Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The End of an Era

A couple of weeks ago, I made a decision to drop out of online gaming related discussions "cold turkey" and because I'm feeling a bit rambly about it, I decided to... well, to ramble about it here. Where else, after all?

I've been posting on messageboards about D&D and other RPGs for over ten years. Heck, I used to occasionally pop into the old Usenet groups, when that was how it was done, but by about 2000 I had strumbled across what would become rpg.net, ENWorld, and eventually other sites like Nutkinland, Nothingland, Circvs Maximvs, TheRPGsite and others. And due to a quirk of my personality, it actually helped me to have access to these sites during the workday, where I could take quick breaks to recharge my brain before charging back into work. And for many years, I quite enjoyed this.

However, a few things changed. Most of them were with me, but not all of them. First of all, I think my interest in the discussions started to verge on compulsive or habitual rather than because I still enjoyed them. The last several years, I was rarely contributing to unique and new discussions; I felt very much like we were continuing to hash out the same discussions over and over again, year after year. This, of course, was not nearly as exciting or intellectually stimulating as it had once been, and I found myself more and more migrating into off-topic discussions just to pass the time.

At this point, I discovered over time that there were actually fewer of these posters online that I cared to talk about things other than gaming with than I had hoped, and in fact, quite a few of them were so divergent in taste and opinion from me that we literally were unable to hold conversations about anything that was going to be entertaining for either of us for very long. I did make a few genuine friends here--if the concept of online only friends isn't too weird and cyberpunk of a concept in the first place--but wading through hundreds of posts to get interaction with a relative few friends got to be more difficult and tedious than fun after a while. Plus, a lot of my friends started getting scarce over time as well.

Add to this a change in the climate of discussions. This all started with the announcement of D&D 4th edition. My interest in 4th edition was much more academic than practical; I was unlikely to seriously consider switching because I simply don't value systems for their own sake anymore, and I was reasonably happy enough with houseruled 3rd edition variants that I was unlikely to find that system changes gave me sufficient benefit to justify the cost and hassle of switching. But, naturally, as 4e ramped up and then finally launched, discussion migrated more and more to that. This in itself changed the tone of the community significantly; and I alternated between bemusement and disgust at the bitter tears of some gamers who felt they were being left behind, and the aggressive factionalism that developed between pro-4e fans, and anti-4e diehards. Plus, it was harder and harder to find people who were interested in talking about the games I was interested in talking about, which made much of the discussion that was still going on rather less than relevent to me.

On top of this, coincidentally, some other factions appeared, like the OSR and the sandbox play, that had a lot of rather vocal proselyters. This aggressive factionalism was, like I said, occasionally kind of amusing to me, but mostly I found the heckling, wrangling, and rampant passive aggressive baiting and sniping more tedious and annoying rather than fun. I woke up one day and realized that I had been going to the last remaining sites on my "to hit" list out of force of habit, not because I was enjoying them anymore.

But it took a final straw to break the camel's back. After getting into a rather silly argument with one of the site owners, that was probably more prompted by slow-burning annoyance and dislike with which we viewed each other than by any significant proximal cause, I decided that all of the factors that were leading up to online RPG related discussion being more of a burden than a benefit in my life had reached a point where enough was enough, and I quit going to the sites cold turkey, reset my browser history so it wouldn't keep autofilling them with those URLs every time I typed a few characters on the address bar, and walked away.

So, here I am, cast adrift, without a hobby to chat about at all hours of the day. I really should take this opportunity to do something more productive with my time, but old habits die hard, and that may yet take some time to accomplish. In the meantime, I've filled a lot of my free online time doing research into other topics that interest me, and exploring a bit the gaming blogosphere, which is wild and uncharted territory (at least for me.) I haven't decided whether or not to mourn this phase of my life, or feel relief that I've walked away from it, honestly. Currently I'm feeling a bit of both.

In any case, it might also possibly increase my ability to update my own blog, but it's unlikely to increase the frequency with which I come up with blogworthy topics. If I tend to post a bit more rambly diatribes that seem to have little real point (like this one), bear with me, I'm just trying to figure out exactly where I'm landing with my online free time still.

12 comments:

Lisa Upchurch said...

I miss you.

Joshua said...

See, I feel like I'm still in pretty good contact with you via Facebook.

Then again, that's probably much more one-sided. I do more reading than I do posting on Facebook...

Lisa Upchurch said...

Exactly.

Greg Christopher said...

Good post. I feel your pain.

One thing that I like about blogging vs forum discussion is that it allows you to assess the seriousness of the participants. Someone who has 500 blog followers can make a statement and it inherently carries more weight than someone with 20 followers. Or none at all. By writing most of your serious comments in one place, you establish a credibility. You are a serious player in the community, you have serious discussions, you are not some 13-year old whack job out looking to stir up the pot.

I know that post-count on message forums can attempt to serve as a similar gauge, but someone could have 2000 posts of 1 banal sentence each.

Greg Christopher said...

Also I forgot to add, you can use the blog itself and the quality of the posts to make the same assessment. Followers is just one metric.

Joshua said...

I certainly hope so, because my list of followers is small! I do seem to get a decent number of hits each day, but for whatever reason, those folks aren't often officially following the blog.

I'm not really very into following blogs either, so I'm OK with that. I do it the old fashioned way by remembering to check the blogs that I want to regularly.

Greg Christopher said...

Isn't that why we have favorites and bookmarks? Hehehe

But seriously though, I do think that blogging, in some respects, peels back the anonymity of the internet and with it a lot of the vacuousness and boorishness.

moogspaceport said...

Hey man, I totally get it and understand. I largely did the same thing about 2 years ago, but I poke around some of those sites every now and then. Message boards are an imperfect means of discussion. Sometimes people genuinely misunderstand you and take things the wrong way, and sometimes people distort what you say to be douchebags.

Francisca (it's an ax, trust me) said...

:waves:

Mistwell said...

CircvsMaximvs still misses you, and still talks about you on occasion. Your reasons make good sense, but this does not diminish our mostly-favorable thoughts towards you.

-Mistwell

Riggs said...

http://www.circvsmaximvs.com/showpost.php?p=1299964&postcount=657

For Dr. Pepper's sake, you don't have to keep up a post quota, just post when you feel like it. Hobo with jiggle avatar plzthx.

Joshua said...

Heckuva time to go AWOL for over a month. I just saw these comments! What's that link supposed to go do? It looks like it's just a random commont by Randallus on a movie he liked.