Monday, July 31, 2017

Don't Let FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) Dictate Your Gaming Choices

How many times have you heard that Jeff is running a game, and told yourself no, not this time. You've been to a dozen of his campaigns, and every time, without fail, you don't have any fun. Most of the time you end up leaving after the third sessions because it's an active drain on your resources to go, and life is too short to play games you just aren't enjoying. The problem is that Jenn and Pete decided to give it a try, and they had a lot of fun. The problems you had with Jeff's style in the past are still there, but there is a part of you that wants to ignore all the red flags and go anyway because everyone else is having fun, and you want to be part of that.

Now, I'm not going to tell you who you should, and shouldn't, game with. However, if your reaction to a game is the mental equivalent of, "ehhhhhhhhh," and you immediately think of an excuse not to go, you should probably trust that reaction. Don't listen to the FOMO that's trying to drown out your instinct.

"Give it a tryyyyyy... How bad could it beeeee...?"

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

If you've never heard of a FOMO before, it's not a creature out of the new Bestiary. It stands for Fear of Missing Out, and it's a condition that affects a huge number of people. Science Daily explains some of the findings and recent studies, but generally speaking, FOMO is just what it sounds like. There's a whole world out there, and you are missing out on it!

This often manifests as anxiety and depression when your peers and friends go do something without you, and have fun. Whether it's going out for drinks on Friday night, hitting up that concert over the weekend, or checking out Jeff's latest campaign, there is a part of your brain that feels like the lonely street urchin left outside in the rain, watching through the frosted glass as the children on the other side open presents, play games, eat cake, and generally have a grand old time.

Too bad you weren't there, man, everyone had their own PLATE of cupcakes!
The insidious thing about FOMO, though, is that it isn't logical. It plays on your emotions, and it undermines your well-reasoned decisions with the fear that you're wrong, and you've made a terrible mistake.

I'll give you a concrete example from my own gaming experience.

As my regular readers know, in addition to tabletop gaming, I love LARPing. I enjoy costuming, full-character immersion, and the challenges that can come from putting more players together in a bigger setting. However, I also know myself pretty well, and I know what saps my interest in a game. If I have to deal with uncomfortable temperatures (which for me is anything over about 70 degrees), I am quickly going to lose my enthusiasm for running around in costume. I am not a fan of camping, and the great outdoors and I have a non-aggression pact that I rigidly enforce. I lack the weekends to sacrifice to massive games, even if I was inclined to be someone else for several days on end. I don't have the cash to invest in boffer weapons, and nothing eliminates my enthusiastic boil faster than someone suggesting, "Well, you could watch this YouTube video and craft your own sword."

So, in short, the only LARPs I really enjoy tend to be World of Darkness-based. Experiences that are typically set in urban (or at least interior) locations, where costuming can be as crazy or subdued as I wish, and where after a few hours of inhabiting a glowering vampire lord, a bloodthirsty werewolf, or a half-mad changeling, I can scrub off the makeup, and go get some pancakes with everyone. I won't have to cope with my own shortening temper, buckets of sweat, pollen, dirt, the hard ground, and a thousand other things that make me want to go home, while also trying to remember the rules and stay in-character.

Even though I know these things about myself, every time I talk to a friend who goes to a weekend-long boffer LARP in the hottest month of the year, and they tell me how much fun they had, part of my brain tells me that I need to go play. It's the same voice that told me, "don't worry, I know you don't drink and hate dealing with crowds and loud noises, but look at how much fun people not you are having at the bar? Clearly you're missing something."

And you know something? Every time I give into that voice, I always find out that I'd made the right call in the first place.

Learn To Recognize The Whisper

Everyone is different, and I'm not going to pretend that I have the answer to a problem that's been playing kickball with psychology for far longer than I've been around. Like all the advice I give on this blog, this is just my thoughts, and what's worked for me. Your mileage will vary, and you know you better than I do.

With that said, the most important thing to do is to recognize when the voice suggesting you give it another try is coming from the genuine you, or when it's your FOMO telling you it knows better, and this time things will be totally different.

Hey, the house stayed up for TWO WHOLE HOURS this time!
To that end, you should always sit down, and address your inner voices. Ask if something changed in the situation to make you think that this time you would enjoy yourself, despite your knowledge that there are obstacles. To go back to our initial example, is the reason you don't enjoy playing with Jeff as a DM because he constantly makes up rules on the fly instead of actually using the rules in the book? Well, if he has changed that habit, and the other players are remarking on how he has the numbers down pat, then that might be a good reason to give his new game a try. If the campground where the LARP is taking place has air-conditioning, cabins, and showers, well, then it might be comfortable enough to really enjoy the game. And if this particular bar is just a library with drinks in it, where people sit around talking about literature, reading, and finding the little secret rooms behind hidden walls, that sounds like a world removed from the oppressive, drunken crowds one usually deals with on a Saturday night.

If nothing has changed, though, you are just performing the same action repeatedly, expecting a different result. Down that road lies naught but madness.

That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. Hopefully it has made a difference for some folks out there who have to deal with this issue hanging over them. As always, if you're interested in more gaming articles from yours truly, just dig through the blog, or check out my archive over at Gamers. If you want to stay on top of all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help me keep Improved Initiative going, then head on over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron. All it takes is $1 a month to make a difference, and there's some sweet gaming swag for you once you sign on.

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