Saturday, December 28, 2013

In Retrospect: Staying in the Hobby (or is it a Lifestyle?)

From Garfield Minus Garfield
25 years.

That's a quarter of a century. My first game happened around the time Communism began to crumble. By the time I really started getting my first Greyhawk campaign going the first Gulf War had begun and ended.

Yes. I'm showing my age (ahem, "experience").

Lately, I've been asking myself: why do I continue down this path? What kind of psychological inertia propels me to look at gaming blogs, seek out new miniatures to paint, search for the latest cool rules set or supplement. What's wrong (or right) with me?

My girlfriend agrees with my self-diagnosis: I'm addicted.

She's noticed that when I don't game at least a couple times a month I get irritable. During long periods where I go without gaming I need to stay really busy so I don't notice--but even so, I'll long to sit at table with a few friends and roll some dice.

Gaming is what I know. Gaming is part of I what I do. 

Dungeons & Dragons ain't Satanic, but it can induce you into spending thousands of dollars on books, figures, and other paraphernalia. That's what I've been doing for the last 25 years (aside from school, jobs, and writing--I'd like to think I have a well-rounded life). There's certainly worse vices and addictions out there: alcoholism, drug abuse, all-you-can-eat buffets. Each vice allows a person to get away from reality for awhile.

The difference between these other vices and gaming, is that via gaming I feel re-charged afterward. My stress levels drop. I become more cheerful.

The only time this doesn't happen is after a bad session. After a bad session I do feel drained, feeling like I should have done something more productive. Fortunately, the good sessions have far outnumbered the bad. Which factors in to why I keep playing.

Freud once said that the genius-type is at "loggerheads" with reality. If that's the case, then I've met a lot of geniuses at the gaming table. I can tell you one thing: gamers are not average. From my experience, gamers do either really well at school or are the verge from flunking out. I've seen this in high school, in college. About 10 years ago the majority of my players were honors students at the local university--I, the DM, was the college drop out. 

I've met gamers of all kinds, many I kinda wonder what they're doing now--especially the ones where it seemed that gaming was all the ever did or talked about. One hated Magic: The Gathering so much he'd tear up uncommon and rare cards in front of exasperated Magic players. Another lost most of his teeth through stress over a divorce that left him living in a storage bin, but by-gum-by-golly he still had most of his D&D books and still came to every single session (what else was he going to do? He lived in a storage bin...)

When I first game to college I met a guy who'd only talk about two things: Battletech and Beanie Babies. You read that right. He would always try to veer the conversation to Battletech (and why D&D sucks). If he failed at that, he wanted to talk about the collectable values of Beanie Babies.

I've wanted to beat some of these people over the head with a shovel. All they can talk about is gaming. All they try to do is turn every social interaction into something involving their gamer lifestyle. They make both the best and the worst players: the best because they will show up to every session without question; the worst because they can't talk about (or do) anything else.

Gaming is no longer just a hobby for them, but a lifestyle that causes them to neglect other aspects of their lives (health and hygiene come mind). Their only redeeming quality is their loyalty to the game.

And yet here I am on a Saturday morning writing about my own gaming lifestyle... er hobby. I've logged in just over 300 posts on this blog in the last year. I consider that quite an accomplishment. Others would probably think its a waste of time. I've also been spending quite a bit of time visiting Treefort Games over the holidays--running games, playing games--because I've been spending the last week or almost completely alone (my family won't be celebrating Christmas until after the New Year). So I need to at least be around people.

Maybe I should have been doing something more "productive." The catch is, gaming is a means so I can be more productive in other aspects of my life.

That's why I'm addicted. That's why I've been playing for 25 years.

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