In Defense of the Intrepid Gamer (a.k.a. I'm sorry I wasn't loud and proud)
I hope that some of you reading this are young. By young I mean 20-somethings and younger, so that you can understand that the world wasn’t always the way it is now. You see, I was born in May of 1979. I grew up in the 1980’s. My pre-teen and teenage years took place in the 1990’s. My second instance of “growing up” took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the years 1998-2004.
What does that mean exactly? First and foremost, it means that I am part of the generation commonly referred to as Xennials (i.e. neither Gen X or Millennial). We were born in the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s. We’re also knows as the Star Wars Generation. I won’t go into the details; just google the term Xennial and read up on it. SPOILER ALERT, though: We’re the shit.
That late 90’s - early 2000’s Albuquerque part means that I’ve partied WAY harder than you and lived to tell the tale, but that (as they say) is a story for another day. ‘Burque 4 Life, bitches!!
Anyways, I recently wrote a review for www.HorrorTalk.com on a documentary entitled World of Darkness really got me thinking. It’s an excellent film about the cultural influence of White Wolf and the world they created (what’s known in today’s parlance as a “universe”), starting with the role-playing game, “Vampire: The Masquerade”. It’s an eye-opening documentary and should be seen. Check that shit out on Amazon Prime rental.
It really got me thinking about the people I ran with and the culture that I grew up in. My extended party didn’t play “Vampire…”, but you’d have to have been brain dead to not have felt the meteoric rise of White Wolf and their product. I personally balked at it. Call it a healthy dose of geeky macho with a dash of sexist bigotry for flavor (I was only a kid, after all). Had I been the person then that I am now, I probably would have embraced it. Hell, I know I would have.
I was the kid who kept a bag of dice with him at practically all times. If you needed a D4, D6, D8, D10, D00, D12, or D20 I was your guy. I had a folder full of characters for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition (AD&D2), Star Wars, Cthulhu (what a great game Chaosium made!), etc. My backpack was full of books, from the Player’s Handbook to the Fiend Folio. My brother was our DM, and his stack of books was legendary (and valuable).
That world was our lives. For many years, we lived for that time on the weekend when we could lock ourselves up in the dining room, throw on some “chamber music” (usually Danzig, Slayer, or GWAR), and escape to the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, or Greyhawk. We’d drop in on the world of pro wrestling and fight The Empire. Sometimes we lost our sanity after seeing a Great Old One when we couldn’t make a saving throw. In between games we’d read novels by R.A. Salvatore, Gary Gygax, Douglas Niles, and Timothy Zahn.
In a smoky room full of unholy language and even unholier deeds, we were brothers. We made our regular pilgrimage to The Green Dragon, a.k.a. The Greatest Gaming Store East of the Mississippi (it’s still there in Charleston, SC…check it out!). We scoured the stacks for new games and hassled Supreme Lord Beowulf of House Carter for the latest news.
It truly was intoxicating. As happy as I am in life, sometimes I wonder if that is what my life is missing.
When we were young, we were the shunned ones. We were the geeks, nerds, losers, dweebs. We couldn’t get laid in a morgue, as the old expression goes. Sure, we could quote game rules until the end of time and tell you what the Damage bonus was for a Vorpal Sword (roll that NATURAL 20 and it’s decapitation!), but society pushed us to the fringes and told us to be ashamed of who we were. As much as I hate to admit it, I greatly admired folks like Beowulf. I don’t say that because there was anything wrong with him; he’s a stellar human being. The thing is this: he owned it! He was never ashamed of who he was! You could call him a D&D nerd or the guy whose Dad ran that gaming store and he’d smile proudly. “You’re goddamn right!”, he’d proclaim.
I didn’t have that kind of confidence at that age. I hid that shit away. I 100% owned my love of professional wrestling. I 1000% owned my love of horror movies and all things associated with them. I 1,000,000% owned my love of Clemson Tiger football, even when we sucked. But D&D? I couldn’t do it. The stigma was too great.
I’m a little ashamed of myself, to be honest.
So much love and respect go to all of the gamers, but especially to my party: Chris, AJ, Matt, Louie, Troy, Mikey, & even Ben. You guys formed one of the greatest parts of my life. No bullshit.
Here we are in late 2018- the geek now runs the show. In an age of inclusion, it’s okay to be who you are. You may still get bullied for it, but I can guarantee you that that won’t happen at the rate that it did in 1992. You don’t have to live on the fringes of society. It’s sad and more than a bit shameful that it took so long to get to this point, but it’s also pretty shitty that it took me so long to come to grips with my desire to pick up those dice again and start lopping off some heads.
Who’s with me? Anyone down for a game or two?