Life Lessons From the Center Chair
This article is written by Marissa Jeffrey, an active member of the Starbase 118 Star Trek RPG, where she plays Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, commanding officer of the massive Trojan Class Starbase 118 Operations.
Whether you are a Starfleet Captain like I am, are a leader of a fighter squadron, a GM of a game you created yourself, or a member of a sim, there are life lessons we inherently learn as we play. Much like a time we may barely remember, as children, when our most important lessons were learned through the simple act of play, as adults, we can continue to learn and grow through our roleplaying games. Though our sims are ‘just games’, there are hidden nuggets of wisdom around every corner, and if you’re open enough to catch them, you can often find yourself applying them to the real world in much the same way you do in your game. As for myself, it took three years for me and my character to traverse the path to command in the game I play, but it was only when I looked back from the center chair of my starship, that I realized just all I had learned from the process.
Teamwork and Respect
Perhaps the first lesson learned, when I first started to sim, was that my fellow players were a diverse group of people with varied beliefs from many different parts of the world. It can sometimes be hard to bridge gaps when you see things one way and someone else sees them differently, but when you put the work into doing just that, some amazing things can happen. Of course everyone will be different, but in surrounding yourself with geographically and philosophically diverse people, you gain a deeper understanding of how to open your mind and work as a team towards a common goal. In many ways, this can directly translate into your real life, as we are ever in contact with people from the same varied backgrounds. Learning to play the game with others, and respect each individual without necessarily jumping on board with their belief sets can help bridge the gaps you might face in life.
One of the most difficult lesson I’ve had to learn along the path to command was that I could not do everything myself. Though I wanted to, if for no other reason than to make sure things got done the way I wanted them done, learning how to delegate and trust others around me was important. This became more and more apparent as I took on more responsibility, and as I stepped into a realm where it became my job to inspire those that were ‘under my command’. Beyond that, trusting others gave me a chance to evaluate my own teaching ability and the effectiveness of the message that I was trying to convey. While difficult, I had to jump off the cliff and hand things over, knowing that my friends, and fellow players, could do their job. In the real world, we often have the habit of thinking we have to do everything on our own. Learning to trust others and re-evaluating your message can improve not only your own quality of life, but your ability to communicate with those you need to work with.
Do What You Say
Whether you are a Captain/GM, or just a player, following through on what you promise is a big deal. Other players depend on you no matter what role you fill in your game, so establishing yourself as a player who will hold their end of the line means that you will become an integral part of the process of play. Doing so inspires those around you to rise to the same level, making the entire game much more fun for everyone involved. When you think about this through the lens of the world outside of your game, you can easily see why this lesson is so important. When the people you work with daily know that they can depend on you to do what you say, and say what you’ll do, you gain a reputation that will take you places and, perhaps, inspire the those around you to make the world a better place.
There are many times in life when letting go is incredibly difficult. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a battle of wits, or in a place where you feel that your beliefs or viewpoints are under attack. The same often happens in the game, but in both realms it is important to know when to bend and let things go. Similarly, you may find your players fighting you when you try to force the story down a certain path, yet are hesitant to hand it over to them and let them make the next move. Regardless of the situation, agreeing to disagree respectfully can help you and your fellow players move past a potentially problematic situation and get on with the fun. In the real world, it can mean real progress, rather than the stagnancy that comes from two opposing views or directions that simply won’t bend. There is never a situation where everything is completely black and white, and never a single right answer. Realizing that, no matter what, some grey areas exist, you will be able to put yourself outside the situation and see things objectively, so that everyone can move on to bigger and better designs.
Playing the games we play, and being a part of this niche in a world that is growing smaller and faster with each passing day means that we are always learning. While we have to look at these games as what they are – just games – it is not only important, but overly beneficial to realize that real world lessons can often be gleaned from what we do to have fun. Don’t discount these lessons, because in the real world, the same things do apply. You may not find yourself in command of a starship, in or out of your game, but there are always things that you can learn if your mind is open enough for the lessons to be planted and grow.