There's a division among roleplayers when it comes to gaming over the internet. It's not quite as fraught as the bonkers split about mask-wearing but it seems to run deep. The other day we had a player drop out of our game. As he put it:
"The whole Zoom thing is a pain. I just don't enjoy sitting in front of the screen, trying to get a word in, moving a marker around on a map, or waiting for the referee to come back when he's got several private messages to deal with. I much prefer the snacks and drinks, the face to face interaction, and the quick 'can I have a word'. It feels more real like that somehow."Until recently I was playing in two online RPG campaigns, one on Zoom with Roll20 for dice and maps, the other audio-only on Discord. Of course there are good and bad points. I rarely bother with a full tactical map, but in Roll20 it's harder to do a quick sketch to show where everybody is. (Do please point me at some good software for that if you know of any.) As for the Discord campaign, I loved it but we did benefit from having stripped-down rules and a brilliant referee in charge. It wouldn't work so well with a complicated game system and lots of dice rolls. Also my private gripe about Discord is that it was designed as a chatroom; players who miss having visuals will comment on the action by posting cartoons and movie stills, which runs against the immersiveness of pure audio. If there was a way to turn off that legacy feature and go full theatre of the mind it would be perfect -- at least for those of us who are radio hams in spirit.
Our disaffected player's point about snacks and drinks was interesting. I like having friends round for dinner. Also I like gaming. I don't much like mixing the two. One of the great things about gaming during lockdown was that we can jump in, play for three hours, and say goodnight. Nice and focused. No need to eat supper, stow everyone's coats and bags, clear a metric pileup of crisp packets and wine bottles off the table, and so on. Admittedly Zoom and Discord aren't so good for dinner parties but, hey, you can't have everything.
If anything the quick 'can I have a word' is much easier online. You can set up breakout rooms in both Zoom and Discord and it's easy to pop over to those for a private chat. Around a table, everybody has to get up, squeeze round, avoid tripping over other players' scattered belongings... You could waste two minutes getting into the next room just to say, 'You secretly search the body and find nothing.'
For me, the biggest advantage of online gaming is being able to play with friends who live at the other end of the country. They could hardly ever make it along to a real-life session. Avoiding salt-saturated snacks and tooth-corroding fizzy drinks is just a bonus. So I'm in no hurry to get back to physical games. But what do you think? Screen or table?