Friday, December 20, 2013

300th Post: In retrospect--getting into the hobby (a deeper look)



Have you ever thought about why you started gaming? Not just the surface reasons like "it's fun" or "my friends were playing it" and the like. But instead, do you recall what was going on in your life at the time you started playing?

Do you think these life events affected your decision to join the hobby?

When I started d20 Dark Ages back in September of 2012, I had know idea how far I was going to take it. I feel like its been languishing in recent months. I've had to take a couple steps back and re-examine some things in my life--gaming in particular.

d20 Dark Ages is a testament on how much I do care about playing gaming--especially Dungeons & Dragons. That's the game that started it all, why I eventually got into war gaming, painting up hundreds of figures. It's why I have a couple bookshelves worth of RPG books and magazines and over a dozen binders stuffed full of notes for various campaigns I've run.

I've been doing this for almost 25 years.

Recently I've been wondering if I shouldn't figure out a way to go back in time and tell my 10-year-old self how time consuming and expensive this hobby can be. "Listen young man, you'll end up as a thirty-something with hundreds of RPG books that you'll have to lug around every time you move."

I doubt he'd listen. He was a stubborn little brat and a smartass.


He was primed and ready to dive head first into D&D

He liked to read, but didn't like reading many of the fiction books teachers assigned to him. He grudgingly admitted to liking A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. He read most of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia after one of teachers read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to the class. But he would never say he did to the few friends he had. He really liked the Choose Your Own Adventure Books.

He also played a lot of video games. Final Fantasy was one of his favorites.

My 10-year-old self, as you may know from earlier posts, had gotten to watch his older brother run D&D--specifically AD&D--for his own group back in the day, since he was 6 or 7. Occasionally he'd sneak into his brother's room and take a peek at the hardbound books--the Monster Manual in particular. It was kinda scary, envisioning a world with monsters that were real.

The game Dungeons & Dragons seemed like a much darker place that what the old Saturday Morning cartoon portrayed--well, except for maybe what happens at the beginning of "The City on the Edge of Midnight." (I still keep my feet away from the edges of the bed!)


Yet in many ways D&D was also a brighter place, it offered my 10-year-old self a chance to escape from some of the monsters in the real world: Asthma. Not being good at sports. Two of his best friends moving away. He, himself, moving into low income housing on the edge of town where for awhile he wasn't sure the kids there were friends or bullies.

His 4th grade teacher was probably the worst of monsters; she wanted to put him in special ed for being socially awkward. Failing that, she arranged the seating in the room so he'd sit smack in the middle, away from the kids, but so all the other kids could stare and laugh at him. Whenever she'd tell the class to partner up on an assignment, he would sit in the middle, alone--and then she'd gripe at him for not finding a partner. (Oddly enough, she was the same teacher who introduced him to C. S. Lewis).

This punishment lasted for a least a month or two. But it only made my 10-year-old self, if I recall, more quiet, angry, and more susceptible to getting involved in "undesirable" activities like playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Okay, maybe "my 4th teacher was a bitch and that's why are started playing D&D" is a bit simplistic as to why I began gaming. There were a number of reason. Freud or Carl Jung would say I was at loggerheads with reality and had to develop a neurosis to deal with it. Playing D&D is a bit neurotic if you think about it: You're sitting around imagining your somebody else for a few hours at a time (is that  really your character or your idealized self?)

If that's really the case, then I'm glad I picked up playing D&D as a neurosis. My mom didn't have to worry about me going out at night doing stupid things with my friends.

Okay... except for maybe that one time...
There's also that whole thing where I grew up avoiding alcoholism and drug abuse. I spent my money D&D books in middle and high school. In college I spent my money on gaming books and miniatures. There were times when gaming did become an obsession. I'd get mad when a player couldn't make it to a game. In 7th grade, I remember getting upset because seven weeks had gone by and I hadn't run my campaign because of player cancelations. Oh no!

If gaming is neurotic, then I've had a lot fun in the last 25 years.

Do childhood events explain why I started in the first place? Maybe. If you look hard enough you can find reasons for anything you do. All you need is one.

*Caveat:
Don't try to self-diagnose your own psychological problems. I'm just using neurosis as an example to help explain why I started gaming. The definition of neurosis is so broad that nearly everybody falls within its criteria, which is part of the reason its falling out of favor in the field of psychology. If, however, you do think your have serious psychological issues, please get professional help.


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