Are you Really Friends with the People in your Gaming Group?
By Cape Rust
This article/rant/whatever you want to call it was inspired by something that recently happened to my gaming group. As you read this, please remember there are no absolutes and if you disagree with my statements or opinions, I recommend you comment on this article, and while you’re at it visit the RPC Facebook page and comment there as well.
So are you really friends with your gaming group? We all define friendship differently. Many of us actually have different levels of friendship. Some of us say some friends are casual, some might call those same people acquaintances, and some people have BFFs. For this article, I’m going to create a generalized baseline so that we all have a starting point. Here and now a friend will be someone who you enjoy being around, share some type of common interest with, someone you care about (levels may vary), and that same person cares about you. Friendship is much more complicated than that, but this is an article, not a thesis.
With our baseline established, let me tell you a story.
There was once a gaming group that met somewhere in the Midwest. Some of them were from this place and others were not. Some of them had known each other for a long time and others were newcomers. They had one thing in common; they loved to game. They enjoyed delving through tombs, slaying their enemies, and saving the world. They laughed, they yelled, they had to take breaks, but when it was all said and done, they would always come back to the table for their next adventure. When this group fist formed, the cast of characters was different. Some people moved away, some people got upset at other people in the group and left. Still others simply moved on to different groups; no harm no foul. After several roster changes the group stabilized and for many game sessions all was well until…
One of the members of the group started showing interest in a group he had never showed interest in before. This newfound group wasn’t another gaming group, it was a much different kind of group. The rest of the group didn’t think much of it until this member started to leave gaming sessions much earlier than normal and even started missing gaming sessions. Gaming is a team sport and their absence was felt, but like all good gaming groups, they dealt with this person’s absence. Then this person decided to invite a person who belonged to this other group, but was also a gamer. The rest of the group was happy to integrate this new person, but all was not well. After a few sessions the new person stopped coming to game sessions because they were busy with the new group.
Soon the person running the game had to have the discussion that all Game Masters dread. He had to ask the original member of the group what was going on. This person said they were very busy with the other group they had become involved with, but they still wanted to game. To ensure happiness, the Game Master adjusted the time the group had met for years and years. This time adjustment worked out well, not only for this person, but another person in the group who had to work some of the gaming nights.
All was well, for a few weeks, until the members of the group received a text from the person in question which said they were going to focus on the new activity they were a part of and would not be gaming anymore. After this text, there was no contact. No telephone calls, no social media messages, nothing. The gaming group was shocked, and even hurt. They had all been through so much. They had been to this person’s child’s birthday parties, they had spent holidays together, and they were friends… Or were they?
This story or some variations of it should sound familiar to many gamers out there; if it doesn’t, consider yourself very fortunate. Life happens and people and their situations change, but this story and its harsh aftermath happened and it made me question if I was ever really friends with this person or if we just happened to be in the same gaming group. Like many other people, I take friendship very seriously and I don’t call someone a friend lightly. This situation had me wondering if like murder, I should start to view friendship in degrees, offering only certain courtesies to “friends” based on their degree. Should something like this have made me feel this way? No; but it did. Then after that I thought back to several other gaming/friendship breakups and started to see that this was not in fact the first time this had happened. In fact, I almost needed more than one hand to count the instances where it had happened and really mattered.
This instance has caused me to really question just how good “friends” I’ve been with people I’ve gamed with in the past. The stereotype of a bunch of gamers sitting in their mother’s basement wearing robes, eating Cheetos, and guzzling Mountain Dew has been debunked. But even as a lifelong gamer, I still haven’t gotten over the illusion that gaming is a bunch of friends sitting around a table sharing their lives, throwing dice, and embarking on the kinds of shared experiences only gamers can truly understand. Is that over-romanticizing it? Sure, but those feelings still linger in my sick little monkey mind.
After spending several dark weeks brooding over the loss, not only of a person I really enjoyed gaming with, but also the loss of a friend, I came out of that cave and realized perceiving my once-fellow gamer was friend was my fault, not theirs. This in no way absolves the betrayal I felt, but for a friendship to work it takes two. Maybe this person only saw me as someone in their gaming group, maybe my friendship was never a consideration. Maybe during past gaming, this person wanted nothing to do with me. I was arrogant to think I was actually this person’s friend rather than just someone they gamed with. As I started thinking about past situations like this, I saw just how many times I had confused friendship with people who have a shared interest.
I write this not to cause you to doubt the people you game with, or even to get you to question those around your gaming table. I write this so that if you find yourself in a situation when someone leaves your group and cuts off all contact from you, you might not have lost a friend, just a person you gamed with.