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Social Context

Started by Ron Edwards, November 15, 2002, 04:49:12 PM

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Ron Edwards


This is a companion thread to the Mainstream: a revision and Actual play in the game store threads. I might as well give the game away and reveal that I'm slowly presenting a total of five threads as a linked family of concepts, of which this is the third.

With any luck, everyone is up to speed on what I mean by Social Contract. It's the sum and the internal interactions of how the members of the role-playing group interact as human beings. It includes logistics (who's bringing the beer, who hosts, etc), standards of courtesy (don't pick on Steve, he's fragile), sexual interactions (who's with whom, etc), standards for gaming activities (it's OK to borrow Mario's dice but not Ron's), how games are chosen to be played, how rules are to be handled or interpreted, how talking or moving around relates to role-playing stuff, who is being shunted out of the group by miscommunicative "accidents," and pretty much anything else.

Social Contract isn't unique to role-playing; rather, role-playing, like any other social activity, has to occur within a Contract. I maintain that a great deal of the Contract is not verbal and indeed would be embarassing or upsetting to people to bring into the verbal realm, but clearly a great deal of it is also verbally negotiated as well. All aspects of role-playing are conducted in the matrix, or perhaps embedded in the folds, or perhaps floating in the mists, of the Social Contract.

However, this thread is not about the Social Contract. It's about something I'm calling Social Context, which is (gasp) even bigger. The Social Context of play concerns how one's role-playing relates to all the other socializing in one's life.

I'm interested greatly in this issue, and I think discussion about it will benefit from simply starting with some questions to ponder, presenting some answers among one another, and then moving into issues or critically-constructed questions and debates.

1. Consider yourself and the people you role-play with. Do you ever socialize with them without role-playing? If so, which type of socializing is the more frequent one? That is, do you occasionally role-play with these general/whatever friends, or do you occasionally socialize with these fellow role-players?

2. Consider yourself together with your fellow group members relative to other role-playing groups in your area. Do you talk about your play experiences and share information about play with members of these other groups? Do you socialize with play members of these other groups without role-playing being involved as an issue? [Please note: these last two questions are not alternatives, but independent of one another. One could, for example, conceivably do both, just at different times.]

3. Consider yourself relative to people you know who do not role-play. Do they know about your hobby (that is, that you do this)? Do you discuss it with them to any degree, and if so, how often?

4. Consider your own entire history of role-playing. Have any of the answers to the above questions changed for you, over time? From what to what?

5. Consider yourself and your fellow group members again. Do you all share similar answers to all of the above questions, or do you represent a range of diversity?

This thread isn't intended to be a Profiling survey or an anecdote-bank. I'd like people to answer the quesions, yes, but the real point is to get a round of points and discussion going. I have lots to say about Social Context, but I suspect that my starting point (my answers to the above questions) is not especially typical. I'd like to see what other people think of it - and how they experience it - before presenting some of my principles-based conclusions.

My answers are as follows:

1. In both of my regular groups, we socialize outside of play to a slightly less frequent degree than we actually play, but we do so consistently.

2. I socialize with and discuss role-playing with members of other groups regularly. As a rule, I also socialize with these same people regarding non-role-playing issues as well.

3. My friends who are non-role-players all know about my hobby and occasionally express interest in it (much as I would express friendly interest in how "bowling night" might have gone for one of them).

4. My answers to #1-3 evolved into their current form during college, which would be ... 15-18 years ago. Before that, my #1 would have been "socialize more outside of play" and #2-3 would be answered in the negative.

5. Most of the people in both my groups tend to have the same profile for #1-3 (not sure about #4), I think.


Jonathan Walton

Nice issue, Ron.  Here's where I stand, currently.

1.  Most of the people I roleplay with I knew as roleplayers before they became my friends.  I was getting a game together and they responded, but they only later became people I did other social things with.  Currently, our time together is more often spent socializing than roleplaying.

2.  I have little-to-no contact with other roleplaying groups (or even individual roleplayers) in the area.  Honestly, there's often the feeling that we're doing something "different" than other roleplayers, which makes us a little pretentious, but it's an important part of our identity that keeps us seperate from the other "gamer geeks" that dominate the public consciousness.  This is both a good and bad thing.

3.  Outside of my parents and brother, very few people know I still roleplay.  If they know I ever did such things, they probably think it's a hobby that I've "gotten over."  Many of them roleplayed at some point but then "grew out of it," moving on to other things, and assume that my situation is similar.

4.  This has generally been the same throughout the years I've been playing.  Of course, I'm only 20, so this doesn't count as much.

5.  Most of the people I play with are also "closet" roleplayers, who don't identify with stereotypical gamers or with the gamer-despising masses.  This makes it very hard to recruit new players, but we manage somehow.

