Gaming increased my confidence, made me more articulate, taught me how to lead small groups, and increased my organization skills.
As a geek in middle school and high school, my self-confidence was low. I had a hard time meeting new friends and connecting with my peers (who often bullied me for being weird). Dungeons & Dragons connected me with like-minded individuals and helped me make it through middle school. In high school I stopped gaming, mostly because even my nerdy friends had stopped gaming, but then I went to college and everything changed.
At Lock Haven University — at the time a campus of about 3,400 people — I found nerdy people like me. That included my roommate Vince, who was running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Suddenly, I was back into gaming … and so much more. Not only did I have several weekly campaigns to play in, my new friends and I formed a game club – the Role-Playing Underground. We organized a semesterly convention called RUCON. I even launched my own campaign for the first time in years.
Gaming in college was a tremendous experience and one that taught me real-world skills. Founding the club meant writing a constitution and getting it approved by an initially hostile student government that thought it would lead to a spike in suicides when everyone’s characters died. That led to me writing a report debunking the myths surrounding role-playing games, which in turn helped get our club approved. I picked up leadership skills as the club’s president and as one of the organizers of RUCON. Hell, RUCON itself taught me lessons about running a convention that are still relevant today, particularly with regards to scheduling, logistics, and communication.
Being able to speak in front of friendly audiences – be it as the dungeon master for my gaming group or as one of the clubs leaders – gave me much-needed public speaking confidence. Dealing with student government gave me my first taste of bureaucracy … and some of the communication skills I’d need to deal with it in the future.
Attending gaming conventions helped as well. Suddenly I was meeting hundreds of different people in a weekend. As a player, it forced me to learn how to talk to people I don’t know (always difficult for my shy inner 12 year old). Running games at conventions forced me to learn how to talk in front of those self same people (even more difficult for that 12 year old me)
All of it helped my organizational skills. In middle school and high school I was a disorganized mess and my grades reflected it. I did a much better job in college and beyond but it’s been a constant struggle to stay organized (and it continues to this day – check out my Angular Momentum and Bullet Journal posts).
Running a regular role-playing game campaign taught me how to organize my thoughts, manage my prep time, and keep try of myriad story elements. Just as importantly, gaming has taught me how to reign in my tendency to overthink and overplan. That process of continual self improvement culminated with the the “Three-Page Manifesto”, my personal template for doing “just enough” prep.
And I’m not done yet. While I feel like my organizational skills are in decent shape what I’d really like to work on next is improvisation. I incorporate improv into my game sessions — as in war, no plan survives contact with the players — but I’d like to be better at it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where my session notes are nothing more than a few bulleted items on an index card, but I’d certainly like to try.
I can’t claim that role-playing games alone have led to these changes. I went to school for journalism and worked at small daily newspapers for several years. Working as a webmaster in university relations at a small university in New Jersey further enhanced all of these skills as did working as a freelance writer (side note: gaming gave me my longest-running freelance gig, which is with Knights of the Dinner Table). My current day job focuses heavily on project management, which demands that I stay organized and communicate with people daily.
Gaming gave me a test bed for practicing these skills. Improving my improv skills for our Sunday games help me limit my prep time for meetings at work. Figuring out how to best prep for a convention game — and tame the scope creep that is pre-generated character creation — helps me write and execute small project scopes. And running new games with my group or at conventions introduces me to new ways of thinking, which is always a benefit at the day job.