Yesterday I browsed my list of tags and found some that have appeared in other blogs to be conspicuously missing: Gaming, D and D, and also Action Jackson RULES! I plan to rectify that today.
Every so often in blogs past, usually once a year or so, I blog about gaming and the fact that it is awesome. It’s a great mix of socializing, fantasizing, and creativity. The gaming, that is, not the blogging. The blogging is mostly a lot of self-indulgent drivel.
Back in the ’80’s it seemed like everyone was gaming, or at the very least the activity was popular enough to be called satanic and to inspire an awesome movie with Tom Hanks in which he plays a tough Detroit cop who’s been pushed over the edge and now has to take down one of the biggest names in the auto industry, or be framed for a crime he didn’t commit.
Now in the twenty-teens, I’d be hard pressed to find a dungeon if it weren’t for my hardcore stable of 20-rolling hustlers. That’s what I see around me now: groups that have been together since high school or college, and pick-up games at the friendly local gaming store.
I’ve never found the latter option all that attractive (also, most of the gaming stores in Detroit are history). I think that’s a fine solution for board games and tactical miniature play, but real role play is a surprisingly intimate thing. You’re saying a lot about yourself when you make a story, confessing (even subliminally) your own hopes, fears, and anxieties, like that you think of yourself as frail and vulnerable and so often roll up tough-guy characters who don’t play by anybody’s rules, or that you are dumb and weak and so play uber-powerful wizards, or even that you are afraid that you won’t be able to quit shooting smack, even for the tough Detroit cop who who’s been pushed over the edge, whom you love.
It seemed for a while like maybe Jack Chick and his anti-D&D posse had won. Some readers of this blog weren’t even alive in the 80’s and so you don’t remember that there were in fact actual D&D book burnings. You won’t find much about that on the internet because it was sort of extreme behavior, sort of faddish, and also a FUCKING BOOK BURNING IN FUCKING AMERICA. What the fuck, right? They also burned heavy metal albums, which are two things that pretty much go hand-in-hand as they march down the aisle of fucking awesome. That’s how I remember the 80’s – nothing to do with this hipster shit and the leg warmers or fucking whatever, but stealing cigarettes, listening to Iron Maiden, and playing dungeons and dragons.
Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how I spent this last Monday too. Now who’s retro?
Also, those people who burned books pretty much ran the country for the last eight years. So I guess they are.
But whatever exorcism you have to perform (in game or meta), it’s a creative thing – it’s a collaborative legend written by mostly sympathetic parties all looking to get away from the meh and whatevs of daily life. It’s not about escaping form reality, as was so often espoused in the book-burning days, but engaging in something beyond real. Reality is waiting in line at the DMV, filing an endless stream of paperwork for your boss, and finding out that your best friend, with whom you ran track back in high school, has been killed to cover up a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top.
That used to anger me so much: somehow sitting on your ass and watching Designing Women or Monday Night Football was perfectly acceptable, but getting together, rolling dice, and discussing ancient mythology was perverted and weird. Is it the lack of passive receptivity? The socializing aspect? Or the fact that there’s no ads for Fruit Roll-Ups in a D&D book? Or do we have to constantly embrace hot media icons like Delta Burke and Roger Staubach to be Americo-normative?
Whatever it is, I still love this damn hobby. It sucks up hours and hours of time, is no way to meet girls, and is certainly misunderstood by the world at large, but fuck ’em. Gaming makes me a better writer and a more analytical thinker. When I run historically themed campaigns it makes me plunge into research in which I would not normally engage, and it’s a lot cheaper than, well, everything.
I used to end these little posts with a little blurb about how everyone should start gaming again, but as I’ve mentioned, some people reading this don’t even remember the 80’s and so have no idea what I’m talking about. They’ll go get a copy of World of Warcraft and then come up to me six months later and be like “Oh man, you were soooo right about gaming! I’ve been sitting in my basement since June and I haven’t talked to anybody, so now I’m pasty, fat, and pale and unable to socialize – what’s for dinner?”
And I will say: “Barbecue, huh? How do you like your ribs?”
Which doesn’t make any sense since real gamers subsist on Mountain Dew and Cheetos.
A Look Back – 30 July 2021
Yes I still play Dungeons and Dragons. A lot.