Note that I'm not necessarily content with all of these states.  I'd like for more people to know that I roleplay, but I don't think they'd react very well.  There was an article on RPGnet a while back comparing the social positions of marginalized groups (specifically, gamers and homosexuals, which is a fairly controversial comparison).  While I didn't agree entirely with the article, there's definitely some truth there.  I DO feel the need to hide my hobby from a great many people, but I don't feel the need to hide the fact that I read comic books (at least, not anymore).  Part of my motivation in wanting roleplaying to be more mainstream is based on the desire to "come out" as a roleplayer.

I probably don't need to point out how ridiculous that is, do I? :)


Clinton R. Nixon


These threads are great. This issue is probably the one I'm most interested in in regards to role-playing.

As for my group, we don't socialize outside of roleplaying as much as I'd like. This is for several reasons:

a) I'm a hermit. That's because of the reasons below:
b) I've had two very good friends that I met through role-playing. In both cases, I got backstabbed by those friends, one here on the Forge of all places. This wasn't the general everyday backstabbing we all know, but more like "best friend backstabbing you." This didn't affect my mixing friends and role-playing as much as it affected my interest in having close friends.
c) Seattle actually has a pretty active social group that also role-plays. However, my first interactions with them were marred by some miscommunication and social problems with one member. Luckily, that miscommunication's been put aside, and I've found myself slightly involved in the group (where we do discuss each other's games to some degree, and mix up groups a bit, which is cool.)

That said, I'm enjoying the socializing we do. We usually set aside a half-hour or so before the game (while we're waiting for pizza to come) to chit-chat and catch up on non-RPG activity. If we were just discussing games, it might bore me, but we really talk about our everyday lives. One of my best game experiences here in Seattle has been one Sunday when my group and I went to the neighborhood bar after a game, and I brought my girlfriend, and one player brought his wife. Together, we had an excellent time.

My friends outside of gaming do know about my game involvement. More of them ask about my game publishing than actual play, but that seems pretty normal.

All of this has changed pretty dramatically over the last two years. I've had a couple of stages in my gaming:
1) High school - Few people knew about my gaming outside of my group. However, I socialized with my group outside of gaming all the time.
2) College - My gaming group was my group of friends. There wasn't really the possibility of discussing games with outsiders. However, again, I socialized with my group outside of gaming all the time.
3) After this, I didn't game for several years. I joined the Army, and got married, and only sporadically played.
4) About three years later (during a divorce from a woman who said this about my roleplaying: "I quit playing with Barbies when I was ten") I started roleplaying heavily again. I did not tell others about it, but did socialize with one member of my game group outside of playing.

That was my last experience gaming before I moved to Seattle two years ago. I'm pretty happy with the changes in my social context, although, like I said above, I'd like to socialize with my players outside the game more, and get more of my non-gaming friends to try it once. (In Seattle, where everyone's a tech geek and weird counterculture is the norm, everyone's at least heard of D&D, and most people will try most things once.)
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

C. Edwards

This is great Ron, I find the social aspect of gaming to be much more problematic than any game system issues.

1. Hands down I have socialized more outside of play with the people I have gamed with more than in actual play.  This is for two reasons: a) Most of the people I have played with I already knew socially and I introduced them to role-playing, and b) I already knew someone socially and discovered that they used to game and would like to start playing again.  These two things account for at least 80% of my role-playing experience.

2. I've always had little to no contact with other gaming groups, and if I have it was due to me meeting them socially and discovering that they also game.

3. I might bring role-playing up in a discussion if I think the non-gamer I'm talking to might be interested in gaming.  Normally though, unless someone asks questions about dice or a game book I have laying around the subject of gaming usually doesn't surface in my conversations with non-gamers.  This is equivalent to most of my other interests in that I don't generally discuss them with others unless they already show a degree of curiousity towards them.  Most of the people that spend any amount of time around me know that I role-play, from the paraphrenalia strewn about if nothing else.

4. My role-playing experiences have remained very consistent and my answers to the above questions describe my whole gaming history.  The only change to this would the large amount of IRC gaming that I've recently done.  Although a little discussion about other issues might come up, the majority of my IRC gaming sessions have been pure play or rpg discussion with no "socializing" with those involved outside of a role-playing framework.

5. Since I currently live next door to the middle of nowhere I don't have a gaming group at the moment.  Hence all the IRC play.

One personal observation that I would like to mention which I think is related to this and the whole "mainstream" issue:  My gaming experiences involving non-gamers that I have introduced to the hobby have always been much more fulfilling than those I have had with entrenched "gamer-geeks".  Maybe it's the fresh outlook they brought to the game, or the fact that we shared interests beside gaming. I'm not quite sure.


