Barry gave me a soapbox last year. So far I haven’t used it for much except writing rambling little missives on the state of organic food sales or the playoff chances of the local sports collective (if anyone gets that last movie reference I will per
sonally give you one dozen bananas. Seriously. And no cheating.)
But it’s time for me to address a serious issue that has been up in my piece for one reason or another for the last several weeks. You ready for it? I don’t think you are. I don’t think anyone’s prepared for the kind of thunder I am about to bring. But here it is:
I play Dungeons & Dragons.
There. I’ve said it.
Sherman, set the Wayback machine for 1991. Small town
Massachusetts. Sunday afternoon.
We see a star of the high school basketball team, two guys from the varsity track squad, one track team/band member, and a couple of random friends from other towns. They’re all well-washed, sitting around a nice dining room table, strewn with papers and pencils, books and dice, and they’re talking about exploring an underground dungeon.
What’s my point? Well, the point is that I grew up largely unaware of the stereotype that has plagued and continues to plague the community of players who participate in such activities. Because the people that were playing the games were normal, well-rounded athlete-students-musicians, etc. We weren’t the pallid, awkward cellar-monsters that most people associate with gaming. We played because it was fun, because it was a great way to exercise the imagination. We played because it was different, and it was something without imposed limits. But mostly, we played because it was fun. And indeed, over the years, I’ve played with a couple dozen relatively well-adjusted people from one walk of life or another, all with similar experiences of having grown up playing a game that grew as they grew, and doing so…just for fun.
Of course that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of those smelly, frightening, trenchcoat-wearing, fedora-sporting I-am-asexual-by-choice sorts of sweating, shuddering dice whales. There are. And I fear them as much as you do. More, perhaps, because I have seen the sort of things of which they’re capable. Seriously, just head down to Pandemonium Books in Cambridge some Saturday afternoon and wait about five minutes. You’ll see ‘em.
Mix equal parts “social outcast status” with “borderline pathological”, “spends all their time in one fantasy setting or other” and “ridiculously well-read” and you get the kind of people who you read about in connection with a body count. I’m not kidding. They give humans a bad name.
But they do not represent my people. My people have jobs, wives, cars, homes…my people have dogs and cats, children and families. My people hang out with beers and friends and watch sports, or travel the world with their fiancees. My people are just like me and you…well, maybe more like me than you, but you get the idea. We live among you, some of us hiding the secret that you would make so dark. But we are gamers.
We can all get along with one another. We can learn, we can accept. We can learn to make the unknown known, so that we may fear it less. We can embrace those different from us and learn to call them “brother”.
Except those stinky dudes. Those guys need the firehose. Seriously.