Monday, April 27, 2015

The change tech of my game space.

Hola Labyrinth Lovers,

This week I wanted to talk about the changing nature of my technology I'm using or allowing at my game tables. Were this a decade ago I'd nod my head at detractors who said they wouldn't allow cellphones to be on during game time...but these days that actually has turned into a liability for some players.

I'm not sure exactly when I happened at my tables, but the information age finally took over. We kept hearing about how RPGs were going to become an online only industry but as far as I'm concerned? It already happened. These days at games I seen half the players with a laptop or tablet up filled with their character sheets, game books, and notes. I personally was the hold out at my game tables until recently. Blame the ease of use of pdf or ebook format for searching, which then reduces the need for the 100~ pound bag of books for big games. And with internet access the ability to send notes, keep sheets updated, and share maps is amazing.

For me it was a gradual process but it started just after I got my first big (non-proprietary) tablet. Overnight I was catching up on a lot of smaller press books I would have normally never had as well as honestly picking up a pdf copy to share with potential players so they can look over the material as a reference. However a few things changed very quickly.

These days I have multiple folders of material up on my Google Drive and Dropbox dedicated to various game resources, pictures, maps, books, reference documents. I build shared folders for characters to pass back and forth updates and notes. I use IM services to send things like in character and out of character updates. The list goes on.

Roll20 and Skype tend to be my go-to for choice for online games. However I still attempt with the occasional IRC game. The biggest benefit I get is ease of access to information. However this new technological revolution at my table is not with out it's own drawbacks.

Recently I picked up a Google Chromebook to use as a word processor and game center. And it works, well enough but I have the issue of endless distraction. As a GM being distracted is dangerous, as a player, it's horrible. However life has thought me that most of those issues are related to stress and I would be distracted at the table even if I didn't have the PC or tablet in front of me. So that's more a case of 'find the root cause', than blame the technology.

Ahem!

The big push for online tool and technology upgrades is the add all end all of this little generation change. Online gaming! The catch is up until the last half decade (or less) the technology was not robust enough to run a full table experience. But we now have Virtual Tabletops dropping out on Steam, roll20, and various other online stores. I know of at least 3 decent ones in recent memory and the number grows based on the technology. All they need now is a friendly iPad/Android Tablet app top that plugs into Skype or Hangouts and you are golden!

Will I make the final transition from offline gaming to online? Kinda. I still think my offline table games are great social events and help me keep my in person skills flexible. That said, if I can find robust enough online tools to run my games I'm going to keep experimenting until I find that right mix of chat and play with folks. Heck...I'm looking into a series of online Exalted 3E and Numenera/The Strange games this summer into next year!

More on that soon.