Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ten reasons to put down the controller and pick up some dice.

So it's obvious that I'm probably not going to have to convince many of you already readying this that tabletop gaming is awesome, but this article isn't exactly for you.  It's more a free to use argument I offer you for anyone you know that needs convincing.  Getting friends into the hobby can be hard at time and it never hurts to have ammo to use.  Not just that, but I also included some great reasons younger kinds in particular should be gaming for those other gaming parents that might need help convincing their spouses this can be a family activity. 

1 Cheap
As I said above I’m too broke to keep up with video gaming as I’d like. What am I not too broke to do?  Download a pdf.  I’m not talking about pirating illegal copies either.  A lot of companies out there offer free trial rules to their games like a personal favorite of mine Savage Worlds. Some of the bigger games out there offer an entire basic version of their game one hundred percent for free in hopes that you will like it so much that you’ll turn around and actually buy some of their other products. The go-to granddaddy of gaming D&D is the most well-known of these where they tried out their newest edition of the game as a free play test over the course of months and now offer a complete collection of free rules here.

Even if just getting a trial or basic version of a game isn’t up your alley some people are out there make games that are 100% free or pay what you want such as Fate and Eclipse Phase. Between all of these you have a ton of games to try without spending a penny. There is the price of dice, pens, and paper, but a quick search on your phone will get you a free dice roller app and pens and paper should be easy enough to find.

2 Flexible
For years video games have claimed to have better and better AI, but let’s face it none of them even come close to another person.  A real brain reacts quicker and can come up with so much more than a list of preprogrammed responses ever could.  With table top games you have all the flexibility of a human brain, because that is what you’re playing against.  With most games one player is more or less in charge and controls all the story and action it’s that brain that powers everything in the game world.  I won’t lie that being good at this is a skill and a bit of an art, but once you figure it out video games might seem limited in comparison.  This also means you don’t pick off a list of maybe five responses when talking to that shopkeeper.  You get to say whatever you want and in turn that shopkeeper will respond specifically to what you said and not some vague generic line that can be used for eighteen different responses.

3 Endless
I remember when Skyrim came out a few years ago they toted having endless adventures and quests.  In reality these “quests” turned into gathering flowers for no real reason, but hey you were being asked to do something.  With table top games this isn’t an issue.  If your buddy who runs the game comes up with something to do you now have a quest.  If your big story ends you don’t have to wait for a sequel to be made.  Granted someone needs to write the next epic story, but you can come up with some little jobs while everyone waits.  The main thing is that the game only ends when you and your friends want it to end and you don’t even have to buy a season pass to do it.

4 Bug Free
Let me be clear here, I’m not saying any table top game is perfect. What I am saying is, between the flexibility and the fact that the graphics take place in your head you will not find the bugs and glitches like you do in video games.  If you dig you can find a way to “break” one game or another where by picking specific options or exploiting a rule you can cause chaos, but that is only there if you try to make it happen. Even then it’s pretty limited.  This might sound like a “freebie” as there aren’t actually graphics, but there aren’t day one patches either.

5 Creativity
So I’ve talked about all the reasons table top gaming isn’t a bad alternative to video games, but I also said that they can in fact be good for you.  Well the number one bonus to gaming and probably the most obvious is that it fosters creativity.  Being in charge of visualizing characters and scenarios is a perfect exercise for creative thinking which as it turns out is a large factor is mental health and wellbeing. On top of that table top games have character creators that put video games to shame.  If you’re playing a fantasy game and want to be a one legged wood elf go for it.  If you want to have that perfect eye color you got it.  Best of all you don’t have to spend eight hours with sliders to settle for coming close.

6 Problem Solving Skills
Creative thinking doesn’t just stop at making up stories and the arts. It also comes into play with problem solving.  Where in a video game you might have to solve a puzzle you are still limited to the solution that that developers want you to make. This isn’t true for table top games and more importantly in life.  If you’re faced with a pit you can’t jump across lined with spikes in a game odds are you’re going to look for either a way around the pit, a level to activate some bridge, or a specific item that lets you cross the gap.  While all of these are still valid answers in a table top game it isn’t the only answers.  Maybe you think to tie a rope to an arrow and shoot that into a wall or tree on the other side. Maybe you throw heavy objects at the walls along the sides of the pit to hopefully break some hand holds. Heck, you might just carefully climb down, navigate around the spikes, and climb up the other side. The point is you are in charge of the answer rather than looking for the solution that someone else provided.

7 Building Social Skills
For better and worse most table top games can’t be played alone.  There’re some exceptions, but they are few and far between.  What this means is you actually have to interact with other people and more importantly get along with them.  Sure there are multiplayer games, but not too many of them require you to stick with the same people time and time again.  With any ongoing table top game you need your friends for back up, support, and even entertainment.  While the dice hitting the table can be great the actual hobby is built on socializing.  Many games are even designed so that no single player can do everything and those that aren’t usually still need multiple people just for different ideas and manpower. At the very least you’ll need one friend to run the game while you play and if it’s just for you they’re probably going to need to be a pretty dedicated friend.

8 Cooperation & Compromise
While being friendly and talking in front of others will help you get a game started learning how to cooperate will keep your character from getting killed.  As I said most games are designed to not let any single character do everything.  This doesn’t just mean you need more people in the seat to play, but those people are going to have to learn to work as a team.  Usually this means coming up with plans that involve more than just yourself.  The thing is that guy across the table from you that you need for your plan might have a different idea on how to do things.  This is when those social skills jump into high gear and odds are neither of you are going to get your way completely.  Learning how to compromise is an asset in social gaming and more importantly an asset in life.

9 Family Time
Coming to the end of this list means that these might not qualify for everyone, but as a dad this one sure counts in my book.  For anyone out there with kids worrying about not screwing them up tends to be at the top of your list. Not only does all of the benefits I’ve already listed help in preventing that, it turns out just spending time as a family is one of the best things you can do for their mental health and adjustment

All that stuff I’ve said about needing other people to play works here too, just don’t make them feel like you’re holding them hostage.  Find a genre that your kinds might like and go with it.  Board games are a good start, but an ongoing tabletop RPG can make sure it becomes a regular activity.  The best part is, once you get them hooked on a story they will be the ones asking when the next game is rather than having to pull out Monopoly and inform everyone it’s game night.

10 It’s Fun
Finally it’s fun, plain and simple.  If you’re already a fan of gaming and even more so if you enjoy RPGs this will probably be up your ally.  Yes it is true that there might be math involved, but most games honestly don’t require more that third grade addition and subtraction.  The best part is if you try one game and don’t like it there’s tons more out there and probably one that will feel like it was made just for you.

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