Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Face-to-Face Gaming: Is it worth it anymore?

So, with the advent of virtual tabletop software like Roll20.net gamers are no longer limited to gathering around a physical table anymore. Virtual tabletops give us everything we could need to run a game online. Digital maps and miniatures, dice programs, chat, video, even mood music - it's all there. Granted, there's an intangible energy around a physical table that can't be denied - but I find myself asking more and more "Is it worth it?"

Logistic problems, life obligations, miscommunications - physical gaming groups can get waylaid by all kinds of problems. Not to mention the host has to make sure everyone has suitable seating, lighting, a table large enough and that their house is suitable for guests. Yes, these are normal adult responsibilities - but let's be honest, sometimes you just don't feel like doing the dishes when guests are coming over. Not to mention it seems inevitable that the host is always left with clean up duty. Soda cans, snack bags, miniatures, dice and books are cast about the room in the aftermath and its the host's job to deal with that.

Not that the players are without their own responsibilities. They still have to commute to and from the game, often providing rides to those who don't have transportation. Not only is this gas, but it's also time. If game runs long (and let's face it - it always does, because it's fun!), then they're stuck running on less sleep than they'd like the next day. This can be a real problem if the next day is a work day.

With virtual tabletops you only deal with your own mess, in your own home, with a clock right on your computer screen and when it's over you can close the browser and be done. Hell, you don't even have to wear pants.

That being said, you also don't have the feel of dice in your hand and your friends aren't genuinely across the table from you. There's an energy that comes from real face-to-face social gatherings, and that's definitely part of gaming. There's something intangible about rolling your own dice and seeing your mini on the table.

But as we get older and our lives get busier - is it worth it? Virtual table-top gaming removes a lot of the ancillary trouble - or at least allows the individual gamer to handle it in their own fashion. But is that convenience worth giving up that intangible energy that comes from gathering around a real table with real people?

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