I have experienced table-top RPGs on several social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MeWe, and Discord – and each have played a role in my life at a particular time. Discord seems to be the big thing right now, but will it remain so after the pandemic subsides and we no longer have to do all our gaming online? What follows are my thoughts and feelings on this matter and what direction I am heading.
Google+, Facebook, and MeWe:
Google+ was perhaps the best community for table-top gaming that I experienced, but when it was made known that it was being shutdown, I, like so many others, made the move to MeWe in 2018. I like MeWe. I use it only for RPG gaming and it has a good environment to share ideas and have discussions over a long period of time. This became even more important when I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts in 2019. MeWe didn’t have the algorithms manipulating what you see, there were no ads, and no privacy violation, the community – probably because it came from the pleasant G+ environment – was also significantly more civil and pleasant than I ever found on FB.
Then Discord became the new thing and once the pandemic hit and everyone had to game online, this became the place to go. But I’ve never felt fully at home on Discord. At its core it is a chat app. I’ve never been drawn to chat environments. The conversations begin and end in a matter of minutes and disappear into oblivion not long after, it is so fleeting and there is minimal room for substantive, long term conversation. Perhaps this is my introvert personality showing through. I’ve never really liked small talk and talking for the sake of talking. Extroverts seem to need the constant sound of conversation, but I prefer my conversations to be more substantive. Back on FB – and now on MeWe – I can have a conversation that stays on point and lasts for days, but on Discord there is the constant “noise” of multiple fleeting conversations (and side conversations that take you off-topic). That is not to say that good conversations don’t happen – they do! But the frustrating thing for me is that I can browse through a particular channel and notice that there were 3 or 4 conversations that I would’ve loved to have taken part in, but since they ended an hour ago, or even just a couple of minutes before, that the time has passed. It can give you a sense of fear of missing out.
I joined Discord in 2019 when I left Facebook and as you can imagine from what I said in the previous paragraph, it was a place I looked at, but never got too involved with, since because it was a chat room the only way you make an impact is if you spend every waking moment on the the server (at least if it is an active one). But I also discovered when I deleted FB and Twitter that I abruptly gained 12 hours of free time each week (you can see how many hours each week I wasted on those platforms! Imagine what you could do with abruptly gaining 12 hours each week!). I was not planning on plunging my life again into another social media platform like that. With the 12 hours of time I suddenly acquired I had to time read again, and design and run my campaigns, and have a real life!
Social Media pandemic and post-pandemic:
When the pandemic hit we all had to game online. Discord became one of the only ways to game, both with friends and at the conventions that were now being conducted virtually. For the last year I’ve done nearly all my gaming on Discord. Discord use seems to have grown a lot in that time (most Kickstarters now create or promote their Discord server as a way to engage their community and keep people in touch).
But I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. My online gaming is going to decline. I run two Castles & Crusades campaigns on the TLG (Troll Lord Games) Discord server. My fortnightly Saturday game has people from all over the US, Canada, and Europe, this will be a campaign that will remain online. But my weekly Tuesday game will be shifting back to in-person in the future (except, perhaps, when we in Minnesota get the occasional 12+ inch snowfall and decide to stay home and game online for that session). Once this happens my Discord use is going to drop. It is true that a lot of online gaming is here to stay, but I will predominantly be seeking face-to-face games and I wonder what will happen to platforms like Discord?
I also wonder about all the VTT’s that are being promoted right now. New VTTs are springing up all the time. I run my games mostly theater of mind. However, the last year on Discord made me realize I sometimes need table-top assistance, but I use Owlbear Rodeo, which allows me to load up a map and set it up in a matter of one or two minutes, tops. I have no need for anything else and largely ignore the VTT conversations being had. And once most people shift back to face-to-face gaming the sense of urgency to find the next best VTT will probably decline for them as well.
So, what will happen next? Presumably a lot of the VTT talk will die down post-pandemic, I suspect that although we won’t completely go back to where we were (I will be maintaining my twice-monthly Saturday Discord campaign and participate in the occasional virtual convention game), that most of us will embrace getting back to gaming in-person. Will Discord use decline? I am already feeling overwhelmed on some of the Discord servers I am on and find myself muting more and more channels and I am on the verge of leaving a few of them (I am currently on 20 Discord servers, over the next few months I see myself leaving the majority of them). Once I am gaming in person again my need for Discord and my need to use Discord will decline.
What is your experience? Is your engagement with these platforms going to be changing over the next few months as we work out what the “new normal” of table-top gaming will be?
A snapshot of me preparing for one of my online Castles & Crusades games (I run my games mostly standing up and moving around which is why the camera is placed farther away, plus, lets be honest, the natural background is pretty cool!). Once we return to in-person gaming this will become more of a rarity as many of my players will return to sitting around the table!