So far we’ve talked about how people game and the various reasons for why they are playing. However, none of that is going to matter if you don’t actually have anyone to play with. Finding a group of people to play games with seems like it would be a fairly simple matter, especially in the world of online gaming with matchmaking and auto-grouping being standard in pretty much any title with multiplayer. Those don’t give you a group to game with, though, as much as they give you a group to play a game. This will be more focused on those that want to find people to play with over and over again.
Many would think that getting a gaming group is easy. Just go to your friends and get them to play with you. This is the classic way in which most people got sucked in to something like roleplaying or MMOs. Their friend got them to come play and, once the hooks were in, it was something that they couldn’t pull themselves away from. However, often times it isn’t that easy. Perhaps your friends don’t like the game you want to play or vice versa. Maybe the way they play is a bit too different from what you really want to get out of the game. Or maybe you had to move and can no longer easily get together with those friends to play. Whatever the reason, when it comes time to find a new group it can be intimidating and frustrating to find the right fit. Your options essentially boil down to joining an existing group or creating a new one yourself.
Both joining and creating groups have plenty of upsides and downsides. When joining a group, one of the clearest benefits is that the group has already been established as at least somewhat stable. You know that the group of people you are trying to play with have played before and decided that they wanted to come back for more. It also makes it so that there isn’t a lot of pressure on you for anything since the group doesn’t require anything more than your participation. In this situation you can more easily focus on playing and testing out the group dynamic to see if it’s a good fit for you. If it isn’t one that you think you can make work, it’s much easier to extricate oneself from such a group. One of the nicest things is that it is going to be far less effort to jump into a preexisting group and you can start actually playing immediately.
Many of the downsides to joining an established group are social in nature. You will often find that it is a group that was already friends to begin with or, at the very least, are closer by nature of having been playing with each other. This can make joining awkward when you don’t get the inside jokes or references that the rest make and can lead to feeling like group’s “spare tire” that isn’t essential but you should probably have around just in case you need it. In addition to the difficulty of integrating to a group socially, there is also the problem of seniority and being forced into playing something you might not want in order to fill a gap. For example, if the group you want to join already has all the damage dealers it needs, you might get stuck playing the healer even if you don’t particularly want to. Joining a group can often lead to compromises in things like that since it is easier to ask the new person to adapt to the group’s needs than the group to change for just one person.
Forming your own group is the best way to make sure that it fits your needs and your schedule. If you can only play during certain days or hours and only want to play certain types of games, trying to find something that’s already out there that fits what you need can be incredibly difficult. When creating a group you can also have more vetting power over who is let in to the group. If there is a type of player out there that you just cannot get along with, you don’t have to let them in unlike in a preexisting group where you might have decided to put up with it for the sake of staying in the group. Forming your own group also lets you decide the level of involvement you want to create as it pertains to hardcore seriousface gaming or casual social gaming.
However, as I mentioned previously, creating your own gaming group can be a lot of effort. Putting up flyers in your local gaming store, creating a guild website and spamming trade chat, or just trawling through message boards looking for players can be tiring and that’s before you even get to the process of deciding whether or not you actually want to play with any of these people. Having to arrange time and place and get people to actually show can often be like trying to herd cats. For those among us that are a bit shy or introverted, it can also be hard to make that contact with others and can be difficult to say no to someone that wants to join. Making the group also tends to put you in a default leader position which means people might look to you for conflict resolution and other troubleshooting issues when all you might want to do is play and not worry about whether or not there are enough snacks and if Doug is hogging all the action.
Thankfully, whichever path you decide is best for you, there are plenty of resources online and off that can help you find people to play with. If you have a specific game in mind, often the forums of that company/game will have a section for people that are looking to find others to play with in addition to the myriad of generic gaming forums that will have the same type of thing. Most gaming stores will have a board where you can look through the people that want to find players or you can post your own request for people. You should also be on the lookout if any stores or companies hold events near you for a game day. Even if the specific game being played isn’t your favorite, it is a great way to find people that already love to play games and might want to play what you are into. However you do it, make sure you have fun and enjoy the challenges and benefits that come with a new group.