• Gaming on the Move

    by  • August 7, 2013 • Essays • 2 Comments

    Almost exactly a year ago, my partner Chris and I went on one of our very favorite hikes. Halfway up the mountain, we stopped and looked at each other. We were both exhausted, panting, and red-faced.

    “I guess we let ourselves get a little bit out of shape,” he said.

    “So let’s get the hell off this mountain and get ready for hiking next summer!” I answered.

    Our fitness strategy included walking five miles a day, every single day, rain or shine. It’s been great for getting us mountain-ready, but it’s also had a surprisingly good effect on our role-playing lives.

    Here’s why.

    Daily practice. Because we committed to walking every day, we ended up with time set aside for gaming every day as well. Although we were both already quite skilled, that much practice makes a big difference in how fast you improve!

    Patience and variety. Having a daily play practice means gaming time suddenly feels abundant. We end up exploring plots, characters, or even emotional states that might not make the “cut” in a tighter and more focused session. Similarly, because I’m committed to playing every day no matter what, I end up driving a lot of variety in play with the variety of my daily experiences.

    Playing to time. Since we both incorporated walking into our individual routines, the length of our shared walks varied from day to day. At the same time, on any given day we knew how long we’d be walking for. That means we had to get much better at pacing, and particularly at predicting how long scenes would run, so that we could nail a play “session” of ten minutes or one of more than an hour.

    Shaking it up. Playing on the move meant we couldn’t rely on dice, reference materials, or even character sheets. We had to figure out how those elements were supporting us in play and find new ways to get the same results. For example, we both have terrible trouble naming characters. At home, we use the Story-Games Names Book, so we downloaded a name generator app onto our phones to replace it.

    Constant inspiration. Walking in New York City means a constant flood of stimuli – people, shop windows, cars, advertisements, and more. We’ve learned to take the richness of the city and bring it into our game, whether that means “casting” passers-by as characters or using the layout of a store to explain the geography of a fight.

    Gaming while walking isn’t without its challenges. Neither is having a daily gaming practice. On the whole, though, both have made me a much better player and GM.

    If you’ve tried something like this, give us your tips in the comments!

    If you haven’t, tell us what sounds easiest and hardest to you!



    Game scholar, game design educator, game designer, and most of all enthusiastic game player!


    2 Responses to Gaming on the Move

    1. avatar
      August 7, 2013 at 19:01

      Used to game regularly at work with my best friend/roommate. We worked in the college laundry, so we had a lot of time folding, stacking, feeding sheets, driving deliveries, etc. I agree that the daily practice made us both much stronger storytellers, overall. We never worried about playing to time, though. We’d just pause the game wherever we had to, and pick it up later. It ended up making our games much more serialized, and much less episodic, much more focused on minutiae and details. I didn’t miss the lack of die rolling and rules books (she did). Now, almost 20 years later (yes, we still game together, when the universe put us both back in the same city), we’ve moved most of that detail-stuff into backstory and written fiction, but the worlds we built back then are still alive and kicking and playing host to new adventures.

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    2. avatar
      August 12, 2013 at 19:02

      We’ve been gaming while walking for about 10 years with the kids, but lately we’ve had whole sessions where we intentionally set out on a hike to play. If there’s a need for a random outcome, we decide on a target and see if the player can hit it with a pine-cone, or get the pebble into the stream, or touch a leaf overhead. it’s lots of fun.

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