From the Front Lines: On Military and Gaming

Hi there.  I would like to take a few minutes and address the Gamer Nation on an issue I have been facing for over three years (hopefully others have had better luck).  In those years and experience while serving in the military, I have noticed a recurring issue when trying to join a gaming group.

I understand that all groups want individuals who are regular members that can always make the planned meeting times – which may present a challenge to some of those in the armed forces.  I also understand that there is a sort of attached gaming stigma that says we in the military consider gaming to only occur on an Xbox or PS3 with the latest edition of Call of Duty or Halo where shooting the enemy is the focus (not to say I don’t enjoy that as well). These “issues” have prevented me from joining tabletop game groups, either due to how often they want to meet or their fear that I will be warmongering soldier-type. However, I would like to argue that our SM’s (service members) have many great and unique qualities to bring to the gaming table.

One worry that many groups have with a new gamer joining is how they will fit into the soldierdndgroup dynamic.  One concern is that the new individual will have more of a self-serving attitude towards the game.  Anyone who has gamed for a while has met these players.  These are the ones who take all the loot, hoard the magic items, or complain when the game turns against them.  Teamwork isn’t always a skill that people effectively demonstrate.  One thing that the military is amazing at is to teach its members teamwork.  This skill is not only re-enforced on a regular basis in our work, but is required in our family lives to be successful in that aspect as well.

Secondly, our SM’s really are a mission-oriented crew – either through personality or training.  We are trained to see objectives and then think of ways to accomplish those tasks.  Our jobs only rarely get explained by a “Do this, by doing this step, followed by this step, etc” sort of method.  Usually, in my experience, we are given an objective, and then the expectation is to have the job done.  Only the end state is spelled out – the methods aren’t too restricted and the implied tasks are just that – implied.  I see this as strength in gaming as well.  Rescuing the princess from the Orc tribes, stealing the nano-processors from a high-speed Silicon Valley corporation, and defending an outpost from alien raiders are all missions that could be as simple as a long combat sequence or as difficult as covert intel and resource gathering, stealth movements, meetings convincing locals to get involved, and all sorts of other fun little events.  SM’s involved on the players’ side may come up with these through the planning stages or just as character action.  As GM’s, you might see all these events drawn out to turn a simple adventure into a long lasting, fun campaign.

The other characteristic that SM’s have that definitely lend themselves to the gaming scene are that many of us are adventurous.  Obviously, we have signed up for the military for some reason.  We tend to live on the adventurous side of life for our recreation as well.  Many of my friends are whitewater rafters, mountain climbers, skydivers, scuba-divers, avid paint ball fans, and participate in many other fun and possibly crazy activities in order to unwind.  In addition, we tend to enjoy being social and sharing those experiences with others.  Gaming seems to lend itself to this “addiction” perfectly.  Having an adventure and sharing the experience with others who are also interested is kind of what it is all about.  The best part of this is that the group will be around to continue the adventures afterward.

By far, this isn’t an extensive list of the traits that our SM’s exhibit that lend themselves to the gaming scene, but rather a quick list of what isn’t always apparent.  So, if you have the opportunity to bring one of our men or women into your gaming group, please give them a chance.  I think it is each player’s responsibility to share the hobby we have with others.  Bringing new blood into the hobby and game group can not only add some spice to the adventures shared, but who knows how the hobby could grow when new minds partake.

I’ll step off the soapbox now.  Thanks for listening and good gaming!

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