear. Overall, creativity is what typically lures me into these tabletop games, and what keeps me enthralled is attempting to learn the pros, cons, traits, and quirks of new unique systems. 

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Sociability. This category in tabletop games has a unique place in my heart to say the least. I have met many friends through tabletop games, the most notable being those I met through the longest running and highest quality game I have ever been in. One of my favorite aspects of tabletop games is that people from all walks of life can meet up in a call or game and enjoy themselves. I have met several people through tabletops that I would never have talked to otherwise, and with the games’ help I have made many great friends. I think tabletops have let me grow as a person as well—in meeting so many different people through games, I’ve found that they lead to strengthened empathy and fast acceptance. Tabletops for me, especially this category, represent my growth as a person. I used to consider myself close-minded, but after experiencing so many new friendships, that changed after joining a few games. Before I get ahead of myself, I should mention this category has a severe flaw: the fact that you can meet so many people with different opinions is a double-edged sword. You can meet some really amazing players, and some really aggravating players (as is true for the rest of the internet), but what is painful within online tabletops is that you actually have to interact with them.

Now the problem where this mainly comes in is that certain lesser-known systems are closely knit, so the chances you have of interacting with these people skyrockets. I can say I have met some people I would consider my best friends through these games, but I can also say that I have met some rather annoying individuals. Some of them might not have done anything wrong per se, but others have done things that make some of my dislike justifiable. I’m not going to leave this category on a bad note though, since the majority of people I have met are very amicable, and I have a lot of fun with them. Some have introduced me to new systems, new games, even invited me into their friend groups. This is where tabletops can either shine or fall. Overall, I’d say the chances of running into distasteful individuals is low in my experience and because of that, I have come to adore my time in the tabletop sphere.

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Form. This category is rather strange to say the least, as there are multiple styles of tabletop games, and because of that I will have three subsections: Irl, Text, and Voice. Irl (in real life) games can be the most fun, and involve getting together with a face-to-face group of friends, sitting at a table, and playing the game the way it was designed. Unfortunately, issues have the potential to arise: players can show up late, some may be unable to join the session due to last minute conflicts, or they might not have a ride to the location of the game. Secondly, Text-based games fall into two categories: Play-by-Post games, and the traditional session-based games. A Play-by-post game is digital and has no clear schedule—it can be played at any time. This occurs through players typing actions, and then waiting for the Game Master to see and respond. This can culminate in annoyance from me because of how impatient I am—the flow and enjoyability of this game is dictated by the activity of the GM (and your patience).  These games sometimes take another form, assuming the session-based format. The online session-based format is a lot nicer to deal with in my personal experience, made easier with common starting times and designated times to play. Most of my best experiences have been in games of this type. The pros to playing a text game are that things aren’t as awkward since you don’t have to speak, you can multitask, and they are almost always more chill than the average voice game. It is always nice to talk to others while playing them though, whether it be with your fellow players or just a random friend. The cons to this game type: the GM may take too long to respond (especially if you have a massive group), or they might go on for long periods of time (some people I know have fallen asleep playing). Finally, the Voice game can carry the most disadvantages in my opinion. These games take a session-based format with players crowded in a voice chat. These can held in varying applications, but I have done this the most in Discord. Depending on who your group is, this can either be extremely fun or completely unbearable. As an awkward guy, I have a lot of problems when I join voice-based games with new people. Overall, the form heavily changes how I feel about the game, and while I have a preference for text-based games, there are advantages to playing with each style. 

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Overall. I have mostly positive feelings towards tabletops. They have become a constant within my life, helping me to survive quarantine by giving me something to look forwards to each week—everyone should experience them before judging. With the variety of systems and themes within the tabletop umbrella, players will be able to find and modify systems to suit their tastes, and explore endless game possibilities. Tabletops are one of the most fun things I have ever experienced, and I would heavily recommend them to anyone. They have quickly become my biggest passion.

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