Paul Czege

Hey Ron,

2. Consider yourself together with your fellow group members relative to other role-playing groups in your area. Do you talk about your play experiences and share information about play with members of these other groups?

I know what you're getting at, but I think your use of "groups" here risks respondents to your inquiry setting aside from their remarks a great deal of the social stressors that problematize this aspect of the social context. I think the key social stressor here isn't so much manifest between arbitrary member of functioning game group A and arbitrary member of functioning game group B, but between a member of a functioning game group and an otherwise self-identified gamer who, for whatever reason, is groupless. I personally have no problems discussing my gaming experiences with other active, satisfied gamers. The problem I have is with the groupless.

Consider that a year or so ago, a Forgite who was going to be in the suburban Detroit area for a few days contacted me. We had a phone conversation, during which he suggested he was interested in dropping in on the ongoing Theatrix game our group was scheduled to play the weekend he'd be in town. The request floored me. If I walked into a local club with my guitar case this Saturday, and asked the band if I could do their set with them, what are the odds they'd say yes? I countered by suggesting we get together for lunch and talk games. He begged off, saying he'd probably be too busy with work. He had no interest in social contact outside the context of actual gameplay.

A few months ago, Danielle and I had a very nice dinner with a Forgite, his wife, and one of his friends at a restaurant midway between all our individual hometowns. I'd proposed running a game for them, which never actually happened, but that was the purpose of the get together. And I enjoyed it quite a bit. But would everyone have made time for that nice dinner and game conversation if the possibility of gaming together had not been on the table. I really really doubt it.

This is the social context, a cultivated disinterest in socializing if the possibility of gaming isn't on the table. The social fabric of gaming is warped by the inhabitants' constant need for a new fix, and I'd go so far as to say, personal insecurities causing them to interpret the absence of the near term possibility of gaming together as an esteem-damaging message that the other person doesn't like them.

I have the phone number of another Forgite in the area. But, dammit, I know he's groupless. And as cool as he is, and as much as I think I'd like to game with him, my regular group has a full membership. So my interest is in socializing. I actually have nothing to offer but socializing right now. And since I'm sure he's really wishing he had some gaming possibilities, every time I nerve myself up to phone him, I chicken out. It's easier than having to explain why near term gaming possibilities aren't on the table, and from that risk feeling myself sending out the communication of that esteem-damaging message, when that's not what I meant at all.

If there wasn't so much pain in the social context, we wouldn't build these walls, I think, but unless you're prepared to take ownership of a lot of pain, it seems like you don't have a choice.

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans

M. J. Young

O.K., my answers may require some context.

Unlike most of you, I never heard of role playing games until I was a couple years out of college (but before graduate school, where for some reason the question never arose).  So I don't have these life-related phases in the same sort of connections.

It's also worth noting that I long considered myself rather anti-social.  I hate parties.  I don't hang out with people.  It took a lot of years and self-observation to recognize that it was not people I disliked: it was unstructured social situations. I love to go to classes, and I love to teach classes. I very much enjoy playing games. I have played many concerts, emceed quite a few, and attended them. I'm said to be an excellent interviewer by those I've interviewed. All of these social situations have context. Sitting around talking does not, and I am always uncomfortable and uncertain how to act in such unstructured situations. I'm the guy who, when we have company over, spends most of his time making the food.

This is probably important to understanding why my answers are so skewed. Long before I heard of role playing games, my primary socializing was already centered on playing games. Every weekend Bob and Margaret came over or we went there, and we played games. Bob is the only person I ever knew who had a real pinball machine. He also was able to get absolutely any Atari game cartridge (he worked for GTE, and they made the chips, so they could copy games to chips and plug them into boards rather cheaply). We played hours, probably months, of Pinochle, every board game we could find, miniature golf, bowling (Bob was on a league, but we didn't mind letting him beat us a few times a year), bookcase games, wargames, card games, trivia games, parlor games. We got together and played games. That was the core of our socializing. When we found role playing games, they swept through our group with a vengeance. Pretty soon we were playing three different games, week by week deciding which campaign to continue, tucking in the pinochle before play, picking up a board game or other game maybe once a month or so. These games seemed both to facilitate our socializing better and to hold our interest from session to session so we always wanted to come back to them.

Also, when I started role playing, I was in a rather public position, an announcer/DJ/minister on a Christian radio station. It got out quickly that I was involved, and thus I quite early began my career as a "game apologist".

