A blog about games, gamers, and various and sundry geek culture-related ephemera and paraphernalia.

Monday, April 11, 2016

No, The Rust Monster's not dead yet

...although, from the dearth of posts, it may seem like its pulse is weakening and its breathing has gotten shallow.

Over the past couple of years, I've given very little thought as to why this is, so I've never addressed it. But, for the benefit of those who have followed this blog (and to maybe help me understand my own motivations a little better), I thought I'd engage in a little self-reflection and offer some insight into why it's in the state it is:

1) Work. In 2013, I was finally cut loose from my position with the not-for-profit I'd been with for over a decade. This wasn't a surprise, by any means. The 2008 economic fiasco hit the not-for-profits harder than it did most for-profit businesses, for a number of reasons. And the one I worked for was always just kind of hanging on, to begin with. So for five years, I watched as the organization struggled to reposition itself, from changing its image and focus, to selling off assets, and - finally - to cutting the workforce. (All the while, paying its CEO a quarter mill a year. *sigh*) When, in 2012, the decision was made to furlough employees (basically, one forced day off every two weeks, which equated to a 10% reduction in my pay - which was already below industry standards) I started looking for a new position elsewhere.

Unfortunately, in the post-2008 world of central New York, there weren't a lot of positions for a web monkey like me. During this period, I was caught up in a fair amount of depression over my situation and my apparent inability to improve it, a state that was exacerbated by undiagnosed health problems (see below). I still hadn't found anything when the organization took its most drastic step yet and cut over 20% of its workforce in one fell swoop.

Fortunately, I was out of work for less than two months. I landed a job in IT management with a stable - in fact, growing - company, and I've been there since. But with that awesome new opportunity came new responsibilities, and a lot of refocusing of my own personal goals. I found that my point of view on many of my life's goals changed when I went from being a worker bee to being a leader. And I found that I just didn't have as much room in my life for thinking and talking about (mush less engaging in) gaming as I had in previous years. (When gaming was my way of leaving work at work, and a much-needed escape from the daily grind..)

Nail one in the coffin.

2) Health. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with extreme hypertension and acute hypothyroidism. I already knew something was up, because in the year or so leading up to that, I'd felt really... off.

What I didn't really realize, until looking back on it later, is that these two issues - especially the thyroid problem - were making me not really give a crap about doing things I'd once been passionate about, like gaming, or writing about gaming.

Nail two.

3) Competing hobbies. Once the health issues came (mostly) under control, and I started to feel human again, I found myself returning to other things I'd loved in my younger years (with the help of my fiancee, who really reintroduced me to these interests): guitars and photography. And last year, I started rekindling the true love of my pre-gaming youth: writing fiction. As I've spent more of my free time and energy on these, I've felt less inclined to spend time or energy on gaming, or even writing about gaming.

Nail three.

4) Same old, same old. I've been gaming for 35 years - nearly two-thirds of my life - in one form or another. And much of that has been with the same core group, playing the same games, in the same play style. When I went through my Gaming Renaissance of the early 90's, it was a Golden Age for role playing games, with new and interesting games coming out every other week, or so it seemed. My gaming buddies were also new, so there was a seemingly endless amount of unexplored ground to cover. And, believe me, we covered a lot of it in the decade that followed.

But 25 years later, that seemingly endless amount of ground looks much smaller - more like a small-ish patch - than it used to. "New" games no longer thrill, because they're not new in the way they were in the 90's. (New systems keep coming, but the core concepts of the games themselves aren't new, like they were in the late 80's/early 90's.) And, although I don't have anything against the tried and true play style of my core group, that sort of retreading of the same ground doesn't invite passion for gaming. It's more like it's something I do because it's something I've (almost) always done.

I've attempted to revive "the spark" I had found in the 90's by finding "new blood" to game with, but - alas - those attempts have mostly proven useless. It's not easy to find people to game with now as it was when I was 25 years old. Different era, different responsibilities, and a different me have combined to make it a challenge. And given points 1, 2, and 3, above, I don't feel as strong a need to overcome that challenge as I might have when I was younger.

Nail four.

5) Desire. A lot of what's driven me to game, at least since the early beginnings of the OSR, is desire - desire to have fun that I see other gamers having. In fact, I think that was a driving factor even in my earliest days, when I'd see pictures or hear stories of other gamers' experiences and I'd long to have such experiences myself, to join in on the fun they appeared to be having.

