Apart from my wife, nothing in my life has brought me as much joy, humor, anguish, pride and disappointment as being a "Gamer".
I use the word "Gamer" in the old school sense. A sense hardly in use anymore. Growing up, a "Gamer" was a kid who played Role-Playing games... not a video gamer. A kid who played video games was just... a kid who played video games.
I started playing with a few friends when I was fourteen years old. We borrowed books and dice from an older sibling and took turns being the Dungeon Master. Eric, Chris and me. Eric wanted everything to run like a military campaign (he was the son of a soldier and a big fan of the Army), Chris... well, Chris didn't have much in the way of imagination and would often forget to add things to his descriptions... "You can't go that way!" "Why Not?" "Because the monster is that way!" "What Monster?" "Oh, there's a Adolescent Black Dragon in the middle of the room." "Nice of you to tell us now...".
It wasn't too long before the job was passed firmly into my hands. Say what you will about my many, many character flaws but I do have a flair for narrative and the dramatic. I stepped behind the DM's screen at 14 and didn't step out again till I was 34.
There are few single elements in my life as influential as my years playing RPG's. From the people I met to the... the people I met... and the... yup.. the people I met. Come to think about it, it's all about the people I met.
Being a Gamer, being a Dungeon Master, has been a wonderful medium for me to meet people and make friends. If you can tell a few good stories and get a person's imagination flowing, it makes people want to play. Everybody who has ever watched a fantasy or sci-fi movie or read a fictional book and thought a character was cool, that their moves were slick and dangerous, that YOU wanted to be the guy with the flowing black cape, the mask, the sword, the hook, the blaster, the fedora or the crown... here was your chance to have a little piece of that for yourself.
I can't tell you how many campaigns I have run. I'd probably have better luck telling you the systems I haven't run. I've made people cry. I've made players laugh on countless occasions. I've even made people storm out on various occasions (looking back, I'm amazed that didn't happen more, but then again, I'm amazed I didn't storm out on occasion.)
In doing all this, I've learned some interesting things... about what people think is a hero... about personality and perceptions... about what kind of people that people think they want to be and think they should be. I've learned how far people will go for "good" and how far they will go for fun. I've learned that everyone enjoys a good fart and dick joke. Most importantly, I've learned that what people really, really want, whether they admit it or not, is a good story.
Interestingly, this post has taken me over a week to write. It started the night that Gary Gygax died. It was meant to be a simple eulogy and thank you to the man who is responsible for something like 40% of the fun I've had in my life. But in thinking about the effect that his work has had on me, I can't help but think about the effect that gaming has had on me in general.
There are no friends in my life who have had their adoption tried quite so well as my fellow gamers. We played at making "fellowships" so many times that we probably couldn't help but be bound up at some level in something more than friendship.
In the past, I can't remember how many times I jokingly said that we'd all wind up at the same old-folks home, with our wheelchairs pushed up around some old utility table, still drinking room-temperature Mountain Dew and rolling dice. Still telling all our old jokes. "What's in the Wine celler? Wine!" "Hey Brett, you're still falling!".
The thing about it is, I wasn't really joking. I miss my old gaming crew and I can't image any scenario where I wouldn't want to spend an afternoon rolling dice and killing orcs with them for the rest of my life. Why not? We always had fun, I can't imagine a reason on this Earth to stop.
Now-a-days, we're all moving off in different directions, though if this past weekend has taught me anything, we're all still friends after a fashion. We've just all got our own lives to lead and our own fortunes to seek. I can't really fault them just as they don't fault me. We all can't stay in one place, doing the same thing forever. We've grown up, for what that is worth.
Maybe the death of Gary Gygax has left me a little sentimental for the olde days.
Maybe I just miss my friends.
The Empty Chair
Eulogy for a Gamer
With thanks to Kenzer and Co.
There is an empty chair,
at the table this day.
A hallowed place where,
a friend once played.
The roll of his dice,
my ears long to hear.
Or perhaps it would suffice,
if he should suddenly appear.
With character sheet in hand,
and a bag of Cheeze-doodles to share.
All his friends would stand,
as he sat in the empty chair.
I hear his voice a-callin’,
and it ties my heart in a knot.
For he cries, “Though a comrade has fallen,
You must play for those who cannot.”
We conquered worlds on the run,
he and I in the name of fun.
And as others may come and go,
I make both both friend and foe.
But what I long for most,
is our past now long a ghost.