There's another wrinkle in all this.  My gaming life changed drastically around 1990. Before that, we would have anyone over to play who wanted to play. We brought people into gaming constantly. I've had thirty  people in my living room at one time, brought into the game by friends of the gamers. However, about that time a number of things went sour, including (top of the hit parade) that someone still unknown was stealing things from our house. Video games, video tapes, money, up to an irreplaceable Hagstrom 8-string bass guitar, all walked when we weren't looking and never came back. Since then, we have been understandably very slow to invite people over. But since I'm also the father of five, I don't get out to other people's games much either. I've become considerably more insular because of that, at least in terms of relating to gamers.

Now to examine the questions specifically.

[list=1][*]I mostly role play with family and close friends. I don't get to play nearly as much as I'd like, so most of my socializing is outside the game context. But then, most of my socializing is "online", and a lot of it is related to gaming; but I don't do much online play, and don't socialize much with those with whom I game, although I mostly socialize with gamers, if online counts.
[*]I do talk about Multiverser sometimes, but that's really sort of expected. There are a few people who want to "get together for a game", and I keep saying we'll do that sometime, but since I'm not likely to go somewhere else and we're still skittish about having strangers in the house, I don't really expect it to happen. If "socialize" includes recognizing them when they are at work and talking about stuff, then yes; for example, I know a gamer who works at Staples, and we talk about gaming whenever I'm in the store (probably once a month or so). I've got his number, and would like to have him over sometime, but life doesn't facilitate scheduling games at present (most of our games are announced about ten minutes before they happen, usually between ten and midnight). He has invited us to join them (that is, including our wives) at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I like a lot about the movie, but I'm not at all sure I'm ready for the theatre experience. I don't know a lot of people outside those involved in Multiverser at present, particularly as I moved here within the past couple years.
[*]Most people do know that I role play; that's probably because if they ask what I do I explain that I write role playing games and fiction. I've had a couple of people interested in playing, but can never seem to find the time to invite them over when there's going to be a game. Got to get that more organized. With my extended family, I find myself frequently explaining that it's not a computer game.
[*]Changes over time have been discussed to some degree in the preliminaries. I've emerged as one of the better known RPG apologists, particularly as I (like CARPa's Paul Cardwell) have some status among conservative Christians and speak their language. Also, I think that being a published game designer gives a sort of legitimacy to my hobby; it's like something related to my work, so it's good.
[*]I don't think anyone in the group is like me in any regard. Most of them are heavily into MUD play (for which I have no interest). They interact with people at school, and do a lot more messenger chat with friends than I (I interact mostly through e-mail and forums, which they don't).[/list:o]
I believe that one of the principles of sound research is to eliminate the extreme results; I suspect this set is going to be among those scratched. But perhaps it will give some insight to others.

And you thought your answers were atypical.

--M. J. Young


1. I guess our group may be more typical of the "gamers with careers and families" image. First off our group is the merger of two small groups. One set involved a married male, a single male, my wife and myself. The other set involved single male, a single female (though the two are romantically involved), my wife and myself.

One player has gained two sons since we first started playing. Three of our players are going to school, often on weekends and nights, while also holding down full time jobs. Several of us have jobs which demand more than a straight 8 hours (my wife does project work, I do technical support around the state, one of the players works multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet, and two others do systems support for yachts and are effectively "on-call" most of the time). Therefore due to our family and work commitments we don't get to meet as much as we used to outside of our gaming sessions.

Do we still socialize? Sometimes. This usually entails going to a movie, Renfaire, or getting together and watching a video or playing video games. If someone can't make the biweekly game and a full crew is needed for the story to continue, we'll just get together and play cards or a boardgame or something.

Many years past a friend told me that he doesn't roleplay with people he wouldn't interact with outside of gaming. I've adopted this creed and I find that it's works and has helped keep our group together for a few years now.

2. To be honest I don't interact much with other role-playing groups. The only contact I have with other gamers tends to come at the local gaming store and none of these folks made enough of an impression for me to do anything more than avoid them.

Does anyone else in the group interact with other role-playing groups? Again, not really. Two of our group are relatively inexperienced gamers and don't go to places where they would meet other gamers. The other two players are also wargamers and interact with the local Warhammer 40K groups but not often with other role-players.

As it is there is not a very tight-knit roleplaying community down here outside of RPGA D&D players. There are few stores and they are scattered far out enough to fail to provide a focal point for gamers. Additionally, there are no Conventions or other such events to allow gamers to come together. Now heap on top of all of the above the fact that the general community of Miami tends to be conservative and not generally predisposed to viewing non-physical endeavors with much favor.

3. Those I know well know that I role-play. Most nongamers I interact with regularly do not. But then again most of these people also don't know much about me or my hobbies anyway. I only share myself with those I have come to trust or know well. I don't bother trying to explain things to other people.