Nowadays, I don't find myself envying other gamers' experiences that much. That could be because of my overall reduced interest in gaming. Or it could be that, after pursuing that desire for so long, I've given up hope of fulfilling it. Or maybe it's just that I've finally had enough of my own enjoyable experiences in the hobby, so I no longer feel driven to achieve something based on someone else's experiences.

(In general, one of the personal changes I've gone through in the past few years is learning to be content with what I have and who I am, and to define my own personal improvement goals in terms of what I think they should be, not based on the comparison of my experiences to those of others. It's led to me feeling more comfortable in my own skin, and not feeling as much like I'm missing out on something that someone else is gaining enjoyment from. My fulfillment now comes from internal desires: to be a better leader to my team at work, to be a better guitarist, or take better photos, or complete a new piece of fiction.)

Nail five...

So... what does all this mean for The Rust Monster?

Well, I don't know. Sorry, I know that's not much of an answer, but I can't say definitively that I'm done with gaming. I still get "the itch." And I still semi-frequently pick up and read games and supplements - some old, some new - and think about running them, even if it's just for my fiancee. So the spark's not completely died out - the final nail hasn't been driven in, yet.

On the other hand, I find myself wondering if that itch is really just a habit - if I'm just desiring to game because it's something I used to get a lot of enjoyment from, but that I really don't have a burning passion for anymore. Is the itch more of a phantom limb sort of thing?

Again, I don't know.

I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what the future holds. I won't promise a resumption of frequent posting here, since I know that - at this point in time - would be a lie. But I won't say there won't be any more posts, either, since I don't know if that's any more likely to be true.

All I can say for sure is that there's a ton of content on here already, and that won't be going anywhere, if I can help it. Much like the Meetup group I pay for every month just so local gamers have somewhere to find one another, I will make sure The Rust Monster remains here as a resource for the community, even if its content is a little outdated.

One thing is for sure: I have been a passionate gamer and will continue to support other gamers, even if my own passion for the hobby has waned.

. . . . .


7 comments:

  1. @ Christopher:

    If only we had 30 hour days.

    Priorities. When you speak of fulfillment from meeting your internal goals (rather than comparing yourself to others)...well, that applies to the blog as well. Who knows, perhaps you can turn this place into a place for showcasing some of your fiction...? Just a chapter or two to whet our whistles?

    As a guy who's taken more than one hiatus from gaming (some self-imposed, some forced), I can say gaming is less a habit and more a "wiring" in the brain thing...for me, at least, the "itch" has ALWAYS come back. I'd advise against parting from your favorite game books (find an old sea chest to store 'em in if you need to). You just never know.
    ; )

    ReplyDelete
  2. Details differ, but I'm in much the same place you are regarding gaming (also central NY. I'm in Ithaca. You?) It's been a long journey, and I've done a lot of things, and the burning desire to do them has become embers. I want to do *other* things.

    Keep moving forward.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @JB: Ha! As a matter of fact, I've just started a separate blog for my writing... I'll be posting links to it once I have enough content there to feel comfortable enough to pull back the curtain. I guess it's true: great minds think alike! (I believe we've proven as much in the past, way back when we both started our blogs.)

    Oh, and rest assured - the game books will go nowhere! I've parted with books in the past that I thought I'd never miss, only to later regret it. (And to find myself having to pay several times as much to reacquire them.) I won't be making the same mistake any time soon...

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Nathan: "Keep moving forward." I totally agree! That attitude is definitely one of the pillars of my current philosophy.

    And, to answer your question, I'm just outside Syracuse - not exactly the back-end of nowhere, but definitely not a bastion of civilization, either...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good to hear from you.

    Life is a journey, so I'm told. It sounds like your journeys are taking you to new places and different experiences... I hope you get all that you can from them.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good to hear from you too, Mike! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good to read you're doing well, Christopher! I certainly understand your situation, but life is a journey, like Michael says, and sometimes it takes us surprising places we don't expect, but when we look back later, make perfect sense. Or sometimes not. :-)

    I take regular "breaks" from my blog, and even when I do post, it's not that frequent. I'd rather work on gaming stuff to use than write publicly about it, I guess. And, like JB, I think gaming is wired in my brain--I know I'll always play and write gaming stuff. My only regret is deleting a whole bunch of content from the Borderlands blog in a fit of creative insecurity a couple of years ago! lol

    Cheers to new adventures in life!

    ReplyDelete