When I was first playing RPGs, back in middle school and high school, I had nothing but free time to spend reading game materials, preparing games, and running them. All through and after college my gaming group met on a weekly basis, sometimes even more often, making it easy to sustain the momentum of a new campaign.
As my gaming group and I got older, got day jobs, got married, even had kids, it became harder to get together once a week for three or four solid hours of game-time. Nowadays, it’s one Sunday afternoon per month to play the game(s) of our choice.
Trouble is, one game a month is just twelve sessions in a year, which can make it difficult to sustain continuity and energy from session to session, and it limits the range of games and campaigns a group can play at once. When we met weekly, it was fairly easy to maintain two or even three campaigns. Now we pretty much have to stick to one at a time. Even then, there’s a lot of “down time” between games. I suspect many game groups and gamers in our age bracket face similar issues.
Fortunately, there are new tools and options that weren’t available when I started playing RPGs. While in-person time for gaming is more limited, we all find time to spend on things like social networking, email, and even online games. What if the game session were to extend beyond the boundaries of just a few hours a month at the game-table and into some of that online connected space? If just half of my Facebook and Google+ time got spent on a game, I’d easily reclaim a lot of that weekly game-time.
My group already does some of this: we use email to coordinate and pre-plan our game sessions and deal with a lot of the bookkeeping and “off-stage” activities of the game in order to maximize our in-person time, but what if the games (and publishers) themselves supported more of this style of play?
Imagine going from in-person tabletop play on the weekend to running a solo or small group encounter online via a website or app, either live in real time or turn-based (as most RPGs are), bringing things back to the game table for the next session. Perhaps the apps and mobile devices come back to the game table with us, handling some of the mathematical “lifting” of the game system and keeping a record of the game that’s seamless with other types of play, whether at the table or not. A lot of gaming would still happen in-person and at the game table, but the game would also extend beyond the table, fitting better into the lives of a new generation of gamers.