Those that do know me are familiar with my gaming habits. They've been to my home and seen my bookshelf of games. They know that every other Saturday afternoon I'll be hosting several friends for gaming. Most probably don't understand exactly what gaming is but they know that it's something that I and other people do.

4. 1 and 3 have changed over time. Being a) uninterested in sports, b) fond of reading, c) smarter than the other kids and d) unconcerned with pop culture made me grow up with little positive social interaction. My hobbies were of interest only to myself because... well, to be quite honest, no one cared about gaming. When I did game it was mostly with family members or a few other people I met that were into role-playing.

We interacted socially outside of gaming because we shared other common interests, like video games or comics. I only talked about  role-playing with other gamers because much of my early education was spent in Catholic schools. It was when my 9th grade English teacher (an ex-drug addict who had found Christ) wrote "that I was going to Hell if I didn't change my ways" on a paper where I mentioned my hobbies that I realized that I would no longer bother trying to explain things to people who don't care to begin with.

Once I left the Catholic school system in highschool I just stopped caring what other people thought and only bothered associating with people who could handle who I really was, including my hobbies. So role-playing went from being a dirty, little secret I hid to another facet of my personality that only those who bothered talking to me would see.

Along the way my opinions in the social factors of gaming, what the point of this topic is, changed as I met and played with more and different role-players. I saw what I liked and what I didn't like, what worked and what didn't work.

5. I can't honestly answer this for the rest of my group. My wife is of a somewhat similar bend as myself but she keeps more hidden from coworkers and her mother.

I'm glad to see these types of questions out in the open. There's so much more to the social aspects of role-playing than what occurs at "the table". I hope that I didn't stray too far off-topic.
Alex Hunter
Email | Web


let's see if I can answer the questions coherently... before I begin, I need to roughly describe my social groups: I have two close friends (a married couple) who are also neighbors and my primary gaming partners, when I game; I have another set of friends who are part of the experimental music scene, a couple of whom I have gamed with in the past; a third set of friends I talk to on Usenet and occasionally visit in person, but I don't game with, although I talk about gaming with those who also game; a fourth group is of co-workers at my previous job, some of whom I gamed with.

oh, and there's also relatives, of course. my relatives don't game, know I game, and don't talk much about gaming.

now, the Q-and-A:

[*]I don't game much anymore, because of schedule conflicts, so those people I used to game with I see mainly in a social context. the exception would be my fourth social group, whom I don't see much at all since leaving my former company; most contact with them is in chat and is getting rarer.
[*]since I'm not gaming much, but my friends who are neighbors regularly game, I treat the gamers I meet through them as "other gamers in the area" for this question. socializing is split between talking about roleplaying and talking about other things. my friends in the third group, whom I primarily talk to online, might also be considered "gamers I don't game with" (for those who game); conversations with them is also split, since I met them in a non-gaming context.
[*]I don't discuss roleplaying games much with people who aren't gamers, although it's not a deep secret. I don't talk much about what happens during a game, since nongamers aren't much interested in "war stories" or "character scrapbooks". I do occasionally talk about it. back at my previous job, I and the other gamers talked openly about gaming in front of the nongamers and occasionally explained something game-related to them; about the same thing happens when I meet in groups with my Usenet friends (the gamers talk, they change the subject if the nongamers seem bored, or explain something if a nongamer is interested.)
[*]my gaming social context history definitely changed. when I first started gaming, I didn't talk much about gaming to nongamers (except that time I started a school-sanctioned roleplaying games club in high school. I had to talk about it a little, then...) it stayed about half-and-half during my heaviest gaming days: I talked about gaming in mixed groups, when I knew I wasn't the only gamer. also, during my heavy gaming days, there were a couple people I didn't socialize with in "real life" except to game, although we socialized online (on BBSes; no internet yet!) there were also some people during the BBS days that I socialized with both online and off, but I never gamed with, although I knew they gamed.
[*]my fellow group-members are somewhat varied. I don't know what their specific answers to these questions would be, but I suspect some of them never talk gaming except to gamers, while others may talk gaming to nongamers quite a bit more than I do. my friends who live next door game with a couple people they do not socialize with much outside of gaming, but have quite a few gamer friends who also socialize in a nongaming context as well as many friends who don't game at all.

are those answers useful? it  seems kind of muddled as I look back over it; there answers change for each of the social contexts I'm involved in, and it's all complicated by there being a mix of gamers and non-gamers in some of those contexts. maybe I should try answering it by group context instead:

