What Gaming Has Taught Me About Being Mayor

I became mayor of a village in rural Ohio for the same reason I’ve often wound up a game master: no-one else showed interest in the job. Now the specifics, as always, are more nuanced than that but broadly speaking that’s what went down. Like many GMs I’ve had, the previous mayor decided they had put in their time and were ready to do something else but in keeping with the best of GMs, they encouraged others around them to step in and I was fortunate enough to receive her mentorship and encouragement. I was also fortunate to have been encouraged to get involved in other aspects of municipal governing, starting on the Planning & Zoning Commission before getting elected to Village Council. This way I had some experience with the mechanics and saw her example of doing the job so when it was my turn to take the hot seat, It wasn’t like the time I was 8 and tried to teach myself how to play my brothers’ Star Frontiers game with no assistance.

The months leading up to actually becoming mayor can be like the fervent excitement GMs put into planning their campaigns. They think about all the possibilities and just what they want to see and do. Then the job actually begins and much of that planning goes right out the window. Month by month and week by week, so much of what happens is based on what happened previously and the contradictory ways that government can both be slow and methodical or change suddenly and without warning and there is a sense of dancing on ball bearings to make sure everything goes smoothly and doesn’t fall to pieces. Villagers and council members resemble D&D players in that they all have their own agendas and interests and while they might be happy that you are there to do your job, they’re not particularly invested in what you have planned and want to play the game they want to play. Luckily, much of the disconnect or frustration can be mitigated by maintaining steady communication and managing expectations all around.

Sessions of council are where the practical skills of a GM really come to light. So much of my job is to manage this specific chunk of time and make sure that everything moves at a decent pace while ensuring that the folks around the table are able to do what they want to do without it proving a detriment to others. If you’re talking too much, chances are that folks are not going to be invested in what’s happening. Time management, encouraging folks to speak up, politely redirecting folks who might be dominating conversation, all of these skills and more are key to running both a good game and maintaining an orderly democratic process.

Should every game master get into politics? Based on my experience, that’s a definite no but I do think there is something to encouraging folks who are interested in politics to find places where they can practice the skills they will need to serve the public and manage others and you can do worse than have some experience wrangling paladins and necromancers.

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