Pilfkin started me thinking following my reading one of her latest blog posts. You see I’ve been a gamer since I was 16. I started out with Dungeons and Dragons, and a protracted campaign in Middle Earth. The highlight was the Fight With The Balrog. And yes, it deserved those capital letters. It was hard.
When I was 19 I progressed to fantasy Live Action Role-Playing (otherwise known as LARPing), tabletop AD&D, Traveller, GURPS, Tunnels and Trolls, Toon, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Runequest, Prince Valiant and a whole other heap of games. I have also written and run various Cthulhu campaigns, including a one off involving pre-rolled Buffy characters for a group of drunken revellers at a gaming weekend. It involved time-travel, Nyalarthotep and Prohibition. And it was very silly. (Do I get extra geek points for being able to spell Nyalarthotep without looking it up?)
As well as playing, I regularly wrote adventures for the LARP group (my favourite was the Christmas fairy tale adventure, complete with rescuing a big jolly chap who was stuck in a “tower”, aka industrial chimney), designed encounters (black thread and someone willing to scrabble up a tree makes for a great flying book) and once got piled on by a heap of “zombies” who covered me almost completely in the blue dye that we used before we opted for an honesty system. It took me three thorough shampoos to remove it all from my hair and the memory’s never faded.
I have made costumes galore for my characters (which was more gratifying once we’d changed to the honesty system and they weren’t ruined so easily) and generic monster costumes. I’ve sat up at nights guarding camps, and drinking til the wee hours in the drinking tent at various weekend events. And I have even flirted with horror and vampire LARP, including a 1920 Cthulhu weekend.
Interspersed with this is a ridiculous amount of board and card game playing. And I don’t mean Monopoly or Poker. I’m talking Talisman (the original version, complete with City, Dungeon and Timescape), Kingmaker, Acquire, Settlers, Railway Rivals, Ave Caesar, Magic, Munchkin and Fluxx, to name a few. I never did like Diplomacy or Risk, before you ask.
I remember White Dwarf in the days of Thrud the Barbarian, when it was more than just page after page of painted minatures, or instructions on how to paint minatures.
I have a lot of incredible memories from these times. And I still do role-play and game when I can. Add to that my more recent MMORP experience, and all in all I would have to classify myself as a bit of a gaming geek.
Now, to Pilfkin’s question. Do we want gaming etc to be viewed as cool or are we happy with our geek image?
For me it’s a mix of the two. I want to be cool, I want to be a cool geek who is recognised for doing something that little bit different. As it is, the last workplace I was in viewed me as a bit of an oddity because I went to bellydance classes. (I’d made the mistake of thinking that was unusual, but mainstream enough to be okay. It wasn’t.) Unless I KNOW there are other geeks with whom I can banter, I don’t talk about it to any but the most open minded of colleagues. I totally understand why Pilfkin’s other half hides his gaming with such care. I’ve done it myself all too often. I’m doubly stuffed in this area, as my other main interests aren’t what you’d class as mainstream or generally acceptable either.
I also dearly wish that it could be viewed as cool when filling out application forms for jobs. Because when it comes to the “leisure time” section, I currently write “reading, writing and crafting”. When in fact what I have is years of experience in creative thinking, imaginative approaches to challenges (I believe that’s what they call it in business speak these days?), teamwork and a healthy respect for sensible health and safety – something you need when you’re whacking the crap out of each other with foam or latex swords.
Here’s a classic example of problem solving and inventiveness. At the request of a friend of mine, I wrote her a murder mystery scenario for a group of 14-18 women for her hen night, not knowing exactly how many people would turn up and knowing that as a hen night, it would have to be for both gaming people and non-gaming people and giving us all a chance to dress up in fun outfits. It mostly took making sure I knew who the murderer was well in advance, so that I’d be certain she would be there, and some highly silly and creative writing to do it, but I managed it, and we all had a lot of fun with it. I can’t see myself writing about this on an application form though.
Proof of teamwork on that same application form? Wish I could use raiding regularly, downing the Lich King. Oh, how I wish I could, but, like Orville (and I heartily apologise to anyone who remembers THAT), I can’t….
Don’t get me wrong, I do like my geek status, and I like that I do something a little different. In the circles I mixed in at the time, with the rest of the RPers and LARPers, I felt I was pretty damned cool. In my daily life I wasn’t, as I couldn’t talk about the same things that everyone else did, I didn’t have time to go to the pub every night, nor did I want to, and therefore was a bit strange. It didn’t make it easy for socialising with my work mates, and I was always on the edge of things.
But (minor consolation here) it also meant that I had the best costume when we had to dress up one year as pantomime characters in the supermarket in which I worked. Everyone else hired theirs, and some thought I was being cheap, and looked strangely at me when I said no way was I doing that. I was sorting my own. And I did. A full on Puss In Boots job, complete with high boots, make-up, cat nose, and ears and tail which I’d made myself. Compared to some of the pretty dresses (“Oh, right, so you’re Cinderella? Okay…”) that had been hired, mine was far more amusing and memorable. And recogniseable.
So, in answer to the question do we want gaming etc to be viewed as cool or are we happy with our geek image? Part of me would love it to be viewed as cool, to not have to hide away a huge chunk of my life and for it to be acceptable for job application purposes, but at the end of the day, I am what I am. I’m just as happy being a cool geek with all my fellow cool geeks out there. And if people choose not to accept me for being a gaming geek, then it’s their loss, not mine.
Except for those application forms. I want gaming to be ubercool full stop for those damned things!