[*]my friends who are neighbors: I game with them once in a great while, they game regularly. I see them regularly, but it's usually for dinner, movies, tv nights, shopping expeditions. occasionally, I meet some of the other people they game with.
[*]my friends who are in the experimental music scene: I gamed with a couple of them a couple years ago, but most of my socializing with them is music-related with occasional movies and parties. strangely, I think most of the people in this group tried D&D or WoD and didn't like it, so they are nongamers who are knowledgeable about gaming.
[*]my friends on Usenet: actually, we meet in real-life, on a MOO, via IM, and on Usenet. in group contexts, the topic occasionally changes to gaming, but the nongamers get bored and the topic shifts.
[*]my friends from my previous work: lots of open discussion of gaming here, even in front of nongamers; this was a tech job, so naturally people talked about rpgs. most of the non-roleplayers were computer gamers, so it wasn't like they were completely out of the loop. I only gamed with a few of my cow-orkers.
[*]relatives: they know I game, occasionally hear conversations I have with gaming friends. I sometimes mention my game design ideas to them. there's not much game dialogue, however.
John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects:

Emily Care

Ron et al,

My answers are not too disimilar from much of what has been expressed.

1) I socialize with my fellow gamers quite a bit out of gaming context,
2) I definitely talk with other gamers about my role-playing experiences and often experience a sort of paradigm clash when I do so.
3) Non-gamers in my acquaintance know or don't know about my gaming mostly based on how much they know about me in general. I am not retiscent to tell acquaintances that I game, and even something about it, but like most of my hobbies and other aspects of my identity, those who know me best know most.
4) Changes over time: my interactions with other gamers has changed the most.  I used to be very interested in hearing about other people's campaigns and stories from their experiences.  I still listen, but am looking for something else in the discussion: analysis of roleplaying and theoretical issues. This is hard to find out there in the world.
5) My fellow role-players probably have a variety of interactions. I'll have to ask them.

Issues that I see in my own experiences that may or may not match what other folks are saying:

*It's hard to get people together to socialize without the promise of a gaming experience. My old housemate intentionally began a game with all of a circle of friends, something like 9-11 people, and then would de-emphasize actually running, to make the point that it was just cool for us all to get together.  

*I have a hard time finding other gamers who have the same context for talking about gaming that I do, and when I try to explain my experiences it's not usually met with interest. I guess I should say more about what I'm interested in:  it's really just looking at "gaming"per se rather than re-counting the events of a campaign.  I get a lot of blank stares. :)

*My hobby of gaming is pretty damn marginal with respect to society's value of leisure time activities. But usually non-gamers are quite receptive to the concept of role-playing when I explain it to them. I've had better success with this than talking to other gamers about what I'm interested in.  I may just need more practice.

*It strikes me that role-playing occupies a unique place or function in each of my fellow gamers' lives. At least I know that it gives a different "kick" to each of member of my steady gaming group. We talked about this at some point.  For me, what hits the spot for me is the emotional immersion of being in character, inter-character interaction, developing magic theory in-character and moments when the characters or the game world organically move in an unexpected direction.  This may be a question for another thread: ie what's holds the juice for you in gaming?

Emily Care
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Maurice Forrester

1.  I socialize somewhat with the people I game with, but the group evolved as a gaming group first and as a group of friends second.  Gaming is the primary focus of our relationship.  (Well, except for the one member of the group that is my wife.)

2.  I actually don't personally know people in any other gaming groups in the area, so there is no interaction with them.

3.  Some people I know are aware of my gaming hobby, but most are not.  People that do know about it never ask about it, and I don't generally bring it up.

4.  In the past, there was a higher degree of socialization with people I gamed with and more interaction with other gamers.  That changed largely because I moved away from my old gaming group.  I also used to make more of an effort to get people interested in the hobby and so shared information about my gaming activities with non-gaming friends.  Like a lot of gamers, I went through an active period of proselytizing early in my gaming career.  And also like a lot of gamers, that zeal for proselytizing waned over time.

5.  I think the answers of other group members would be similar.  I know that we've talked in the past about going through similar experiences relative to the proselytizing.
Maurice Forrester

Jason Lee

Some context as it'll be vital for understanding my answers:
All group members are between the ages of 20-30, all single, and are all long time gamers (no one started with this group).  The group and the game are synonimous - they do not exist independent of each other.  Our game is in it fifth year (a world/time/dimension shifting premise with a lengthy home-brew system).  Each player is also a GM for the game at his point in the "GM rotation" - A GM's story average three sessions.  We have seven participants, we've lost three and gained four over the course of the game.  Active PC total is 18, not counting the 12 retirements/deaths. Sessions are run once a week and last 8-12 hours.  There is also a "cooking rotation" (food good).  

1.  Our group is composed entirely of friends within the same circle who decided to roleplay.  Socializing outside of game is more common, but conversation tends towards the game when their are no non-gaming-group members present; not because we have nothing else to talk about, but because the game holds a lot of our interest.  

