While I was away on vacation, I made a concerted effort to stay off social media, although I would peek at Twitter here and there. As is usual in the gaming social networks these days there were a couple of kerfuffles going on, with the usual teeth-gnashing, mudslinging, rabid man-babies pissing all over the place. A lot of people got blocked and removed from my lists last week, I can tell you. While I do see a large group of people excitedly talking about what they like in gaming, finding these tweets/posts becomes increasingly harder with time as I have to wade through the shitstorm du jour and all the collateral damage. I don’t have the time or desire to do that.
I’m not alone, either, as Berin Kinsman of Dancing Lights Press wrote recently:
No, not everyone in the larger RPG community is a bad person. Of course not. When I have to wade through a ton of edgelords, edition warriors, misogynists, bigots, and actual effing Nazis to get to the nice folks, though, it doesn’t feel worthwhile. A quarter to around a third of the conversations happening in the “community” on any given day seem to be about what awful thing some odious person in the hobby has done. In that estimate I include the people laughing and bragging about it, because we live in a culture where willful cruelty is apparently hilarious.
Years ago I used to be all over gaming social media, active in all the networks, talking to people, participating in conversations, finding ways to bring more people in. Good times. Yes, I had a small games publishing outfit and a couple podcasts to promote, and yes I wanted to make a living in the gaming industry so I networked hard, but I also enjoyed it, found pleasure in connecting to so many fellow gamers. I made real friendships during that time, some of which last to this day.
Then I went away. From 2009 to 2013 I was away from the gaming scene, popping in and out at times to see what was going on, but not participating in any meaningful way. After I graduated from nursing school, divorced, and moved to the Midwest, I tried to rejoin the fold with unsatisfactory results. I can’t say that is has gotten much better, either. As I keep trying to re-engage with the online gaming community (the part of it that I still identify with), what I keep finding is that that community is too much of a minefield for my tastes.
I have found a silver lining to this situation, however: freedom to do what I want.
A community can be nice, but it can also be stifling, cliquish, peer-pressure-y. You can find lots of support from people on the same wavelength as whatever you’re working on, but you can as easily find detractors because it doesn’t fit their vision of how X is done. And that’s just the well-meaning part of the community. Start doing things out of the ordinary, experimenting with the building blocks of what a game is or how it’s presented, step outside the boundaries, and the bullseye is now on you. No, thanks, I’m okay not dealing with that.
I’ve been thinking about games for a long time, and that has led me to question why I wanted my current projects to be a certain way. Why not this other way? It’s been done this way for decades, but why? Can I change it? Do it differently? How was it done before, and what can I learn from that? These questions have yielded interesting answers that will, in turn, yield interesting results in the near future, and where, in the past, I may have been more concerned with the community’s opinion, that is not a concern now. Honest, constructive community feedback will always be listened to and appreciated, but it doesn’t validate me or my work.
A community is only as good as you need it to be. If the community is meeting your needs and nurturing you and your work, awesome. If it isn’t, curate it, leave it, or throw it away, and go march to the beat of your own drum, or game to the beat of your own dice rolls, as the case may be.