May 17th, 2024 by matthias
middle-aged bald man with glasses and a hoodie sitting on step chair
The game master will see you now

Long time (ago) readers would know that I’m mostly sharing my perspectives on career skills and digital innovation on these pages. Some will remember that I am also an avid player of table top role-playing games. Last year, I published a guest post on the fabulous Continuing Mission, the fan website for the official Star Trek Adventures role-playing game by the UK games maker Modiphius. In short – if I could make role-playing my day job, I probably would. In the meantime, it’s my mission to convince people that role-playing develops career skills.

Enter the new normal

During the pandemic, the hobby experienced its second boost in less than a decade. The first one was when Stranger Things popularised Dungeons & Dragons in 2016. The second came when role-playing (like everything else) moved online during the pandemic.

A lot has been written about the isolation people experienced during the lock-downs. I must admit that I never really felt that way. Suddenly, I could spend more time with my (in most cases) far away friends exploring strange new worlds online than I had in years before. I used to play every few weeks when either my players or I often made a considerable trip to get together around a physical table to play. Trips in and around London can be two hours one way for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. To reach my German players – with whom I have played for decades – I would normally have to get on a plane.

Now, everything was open. I sent around a note in the first week of lock-down asking who would have time to play online over the next few weekends. I received a note from my pool of one and a half dozen players that they could play every weekend for the foreseeable future. So I went to work, running game after game, week after week. I felt like a production company: draft notes, run game, write up notes, rinse and repeat.

Role-playing saves lives!

At first, things were rough and ready. I had never played online that much before, and it was like relearning to play. So many things that worked at a table didn’t work online. People needed breaks – but what people clearly needed was community. Talking about it now in hindsight, I know that online role-playing throughout the pandemic has given me so much emotional support. So we stuck with the habit and still play regularly online. I get to talk to my far away friends about once a week, sometimes twice. I live now even further away from them, but I feel closer to them than I have for many years. It kept my friendships alive and gave me meaning. I have spoken to friends about this, and many feel the same.

Teachable moments

What are the takeaways here? As ever so often in my life, I learnt the skills I needed by playing. I wouldn’t have made the jump into remote work and Ed Tech had I not developed my interpersonal skills online. During career workshops for students and budding entrepreneurs I use the same presenting and storytelling techniques as in my games. I connected with academics who use genre-based play to teach sustainable development goals and enterprise skills. I ran a storytelling game at a virtual retreat for an Ed Tech start-up I work with.

Role-playing helps me tell stories about themes that matter to clients, customers, colleagues … people. Game mastering makes me a better moderator. Role-playing fosters empathy. It flows into the design thinking exercises I run with stakeholders to develop new solutions to problems they encounter.

I am the travelling game master!

If you want to have a taster of how role-playing develops career skills, why not join me at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham from May 31st to 2nd June? I’ll be running a set of sessions using the upcoming edition of the Star Trek Adventures rules. There is no need to prepare, just join in and learn about yourself while exploring strange new worlds, seek out new life, and … you know the drill.

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