Thursday, September 10, 2020

White Star Session One, VTT Burnout, and the Fun of Watching Someone New to Gaming

 So this week three things of note in my ongoing blog, now with exactly 0% video!

White Star Session One

This finally got off the ground last Saturday with a nice introductory session. The good news is: White Star is easy to run, and can make for some good old cowboys and aliens kind of fun.

The bad news is: I am old, jaded, and felt a bit like maybe I'd made a mistake after all. I (at the curmudgeonly age of 49) find myself no longer that excited about simple cinematic shoot-em-up action games anymore; I might like them if the rules support a more dynamic experience, though, and I kept thinking to myself, "I shoulda used Savage Worlds." Sigh....

But! That brings up this item:

New Gamer Excitement

My son, who is almost nine, insisted we let him in on things so my wife and I had him roll up his first White Star character, an alien bounty hunter. He had a blast, and his presence in the game helped "ground" me in the reality that while I was very, very tired of the same old same old, it was completely new and exciting to him and he had a blast. I am going to try and channel some of the excess energy he radiated to motivate myself to make a game that focuses hard on an experience he will enjoy.

However, to some extend I realize that all of this is underlying a deeper issue....

VTT Burnout

Not merely Roll20 burnout, but VTT burnout in general (Astral is the other one I am dabbling in). I am one of many gamers who enjoyed tabletop gaming precisely because it involved a tabletop and people sitting around it. If you've ever been a GM who was mildly annoyed at all the laptops on the game table, then VTT must be excruciating. It changes the overall experience in subtle but ultimately unsatisfying ways. 

Strengths I have identified with VTT: battle maps and minis are much easier to handle in a virtual table top. So running a methodical dungeon crawl with maps and virtual minis is very, very easy. It is also easy to share handouts and visual props. 

Weakness include: literally everything else. You lack visual queues from people sitting next to you. Audio is a perpetual pain and sometimes (as with Astral) requires using other services such as Discord. Rolling virtual dice is deeply unsatisfying and the die rollers are often a pain in the ass to work with. If your game is not specifically supported and falls outside the design scope of your preferred service that can be a severe limitation. Not physically being able to be at the table with you cohorts in gaming is frustrating, even if it is understandable in this day and age. 

Worst of all, it feels tedious and creates an unfortunate comparison and contrast against two other things: if you are also spending hours in online meetings at work going home to do so with a game can be unpleasant; a case of Too Much Screen Time. And worse yet, if you are into computer gaming, it exacerbates the already present issue of "do I waste time with this VTT experience or chase the delectable dragon's tail that is instantaneous gratification in a video game?" 

I have no solutions, except to remind myself that sooner or later we might see vaccinations or reliable treatments for COVID-19 manifest and maybe then things can get a bit more normal again. I'd offer to return to in-person gaming but almost everyone at my gaming table is either in a higher risk group or exposed to environments where you could contract COVID, or both. So...yeah, not a good idea to tempt fate like that.

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