Ronin Round Table: The Importance of Play

By Chris Pramas

"It must be great to get paid to play games all day."

If you work in gaming, you’ve probably heard this line before. Industry folks are quick to point that working on games is, in fact, work. And that’s true. What I want to talk about today though is the importance of keeping your inner gamer alive through play.

It is very easy, particularly when you own your own business, to just work all the time. It’s doubly dangerous when you work at home. There is then no physical difference between being at work and being at home. Weekends cease to have meaning. They are simply additional days you can work into your schedule.

When you work any job too much, your hobbies suffer. For those of us in the industry, the hobby is where we started. We were gamers first and foremost, and it was that love that made us turn our hobby into our career. It is a bitter irony then when you start working so much in gaming that you don’t have time to game for fun anymore (there’s always playtesting, but that’s just a different sort of work). When deadlines loom, it’s easy to make the case. Maybe after that next book ships, you’ll get back to your campaign.

I have been there. About 5 years ago I was doing little regular gaming. My Monday night group was meeting but more often than not we were just having dinner and bullshitting. We had several campaigns start and fizzle quickly. In the summer months, when many of us were traveling a lot on the convention circuit, it was even worse.

At a certain point I made a conscious choice to reverse the trend. I felt I was getting disconnected from the hobby that put me on this path in the first place. My love of gaming came first, and if I lost that, what was the point of designing games and running a game company? Certainly not the money. I could do nearly anything and make a better living.

So I made an effort to play more games for fun. I made time for it because I felt it was important. Certainly professionally, it’s good to try to keep up with what other companies are doing. More than that though, it was good for me personally to keep my inner hobbyist alive, to feel the excitement of great games with friends, and to be reminded of the magic that captured my imagination when I was 10 years old.

Now I keep a robust schedule of regular gaming. Monday night is RPGs at my place. Wednesdays I usually play a miniatures game with my friend Rick. Thursdays it’s RPGs again at M&M developer Jon Leitheusser’s place. Sundays I get together with friends to paint miniatures, and sometimes we get in a game after. It’s a lot of gaming when it all goes off, though it’s actually a rare week when it does so. Life and deadlines still happen, so most weeks I ended up gaming twice. And that’s a good average!

So yes, working in the game industry is work, but you need to make time for play too. It’s good for you and it’ll make you a better designer in the long run too.