GMing

How do you combat Adult Onset Imagination Disease?


I spend my professional life studying genocide; which is to say, I spend my life in a world of academics and presenting papers and publishing obscure journal articles. Even though it’s an instant conversation killer at dinner parties, I still find it immensely rewarding. Unfortunately, the scholarly skew of my current writing, combined with the fact-based models I work with, have collectively subdued that part of my brain that feeds on imagination.

I still have moments of glory but they’re far fewer than they used to be when I was in my twenties (or a teenager). If I compare the campaign building I do now with what I created fifteen or twenty years ago, you can see an obvious trend away from fantastic and towards realism. See, I can’t even talk about it without using academic expressions!

Anyway, my question is: for all you gamers-of-a-certain-age, how do you combat Adult Onset Imagination Disease?

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7 thoughts on “How do you combat Adult Onset Imagination Disease?

  1. I read blogs like Planet Algol or material around Carcosa and then I consciously decide that the next time my players ask for something, I’ll just say yes no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel, accepting it as a channel, trying to adapt my vision instead of arguing against it until all creativity has left the building.

    Thus, when a player suggested two sessions ago that one of the dryads that had charmed the shadow elf and kept him for a night or two had in fact fallen in love with him and started following him, I bit my tongue and said YES! We figured out that it must have been a love miracle by the goddess Ishtar, that the dryad had transferred her bond from her tree to the elf, etc. The next session I was asked about society of the dryads, we speculated about their longevity combined with their inability to leave their tree, what sort of alien mindset that would produce, and added that to the game as well. And suddenly my world was a tiny bit crazier than it was before.

    I think allowing myself to be pushed out of my comfort zone is the important part.

  2. I sort of find my self going the other direction, my gaming group when I was in my teens and twenties always wanted more and more realism, this culminating in more espionage type games. Now I find my self drawn towards lest realism and more wow factor fantastical sort of things.

  3. If you’re lucky enough to have imaginative kids (I’m in that camp) spend an afternoon watching them play. Better yet, join in. That has a way of priming the ol’ imagination pump.
    Also, turn off the news and watch cartoons with your kids. Alternately, if you don’t have kids, watch cartoons by yourself. Specifically try to find those cartoons that would have piqued your imaginary-interest when you were younger.
    Perhaps find ways of playing games where your (dry) academia might prove useful – I can see how such an analytical bent would be a boon in a Call of Cthulhu game, a spies setting, or any other mystery-focused scenario.
    If all that fails, just accept that your gaming focus might indeed have naturally migrated into a realism-centric quadrant. That’s ok, embrace it and try to run games that use realism as a strength. Perhaps in time a more fantastic setting focus will creep into your consciousness and drive your game.

    But don’t fall into the trap that Imaginative == Fantasy. That’s a faulty analysis.

  4. I believe that there is a direct correlation between your imagination and your willingness to play, be silly, let go of the rules and most importantly not take yourself seriously. I believe that as we get older and get more responsible, those responsibilities come with fear — will I loose the job, will I loose the respect of my peers, will I be able to pay my bills. The more fear we have, the more we cling to our identity and the more rules and norms become important. We stop being so willing to take risks and we become more rigid. We start worrying that that next thought could be the one that makes us crazy and we tighten down. It’s that same loss of flexibility that limits where our mind is willing to go; it limits our imagination.

    Yada Yada, I know this all sounds like pop psych 101, but in all seriousness if you want to get your imagination back, take a few days and break out of your patterns. Take a break from reality. Let your boundaries go and find a place where you don’t care what people think about you. Your inner child wants to come out and play and he doesn’t care about your academic standing or your peers. Go find a LARP, or a full narrative game. Go on a vacation somewhere off the map. Start frequenting a bar where no one knows you. Some times you wanna go, where no on knows your name. 😉 If you open up and let it out, you’ll find that your imagination has not gone anywhere, you just stopped listening to it.

    Cheers,

    -=Salient Knight=-

  5. Personally, I haven’t made any effort to fight it. I just find I’m less inspired by fantasy and more interested in science-fiction these days. Both still require imagination, but I find sci-fi appeals more to aging sensibilities.

  6. Personally I find this to be an odd question. Do you really not know how to become more imaginative? Really? Ok, consider the following scenarios: I am weak, I need to become stronger, what can I do? or; I can’t swim, how do I learn? Or; How do you become skilled at drawing? Imagination and being creative are like no other skill or ability. If you want to be come more imaginative, then you must spend time imagining. If you suck at it at first, then you need to keep doing more of it. To become more skilled, you need to study other examples and do more of it, and more of it, and more of it… The more you exercise your creativity muscles, the stronger they will become! 🙂

  7. Thanks for all the comments guys.

    @Alex: I agree, I try to get pushed from my comfort zone (or my adventure as envisioned) as often as possible.

    @veganshane: I’ve been shifting this direction for years but seem to be noticing more recently; not sure why.

    @Kevin: I don’t watch a lot of cartoons but along those lines I’ve been thinking of running a Savage World Supers game where all the PCs have to create characters in the style of The Tick. Oh, no worries about imagination = fantasy, I just happened to be thinking of fantasy games in this instance.

    @Daniel: I don’t mind the pop psych approach and I think there’s a good deal of sense there; it’s pretty much in line with what I think happens to us over time as well.

    @Rognar: I hadn’t considered it but perhaps that’s why I do tend toward Sci Fi games these days.

    @Spiralbound: I understand what you mean about it being an odd question, but it was meant more as a “what do you do..” kind of thing. And as you can probably see from reading the blog I do a lot of “creative play” but thought it was worth discussing nonetheless.

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