Human beings are social creatures. Friendship is as necessary to us as food and water. Without it, we cease to thrive. ~ sometimes we find friends in the most unlikely of places. Then again, in some circumstances it just makes sense that we would find people that we connect with.
Don’t quote me on this, but I seem to remember anthropologists saying that we evolved to live in groups of about 150 people. Everybody knows everybody. They are our tribe. I’ve also heard from another source that said the average person knows about 500 people by first name. I guess that means every time I learn the name of somebody new, another high school teacher or coworker from the past gets deleted from the memory. ~ All kidding aside, my personal experience lines up with these figures. We live in huge societies, so human beings seem to make their own tribe based on the people they interact with. That’s just what tends to work for us.
The real problem arises when we realize that not all of those in the tribe that we have assembled are really “our tribe”. Many of our relationships with people are relationships of convenience or circumstance. We don’t pick many of the people that we have to interact with. Sometimes we can become friends with these people, but often we find that we don’t connect on a great many levels. They might be nice people, but they are not the ones we would have sought out.
Another complicating factor is that while many of us make friends naturally, a great deal of us have difficulty doing so. Some people have more friends than they can count, while others of us prefer a small but more strongly connected group. None of this is really news. But I think it’s important to lay the groundwork in this discussion.
In my own life my experience has been that friendships come , and friendships go, and that many friendships were based on circumstance. Others have endured the test of time. We can be apart for long periods and begin a conversation as if the lapse in time had not happened. In one area of my life in particular I have made some very profound friendships where we connected around shared experiences. But even those friendships, while genuine and important, don’t meet all of my needs. In some ways they are absolutely members of my tribe, but in other ways not all of them are.
Role-playing games are powerful in many ways. The people at the table can share common experiences that while fictional, can leave memories as if they were real. Very often we end up talking about those experiences and what the characters did, what the players did, and what our individual experiences were like. We start to talk about the hobby as a whole. We start to talk about our own lives and our own experiences. We find that we connect on more than just gaming. We begin to sense kindred spirits.
Make no mistake, not all gamers will be part of our individual tribe. This is a large and diverse hobby, and there are all kinds of people in it. There are people that want various different experiences, that have various different qualities, and that are interested by various different things. Each of us has to engage in a vetting process, and that’s just for who we will game with. In my experience such a litmus test is necessary.
However, when we do discover those that we connect with, and we begin to have those shared experiences at the table with these kindred spirits, we begin to develop friendships that are every bit as profound as those from other areas of our lives. It’s true, Internet gaming opens up the world to a great degree and it is easier to find those like minded souls. But, part of the downside is that we can’t just go grab a cup of coffee after the game and talk. We can’t go grab lunch together or go see a concert. This is a shame. There are definitely people that I have met online and games with that I would rather spend time with than some of my local acquaintances. Life is hard.
As a person that is more apt to have a smaller group of close friends and who has difficulty finding true peers, I have been fortunate to develop some satisfying friendships with those in the RPG community. It is a shame that we are hundreds or thousands of miles apart, But even though we are separated by distance, we have discussed many topics on a deeper level that those who work side-by-side ever will. I have found true kindred spirits, and I treasure them.