Thursday, February 3, 2011

Virtually Absent

Do any of the readers out there play virtually?  What I mean is that, you are sitting at your computer, staring at the screen, waiting for the group at the other end of the line to stop talking so you can try to say something that may influence the outcome of the encounter.

I moved to my little town back in May 2006 in order to be able to afford to attend teachers college, I also moved away from my gaming group, the group I have been playing with since 2000.  This group is the most consistent group I have ever played with.  We get together religiously every Tuesday evening to play for about 5 hours.

I have been playing virtually for the last five years with the same group, on the same day, at the same time every week. I look forward to playing this game every week.  There is one thing that I will never ever change my mind about: gaming in situ is still the most satisfying way to enjoy Dungeons & Dragons.  Don’t get me wrong, I still get great pleasure out of playing with these guys online, although nothing compares the being in the room with the guys. There are cons and pros to playing virtually and today I will address some of them.

When I am playing virtually, I feel hollow inside; like something in missing; like feeling really lonely.  The feeling is like one of being in a teleconference as a satellite office, tuning in to a boisterous conference room full of people at head office.  You sit there patiently waiting until someone addresses you and then you are given the ability to speak.  Waiting patiently in front of a computer screen for my turn is difficult sometimes. Hearing people speak freely at the other end, conversations other than what is happening in the current encounter sometimes gets me discouraged, especially when the guys you play with are some of your best friends.

Playing virtually does forces me to make an effort to contact these people during non D&D time.  I do find that making the effort to stay in touch with these people outside of gaming forms stronger bonds with these people and hence a better gaming experience.  You get to know them (personally) and thus get to know their gaming characters. Calling these people on the off times usually leads to playing other online games such as Band Hero, BF2 or the like. 

Using technology can sometimes be a disadvantage to playing virtually.  We use Skype and MapTools for our gaming.  Sometimes though, this technology fails, whether it be lag, or macro errors or feedback from Skype; and we end up spending the night trying to figure out how to fix the problem.  Explaining to the DM what we would like to sometimes take up a lot of time and especially when it is not my turn, the rounds seem to take forever. 

The advantage of this technology is that I get to play; plain and simple.  Without the tools that we have available to us, gaming with a group outside of my town would be impossible.
An upside to playing at home virtually is NO travel time. The need to get home after the gaming session has been eliminated.  When I was gaming in situ, I would have to travel about 45 minutes to get there and 45 minutes to get home at the end of the evening.  That is essentially another commute a day!  I do like being home; when the session ends, I turn off my computer, and go upstairs to bed.  I can also have those few drinks while playing and not have to worry about how much I can have to drink, or being pulled over by the police on my way home.

I am not saying that gaming virtually does not have its upside, but given the chance I would prefer being there in person.  I love to roleplay and not rollplay.

Any of you in the same situation?  Feel free to share your experiences.