I’ve been on a gaming hiatus. The last time my regular group met was in February, when we gathered to playtest the Free Dragon Age Quickstart Guide. After having a grand time we talked about rejoining to play the new Gamma World game, but that never transpired. Life, as is so frequently the case, intervened. I kept writing role-playing games, but stopped playing them.
A month ago a friend asked me to join his game. He and his wife live outside Boston, and Andrew – both a childhood friend and a fellow freelance author for Ars Magica – asked if I’d like to Skype in and play. I was excited but doubtful. Working as an A/V professional, I have my doubts about computer communication technology. Of course, I worked in broadcasting, where there are technical standards and federal regulations to adhere to. Modern IT technology can be crap and still be acceptable, at least that is my professional option. Quantity, the amount of information that can be captured and transmitted, has replaced Quality, the ability to listen to and watch said transmissions. But this wasn’t work, it was home, and it was supposed to be fun, so I bought a semi-expensive pair of headphones with an attached microphone and a cheap camera. Here is a free bit of A/V advice: despite the fact that we all say we “watch” videos/movies/internet/etc, the listening is more important. People will look at crappy video that they can listen to, but won’t look at good video they cannot listen to.
Camera and headset attached I downloaded Skype and called Andrew. He and his wife and another mate were sitting at their dining room table, Andrew’s laptop placed where I would be setting. He placed his camera on a distant counter top so I could view the group. And the game started. I rolled my own dice – they trusted my results – played my own character, and had a good time. A really good time. A time that felt just like sitting downstairs in my dining room with my friends playing Ars Magica. Despite the distance and the minor technology hiccups, I was gaming again.
We did it again last night, and again, it was awesome. Some things I miss. I can’t duck into the kitchen to get more seltzer as easily, because I have a headset strapped to me and as soon as I leave I can’t overhear the conversation, and I don’t get to eat with the group. There is a lot of subtle, aside comments that a group makes while fixing coffees or taking smoke breaks or getting another slice of pizza. But all in all, distance-gaming was as fun as face-to-face gaming. It is good to be gaming again.