Every so often I come across an article, podcast, or something to that effect discussing the importance of “taking a break” from gaming. In reading circles, there is often the advice that people should switch up their reading habits in order to circumvent the need to shelve (at least temporarily) their favourites. Whether it’s authors, genres, themes, whatever. Diversity is the spice of literary life, and the same holds for gaming. The reality is that this is easier said than done.
When it comes to a hobby, if they become stagnant, then take up other ones. This is generally the prescribed cure for the problem. It’s hard to imagine what this actually entails. However, because this very subject has been on my mind a lot, I’ll explain why further below, I’ve been doing research into how other people manage taking breaks.
One example has been referring to the Gnome Stew podcast, which has an episode called, Take a Break. It’s worth a listen, and the group chat used by Gnome Stew is almost like group therapy. I found myself relating to a lot of what was discussed, but when it came time to implement the suggestions I felt myself pause. A simple search on Google using the phrase ‘taking a break from ttrpg’ offered an impressive array of results with like-minded people asking similar questions about stepping away from what they loved.
Gaming is a huge part of my life, and if I remove that from my natural rhythm, then it leaves an absence I won’t have immediately accounted for. Filling this empty space would mean planning around the idea that I’ve stepped away from something beloved, to replace it with…? This is the part where I’ve always become a bit confused. I have a hard time putting my gaming down entirely.
When things get a bit rough, and for some reason gaming entails periods that make most people question their involvement in the hobby at some point or another, it’s worth asking if setting aside one’s polyhedral dice isn’t a good idea. I know I’ve been there before, and it’s those times I try and foreground other activities. Some examples:
- Video games
- Books that aren’t gaming related
- Other hobbies
This is, obviously, not an exhaustive list. However, all of these things still leave room for tabletop gaming. Try reading a book and not reflecting on mining it for material that could be good for a one-shot or campaign. Same for movies and video games. That lingering sense of having room for the hobby, even when it’s maybe best to not engage it too strongly is why it can be difficult to step away, at least entirely.
One of the ideas from the Gnomecast was to try and identify which aspect of the hobby is actually causing problems. For my part, I know the source of my frustration often comes from running games on a play-by-post site. The site itself isn’t the issue, but the games that quickly lose momentum are themselves the problem. I have yet to find a recipe for keeping play-by-post adventures going, and it’s been a source of angst for a while. Enough that I’ve stopped running games for other people. Taking this action has been freeing though.
As soon as I stopped trying to lead games from behind the GM’s screen, I felt better, sort of. Now that I’ve started only running solo games, or participating as a player things have improved for me mentally. What lingers on though is the sense that I could do better as a GM, and I still really want to run a game. Questions persist as well about how to make it work, but I, unfortunately, have no answers.
Even though I’ve stepped away, and altered my gaming, I haven’t really stopped. Additionally, the problems kind of followed me as I reflected on what I might be able to do that could enhance the game’s longevity. Every time I log into the site and the games, I start wondering how I get one going again. It’s a trap! With that in mind, I return back to my original question, is it really possible to step away entirely?
Obviously, the answer is yes, but it would mean giving up the hobby altogether. This is definitely something that is possible, but more difficult than it may appear on the surface. How individuals approach this is going to yield any number of results. For me, the most important thing was modifying my gaming regimen, rather than giving it up altogether. Giving up what you love is possible, even for a short time, but it might be more difficult than it seems. Don’t forget, it’s not a permanent hiatus!