2.  Because of my age group and circle of friends I know quite a few gamers.  I do not play with other groups primarly because of the attention our game demands, but I don't mind talking about it.  Like the first question, our primary relationship is social, not gaming.  Those friends who game, but cannot or will not commit to the demands of our game, do not game with us.

3.  It's not a subject I approach, but if asked what I like to do or what my hobbies are I let them know.  My other dominant hobby is martial arts.  If you say "each week I pretend to kill people, then the rest of the week I practice doing the same"...people will tend to think you're a psycho.  However, I view it more as an opportunity to show that people who have such hobbies aren't psychos.

4.  Even though the game I play wasn't always what I played, I would have to say yes, my experiences and views haven't changed except for adopting a greater understanding of the hobby.

5.  I can't speak for number 3 or 4, but 1 is definately true for all involved.  Number 2 differs in that three members of our group game elsewhere as well.
- Cruciel

Ron Edwards

Hello everybody,

Many thanks so far! I'll toss in a couple of responses and points, and then perhaps shift the focus a little.

1) M.J., I'm not looking for a modal profile in this thread, so typicality and so forth aren't an issue.

2) Paul, I think you're absolutely right about the phrasing and the issue. In my #2 question, the other role-players should be construed as just that, role-players outside one's own group, not necessarily in groups of their own.

Here's what I'd like people to consider when looking over their own answers and those of others. What isolating behaviors do you practice, in terms of all four questions? Note that many such behaviors may not be directly tied to role-playing - you may have to think a little broadly, as in, "We went to the movies with other folks ten times last year. Did I or did I not invite Marty & Janet [gamers] as often as everyone else? If I didn't, did it have anything to do with the gaming issue [potentially not]?"



1. Do you ever socialize with them without role-playing? If so, which type of socializing is the more frequent one?
My current gaming group meets on IRC bi-weekly.  Excluding myself, the breakdown of the group is as follows: two of our members are married to one another, and live out east; another lives a few hours south of me; the last lives a few hours northeast of me.

This makes it difficult in terms of time and money to get together with any of them for any other social activities, so my answers to this question are going to be atypical due the medium of play and interaction.

On IRC, we spend about a half-hour-to-an-hour socializing and chatting before the game itself begins, this is approx. 1/3rd of the time we spend together on IRC.  The other 2/3rd is spent playing.

The married couple were not married when they first joined my game, and had just begun dating.  They spent time doing other things with one another (going to movies, playing in a softball league, etc), which they still do as a married couple.

The last member of the group I mentioned is someone I spent time time with outside of the game when she lived closer.  She's a former student of mine, and we talk mostly about non-RPG stuff when we do chat (which is only via ICQ and such now).

I do not have a local table-top group and have not since highschool.

My high-school group spent a great deal of time together doing various non-RPG things, including weekends out at the cabins some of our families owned, playing a miniatures-game we created with LEGOs, watching movies (at the theater or our homes), talking about literature, geeking out in front of our computers, competing against each other in PBM games of "Hyborian War" and "Duelmasters," etc. and doing typical buddy stuff.

The short-lived college group I played with was similar to this...we spent as much time doing other things (if not more) than we spent role-playing.

2. Do you talk about your play experiences and share information about play with members of these other groups? Do you socialize with play members of these other groups without role-playing being involved as an issue?
I don't know of any other groups in this area, so this question is thus impossible for me to answer.  I can't speak for the other members of my group, as I do not know their situations, beyond the following two items:

One of my players also plays in a tabletop session weekly, though I'm not privy to the social interactions of that group (but then, I've never really asked, as the subject only came up in passing once).

The woman of the married couple above was a high-school teacher for a number of years.  She mentioned during chatting a few years ago that she and her students would discuss about their various characters and adventures.  I recall she was teased because in four years of playing, she had only gained one level (different story involving the bad book-keeping habits of a different DM).

3. Consider yourself relative to people you know who do not role-play. Do they know about your hobby (that is, that you do this)? Do you discuss it with them to any degree, and if so, how often?
I'll assume that by "know" you mean people I'm not merely acquainted with, but have some steady interaction with, thus avoiding the "checkout clerk" problem of small cities like ours (that is, you know your checkout clerk by name, they recognize you, you chit-chat occasionally in line, but you don't know the person any better than this).

In this case, yes, they do.
However, I'm somewhat anti-social and culturally out-of-sync with the locals.  A good time for the local populace is getting drunk and shooting things, or working on various engine or truck parts, none of which I'm vaguely interested in.

My wife has more friends locally than I do, and I can count the number of friends she has on one hand.  I can count mine on neither.  As this is the case, I don't talk about much of anything, RPG or not, with anyone I know.

