Gaming Hobby vs Gaming Pastime vs Gaming Socials vs Gaming Career vs Gaming Collector
I personally think most tabletop game players fall into one (or more) of five categories.
Gaming hobbyists like playing games, but they also enjoy working on games. Like someone building ships in bottles or having a reading group, there are aspects of the tabletop games they like to interact with outside of strict gametime. They may well read games for fun that they know they’ll never play, or study game theory, work on game builds, prepare complex campaigns or character histories, and otherwise spend a great deal of time with the elements of the game outside of time spent playing it.
Pastime gamers are people enjoy playing tabletop games, but primarily want to focus on the play aspect. they aren’t interested in game theory, or working on aspects of the game outside of game-time. If a player, they don’t want to have to study the rules or character advancement in order to be able to have fun. If a GM, they don’t want to have to spend a lot of time preparing a game session. For pastimers, the games are GAMES, and time spent interacting with the games in non-play ways is not fun.
Gaming socialites don’t mind playing games, but primarily want the social interaction that comes with regular tabletop sessions. They might be just as happy if their friends wanted to watch movies, or fly kites, or build treehouses.
Career gamers make money from creating, playing, or otherwise being involved in games. This includes game writers, editors, and everyone working in game companies, but also professional streamers, distributors, GMs-for-hire, and so on. Many people slide into gaming careers through being gaming hobbyists, though this is also one of the categories where you may be driven to be engaged with tabletop by something other than fun.
Gaming Collectors want to pick up everything for one or more games, or all of a type of game element, for the same reasons stamp and coin and sports card collectors do. They are often hobbyists, and sometimes career gamers, but they may also just be driven to collect with no other involvement in the games they pick up.
These all mix and match, of course. Some people collect dice obsessively, never using most of them, and are hobbyists for one game system they love, but mere social gamers for other systems their friends prefer.
I’m not making any value judgments, either. But it can be useful to consider why people engage in games, and in what ways, both as a career gamer, and as a hobbyist with friends who are neither career or hobby gamers, but still play tabletop games with me.
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