I just finished making a video for today and talked about what a thrill it is to watch other gamers when they really become engaged. It’s almost as exciting as having that experience yourself.
In that video I briefly mentioned something that has become more apparent to me over time, and something to which I have devoted a lot of thought, and for lack of a better word, research. In short, different people really become engaged in an RPG session or with the hobby in different ways.
Some people love the creative process before the game. Coming up with a setting, or maps, or a premise, or a new system or even hacking an old one. You can really see how engaged they become in the creative process. Some people love the collecting and painting of miniatures. Some people really enjoy the tactical side of games. Some people become incredibly engaged with system mastery.
Some people enjoy creating a story beforehand, other people enjoy improvising elements of a story in the moment. Still others enjoy the emergent fiction that arises when nobody is really paying attention to intentionally creating a story, but through playing their characters interesting and unpredictable events occur. Some people become incredibly engaged when they try to experience the fictional world & situations through the eyes of their character.
Some people become completely engaged when they are solving the puzzles and mysteries that come up in game sessions. Some people love the thrill of exploration. Others become just as engaged when they improvise and make these things up in the moment.
There are so many different ways to enjoy this hobby. Too many people walk away or become discouraged because they think there is only one way to really become engaged and enjoy it. It has been my experience that it is incredibly important, and incredibly rewarding, to take the time to find out what really gets you engaged. What part of the RPG experience gets you excited and keeps you coming back? Once you find out the particular kind of experience that you like, the RPG hobby can become immensely satisfying and rewarding.
You might not know which parts of the RPG experience really do it for you until you experience them. But i have found that you will recognize it when you experience it. The feeling of being immersed or engaged is unmistakable. Nothing like it.