4. Consider your own entire history of role-playing. Have any of the answers to the above questions changed for you, over time? From what to what?
Question 1 above answers this.  To expand on the information there:
During periods of high-school (despite my being labelled a geek) and throughout college, I had large circles of local friends.  During college particularly, I was close with a number of other students who did not role-play, knew I did, and we occasionally talked about it.

During high-school, my non-roleplaying friends nearly without exception became role-playing friends, or at least expressed more than cursory or friendly interest in it (always getting as far as designing a complete character).

The same can be said of some of the others in my high-school group who introduced their friends to the hobby as well.  That so many played or knew about it isn't that surprising, as a number of the most respected (by their peers) and well-known kids at high-school played D&D, most of them as a direct result of my introducing them to it, or one of those I'd introduced doing so for them.

During high-school, folks from different groups would discuss our various campaigns and characters and RP experiences, and we occasionally socialized with one another.  However, there was some degree of rivalry between a couple of the groups due to personality issues.

5. Consider yourself and your fellow group members again. Do you all share similar answers to all of the above questions, or do you represent a range of diversity?
I can't answer this for my current group, as I simply do not know.
Answers for my high-school group are located amid the above.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio


Quote from: Ron Edwards
Here's what I'd like people to consider when looking over their own answers and those of others. What isolating behaviors do you practice, in terms of all four questions? Note that many such behaviors may not be directly tied to role-playing - you may have to think a little broadly, as in, "We went to the movies with other folks ten times last year. Did I or did I not invite Marty & Janet [gamers] as often as everyone else? If I didn't, did it have anything to do with the gaming issue [potentially not]?"

given that restatement of the question, I suppose I'll add some more info on how my gaming changed over time.

I already mentioned that my gaming history broke into three stages: school gaming, bbs gaming, current gaming. the people I played with in highschool and college eventually moved to different cities, which is why that game group changed.

what I didn't mention about the last two stages, though, is that my neighbor-friends (the ones I game with occasionally) and my experimental music friends (which includes a couple former gamers) both came out of the bbs scene, too. they know each other. there are some interpersonal issues between those groups, but it's not game related.

since I don't have much opportunity to game anymore, I can't say much about isolating factors based on gaming. I suppose you could say I don't socialize with the other people I gamed with when my neighbors playtested a game ... but that's because those aren't my friends, they're my friends' friends. it's not really game related.

the primary isolating factors, in my case, are time and distance. people that I used to game with but don't now either have a schedule problem or are now too far away for gaming (and in some cases too far away for other socializing, except through instant messaging and email.)

is that helpful?
John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects:

joshua neff

1) My current group is myself, Mike Holmes (perhaps you've heard of him), & my girlfriend Julie. Mike & I don't socialize outside of gaming, but when we get together to game, we don't JUST talk about game-related stuff. Julie & I obviously socialize outside of gaming & talk about more than just gaming.

2) Having just moved to Milwaukee, I only know one other person that I know games. He's a coworker who, to this point, has only played D&D (& only just got introduced to it). We don't talk much about gaming, but we talk about a lot of other things. I know of some other Milwaukee gamers, like the vocal ones who post on RPGnet, but I haven't socialized nor gamed with them.

3) Most of the people who know me know I game. I'm not secretive about it, I'm always ready to answer any questions they might have, or talk about exactly what it is I do (since a lot of them are baffled &/or curious about it). But I don't usually go into detail about what happened in a particular session or what new game I got a hold of, as that stuff tends to be boring for non-gamers (in my experience). The important thing for me is that I don't talk about gaming to non-gamers any differently than I talk about movies to non-movie buffs or comics to non-comics fans or poetry to non-poetry readers. It's all the same to me & I get enthusiastic about it all in similar ways.

4) Looking over my history as a gamer, it seems the same all through my life. I've pretty much always had social contact with my gaming group outside of gaming. Generally, the people I've gamed with have also been friends. Sometimes, one gaming friend introduces me to one of their gaming friends, usually bringing them into the gaming group. Sometimes this leads to more extra-gaming socializing. Sometimes it doesn't.

In terms of isolating behaviors...I try not to, generally. Lately, I haven't been in mega-social mode, though. But mostly, I've been inclusive & tried to mix up the number of "people I game with" & "people I don't game with." My group in KC, for example, was always big on extra-gaming socializing. Most of them, besides me, were into swing dancing (& we constantly trying to get me to go out with them for that), which they did with their girlfriends & wives. We'd often go out for coffee, to talk about both gaming & non-gaming topics. We'd go out & shoot pool, we'd have parties. It was all very social, & not limited only to gaming.

I try not to view or portray gaming as different in any way from any of the other social activities I indulge in.

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes