I have recently read an article in the LA Times about a reunion of Dungeons & Dragons players who started their adventures in 1987 after one of the kid’s uncle introduced him to the game and how it escalated from there. You can read the entire article here, and I do recommend it. It does make for good reading and brings up a few interesting questions. The most obvious is what has gaming contributed in your life? But also, how has gaming changed and why?
To answer the first question would probably take me a very long time if I went into detail, so I won’t go into detail. However I will say that gaming has been a huge imagination catalyst that’s helped me in my work and in my daily life. For other people, gaming becomes escapism to take them to places where they can’t be hurt, or where they can live dreams in a way that brings them that little bit closer to reality. For others just an excuse to socialise and for others it will just be a matter of pride…. and the list goes on and on and on.
What is very clear is that gaming, be it Role Playing Games, Board Games, CCGs or War Games, can have, and indeed do, a big impact on people’s lives and help them direct where it takes them.
One of the most obvious impact gaming has is the social aspect and the enthusiasm it can infect people with. Despite the fact that our type of gaming is considered to be “geeky” and “nerdy” and we can be perceived as a bunch of miscreants with nothing to do and no life, I still am to meet out of us “geeks” and “nerds” without friends. Most importantly, I am also waiting to meet one who can’t make friends.
I am not saying we’re all an adorable bunch who get along with everyone and live an incredibly rich and fulfilling life. There are some people out there in the gaming community I don’t like, people who don’t like me and even people I wouldn’t want to be associated with. And yet, all of them have friends…
I have no idea how it is for teenagers nowadays, and I wonder if it is any different from the atmosphere we enjoyed when we were teenagers. 20 years ago my friends and I used to get together both in and out of the gaming sessions and discuss ideas, plan sessions, organise small (or big) conventions, swap books, create our fanzine in our Amiga computers… I guess that’s showing my age and what decades I am talking about, how embarrassing!
Still, the point is that there was a great spirit of comradeship that did extend outside our circle. It would be pretty common for people to come into my photographic studio and directly ask me if I played RPGs and if they could get involved, or talk about their gaming group, be invited to games or simply be asked how to get into the game. I remember this 7 years old little boy who came to the shop once and asked how to play Lord of the Rings, the original game that came in a red box. Luckily it was a very hot summer in 1994 and it was about 5pm. For those of you who haven’t grown up in the South of Spain, to give you an idea of what it feels like, go home and bake a pizza. When you have finished, open the oven, turn it off and stand by the oven for a few seconds. It feels just like that. So this little boy came to the shop because he went to the local bookshop and asked where he could go to learn to play. The owner of the shop, who was the only one selling RPG materials in town, was making a tidy sum thanks to the efforts my friends and I were making, so to say we were in very good terms is the hell of an understatement!
Anyway, that little boy spent the following two hours with me in the shop grasping percentages and finding a practical application to the boring maths he was learning at school. He also started to learn about statistics and probabilities, as in, you know, what are they odds of finding a bear in the woods, how many of them would attack, etc. Yes, simple stuff for you and me grownups, but we’re talking about a 7 years old child. That is pretty amazing stuff!
He kept coming to the shop for a while and at some point, his dad came too because he was intrigued about all this visiting the photography shop and talking to the manager. Probably also worried that his little boy was spending quite some time with a young man in his early twenties. He came along one day when I was explaining the boy why you gain advantage when you attack from a horse. I think the man was amused, relieved and surprised in equal measures! Amused to see two people of terribly different ages talking about a common subject, relieved I wasn’t a pervert, and surprised there is so much to battling from a horse!
The story of the young boy comes in quite handy to make another point, fear not… I am not digressing.
Now comes the advent of the Internet. Information (pretty crap in many cases) becomes extremely easy to come by. Some websites become settled and widely used by a lot of people. Communities grow inside an invisible network that can take you and your game to the other side of the planet, and bring you games and people you could have never known it existed.
And I think it changed us gamers and our games more than we realise.
When was the last time you approached someone in the bus or the train because they were reading a fantasy novel, or even a gaming book?…. actually… when was the last time you saw anyone reading a gaming book? Would you actually approach that person and say “hey, I play too!”
Now my question is, it is because we’re older, more settled and we don’t feel the need to talk to new people or is it because we now have so much information about pretty much any game we care to think about that we don’t find necessary to talk to people? Or is it a mix of both?
I can’t help but wonder where little Jimmy (can’t remember his name, really) would get the information today. Would he find other newbies in Facebook, or visit a shop to talk to a complete stranger about gaming?. Would he be directed to the my shop by Amazon?
How about his/her gaming experience with other real-life players?… are they also friends? Do they get together and have ideas about new products and games, new settings and adventures? Do they want to write about it and publish?…
We know how gaming has changed us but how have we and our age changed gaming?