As this is Speak Out With Your Geek Out! Week, I’m going to spend part of the week blogging about things that gets my geek up, that brings out the geeky part of my personality, that has people turn in my direction, point at me and say, “Geek!”
And I wear this title proudly.
So let us start, shall we? First up: Gaming and gamers.
Yes, it goes without saying I’m a gamer. I have been there, so to speak, from the very beginning, for I remember the dark days of the 1970′s when if you were seen carrying a large book with the picture of a monster on it, there was something wrong with you. If you conversed about stuff like “Armor Class”, you were speaking in tongues. If you cared dice in a bag then you must be . . . one of them.
Them being gamers.
It seems everyone knows the sterotype: fat, sweaty guys who haven’t bathed in months, living in their parent’s basement, gathering with similar individual to eat Cheetos and drink Mountain Dew and slay imaginary imaginary creatures while never wondering if they will ever kiss a girl.
Ah, yes, it’s great fun. All otaku get a similar rap, but if you are a gamer it seem you are destined to spend your life as if you’ve been consigned to a hereto unknown Circle of Hell. You are a social outcast; you are unable to relate to “normal” people.
I am here to tell you, people, it’s time to understand the true nature of the universe.
First off, let me elaborate: when I speak of gaming I speak of “table top RPGs”, wherein one sits with a group of like-minded people and work (more or less) with a Game Master in bringing their story together. We are not talking Monopoly here, although if that floats your boat, it fine. Most RPGs enjoy board and card games as well, but when I say “gaming” I’m referring to games like Dungeons & Dragons, or Cyberpunk, or Eclipse Phase . . . yes, I’m old school.
Gaming is, by it’s nature, social. One has a very difficult time playing a game alone, so having three or more people present at a table when undergoing your imaginary trials and tribulations is the norm. It involves the act of coming together and doing something. In this way, it’s no different than watching the Super Bowl, or getting together for a cook out, or playing badminton, or watching a movie. It’s an activity to be shared by all.
And it’s not just about getting out a character sheet and rolling the bones. You spend enough time at gaming tables you’re gonna hear about the gaming session that went “off the rails” and turned into a full-time chat the might have been about gaming, but could have just as easily been about sports or movies or TV or . . . well, anything. As a GM I’ve pulled my players astray many a time, and sometimes you need to do it: you need to talk about something only because you are all together and it’s easy to do. Because as gamers you aren’t the shallow, socially inept and rather oddball individuals that “normal” people envision when talking about us–I’m looking at you, Rona Jaffe–but we’re really, truly complex and wonderful people. No, really.
As someone who has GMed games since 1989, let me offer the following examples of people with whom I’ve gamed: my stepson and his wife. One of my best friends and his wife, who was also a gamer before they met. Another friend of mine and . . . his wife. Another gamer who had to drop out of one of my games to get married. Strange: for people who are so incapable of social interaction, seems like there’s a lot of marryin’ goin’ on.
And I’ve encountered the same thing at cons. I’ve had no fewer than 4 married couples sit at my table when running a game, and I’m certain that one day, when I go to cons and run games again, I’ll encounter more married couples, or couples looking to get married, or just couples. It happens because we are really are just like . . . you.
The most fascinating aspect of gaming is, to me, the creativity. Gaming, particularly from the GMs standpoint, involves the telling of a story, the spinning of a tale. In order to tell a tell a good story, one needs to be creative, and that creativity flows both ways, for a GM can only create part of the world in which their fellow gamers play: the players bring their characters into the mix, toss them in and hope that what percolates to the top will be epic in nature.
I got into RPGs back in the mid-1980′s because I wanted an outlet for what I felt was my creativity; I wanted to enjoy the sensation of being carried away to another world for a few hours. Yes, it didn’t always happen; yes, I had some very bad experiences along the way, which was one of the reasons I became a GM.
But of late I’ve discovered that other people feel that storytelling and gaming go hand in hand. Yesterday (the 11th) Rebecca Angel wrote on GeekMom of using RPGs to promote creativity in her kids. I’ve spoken with a friend of mine about using Big Eyes Small Mouth–a RPG system based around all things anime–to bring out the creative nature of two of her children. Of late I’ve used an online RPG to improve my writing and storytelling abilities . . . I could go on for hours, for being a gamer and being creative tend to go hand in hand.
And just to give you a little extra background: my first exposure to gaming didn’t come from RPGs–it came from Avalon Hill war games. Why? Because I loved history, and using Avalon Hill (and the late, great SPI) games to “redo” famous battles of the past just tickled me crazy. It was that part of my mind that kept whispering, “What if this happened?” that drew me to war games, and later into RPGs. And continue to draws me in to this day.
“But, Ray,” you might say, “those gaming geeks can be an unruly bunch, anti-social and just plain nasty at times.” Yes, they can. So can sport fans–ever hear of football riots? So can people who gather at a bar. So can friends at a cookout. So can just about anyone.
I’ll admit: I’ve offered my fair share of rants about nasty gamers, about people who would stab you in the back for no reason simply because that’s how they roll. But gamers are human, and humans come in all sort of shapes, sizes and attitudes. But lets remember Sturgeon’s Revelation: ”Ninety percent of everything is crud.” While Harlan Ellison felt that average was higher for politicians and used car salesmen, I say it’s lower for gamers.
Over the years I’ve run close to 20 games at GenCon, and only once did I have an issue with someone sitting at my table–and that was because during the game he started pulling out a bunch of miniatures he bought and started fooling around with them, which became a distraction for the other players. In all, I’ve ran games for over 100 people at GenCon (and maybe another couple of dozen at smaller cons) and they have all been wonderful people, usually full of energy, friendly, and really to have fun.
(And in case you’re wondering, Sturgeon’s Law–the real one–says “Nothing is always absolutely so”. Really.)
There is nothing wrong with being a gamer, or a geek, or a geeky gamers if you swing that way. I’ve been one for most my life, and these days . . . I see my daughter getting into anime and manga, and it’s only a matter of time before she starts looking at my gaming books shelves and starts to wonder–”Hey, Dad, can we do this?” And I’m going to be right there guiding her, just as I did with my stepson, just like I’ve done with other friends–
As I said only a few days before, games take you to new worlds and can open your mind to new ideas. It really, truly is a great way to open up and meet great people who share a common interest, and while gaming might not cause you totally geek out and rush out to buy a Companion Cube, you might just discover–
Being a gamer, even a geeky one, can be a lot of fun.