I’ve been playing RPGs for a long time. I think I read my first Dragonlance book when I was 10 or 11, but I didn’t actually start playing D&D until I was 12 or 13 and living in Michigan. If you’re doing the math, that’s 20 or 21 years of RPGs, though there have been some quite large dry patches. I’ve played a lot of games, and I own a lot more. So why, do you ask, am I writing bout gaming today? Surely I have more pressing psychological issues?
Well, partially it is because I was looking for a topic that wasn’t quite so depressing. But largely it is because gaming has been a large part of my life, and an important one, and has been beneficial to my state of mind in many places and times when things might have gone much worse. Playing D&D for my first time in Michigan, we started a group that I still remember to this day; there were seven of us, all early teens, and I still have the drawing that we made to represent our party. Those boys were my first real group of friends, though I lost touch with most of them after moving to Nebraska.
Gaming, for me, has always been a social activity. While I can easily spend hours reading through a gaming book – whether it is D&D, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, or any of dozens of others – it is only in playing the games with a group of others that I find myself truly enjoying myself. The group does not have to be friends, though I find that often tends to come afterwards; they just have to be willing to pretend to be something they are not (an elf, or a dwarf), be willing to roll some dice, learn some rules, and tell amusing stories. It is escapism, but it is also community.
There are a lot of signs of how important gaming is in my life – one is the collection of games I have at home, that could comfortably fill much of a room. I have the few gaming books that are with me down here displayed proudly on a shelf right next to our apartment entrance. I enjoy referring to myself as a geek, of the gaming (and other) variety. My main e-mail address, one I have kept for nearly 15 years, is based on the name of a Werewolf: the Apocalypse character I played in high school; when I helped fund the Kickstarter for the 20th anniversary edition of Werewolf, it was that character’s name, not my own, that I submitted for the credits page. Even my choices in study of literature are influenced by gaming – medieval literature is, after all, one of the big influences on the creation of RPGs.
Gaming has moved on a lot since I first started; where I first played 2nd Edition AD&D, now they are working on a 5th edition. Dozens, if not hundreds, of other RPGs have come onto the market since D&D first cam out. They come in all genres – horror, action, superhero, exploration, romance, thriller, investigation, war – and from many places. It’s not a field that makes a lot of money; few people ever become rich in gaming. But it is a market where people produce games because they love them, and that appeals to me.
I have had a lot of trouble in St. Louis finding a gaming group; part of that was my depression, but part was also that I had poor luck in finding groups that stayed together or actually ever bothered to play, and I didn’t put forth a great deal of effort to find a larger community. I don’t know if I will end up staying in Houston, but if I do, I want to become a part of the gaming community here – I tried here at the step-down, but my teaching skills were not equal to the task, though I am certainly still willing.
Gaming has always been about camaraderie, a shared feeling of victory or defeat, cooperation, and the ability to get together and tell stories about the dragons you’ve killed. While Online gaming is a somewhat acceptable substitute, I played World of Warcraft, and various other MMORPGs, for years, and they just don’t fill that emptiness in the same way. I want to get together around a table, with someone (perhaps me) behind a DM’s screen, roll some dice, pretend to be my character, whoever that might be, and find out what stories I can tell in the future.
Oh, and killing dragons is always fun, too.