#RPGaDay2022 – Day 20: How 3?

We ride into the weekend on the back of another question we can take as being easy or make as complex as we like. Day 20 of #RPGaDay2022 asks us how long our games last. One of the great things about language is how often words can mean more than we think, shifting with context, shifting by generation, and shifting from the habits of evolving communal use and learned and added nuance. Take ‘game,’ for instance. What was meant by that word in this question? What variations does it encompass and contain in its simplicity and unassuming ambiguity?

It’s the journey, not the destination~

In my response on YouTube, I focus on game in its meaning as session of play. In other points in the days and weeks prior, I hinted at other things I could have talked about here today. My preference for open-ended play, favored games staying in rotation for decades, and groups of friends gaming together for as long or longer. As those ideas have seen some light in this event, I felt it was appropriate to reel in the meaning to a point close to home. How long do sessions last these days?

As a new player of RPGs, some of my sessions were bizarrely short. I mean, they took place in the 20-30 minutes it took us to walk to school. Others were sprawling all day events. My longest session ever was 18hrs in length, bookended by barbecues. It was made more potent by spawning a second identical event the following day after a 6hr break. As a gamer out on my own, with a regular group and a regular schedule, my session length of choice hovered in the 5-to-8-hour range for a few years before finally settling on a consistent 4hr duration. This is what I think of as normal. Somewhere between 4 and 6 is normal for me.

These days, gaming online in video conference software presents incredible opportunities, but some specific things about the format, not the least of which is the very real separation of participants, make it so that sessions are shorter. Partly this is to do with time zones, but mainly this is due to a greater sense of effort and a resulting fatigue that makes a two-hour session feel like four. I wouldn’t trade these sessions, mind you, but I have had to adapt. I have had to adapt in the same way that I recognized my 8hr or more sessions were too long for some of us, or that gaming from midnight to 4 am while fine for me was a non-starter for most of my fellow humans. We paid attention to our feelings and our instincts and made adjustments to what systems we pitch, what schedules we suggest, how many people we invite, and how long we play.

These days, our online sessions operate under the idea that 2hrs is normal. We will go to 3hrs if we can and if we want to (both, not just one). We will drop to 1hr if necessary and feel a bit cheated. None of us seem too keen to pitch a 4hr session.

If we were to get together to play in the same room…? Somehow, I suspect that we might see a return of the 18hr marathon, but that might just be because we live scattered across the globe and who knows when we might ever get such a chance again~

Tomorrow: Setting Sunday!

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