Day 10: #RPGaDay 2018 – “Changed”

Week 2: ‘How’ Questions Prompt: How has gaming changed you?

We are getting a bit personal with the prompts as the week winds to a close, but that is okay in this week about making our games better, and having that pay off in more and more engaged players. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and doing something well tends to pay off in some form of personal growth.

You didn’t use to look like this…

I moved a lot as a child, and had life reset more than once to a different experience. New towns, new schools, new friends, new everything. I read a lot, spent as much time outside, made good friends quickly, and was comfortable in public. I was in on or the instigator of plans and challenges, and I looked forward to trying new things. I fit in easily wherever I moved, and although no move was fun, they did not prevent the next one from having a hint of adventure to it.

Then, I moved to a place that in later years Buffy’s Sunnydale would instantly remind me of. If Hellmouths were real, that place would have had more than one. I am sure that I remember it as worse than it was, but there is a chance that I am remembering it just fine.

Upon moving there I also had the great joy of entering my teens. I found myself in a large town full of strangers who were often strangers to each other, socially isolated, and a target. The first year was unpleasant.

What made it harder was that I was retreating into books more and more and computers were just about to arrive and they would be far more attractive than trying to wade through the social quagmire of school to find something resembling a friend. The change of scenery was a bad one, but it is not responsible. I was turning inward all on my own. I couldn’t even muster the interest to keep in touch with friends from previous places. I found myself almost incapable of even wanting to socialize, and when I did of alienating those people with whom I did try to speak.

Friends found me. Not en masse, not in a blazing rescue of fun and safety in numbers, but one at a time, scattered across that miserable town’s fractured social spectrum people reached out to me. From the outside, perhaps it looked like drowning people clinging to whatever they could find to keep themselves afloat, but that is not how it seemed to us. Friendship was a shelter from a storm that would pass, not an ocean that would obliterate us. It obliterated many, but not us.

These friends were readers, some were outdoors types, some were into science… teenagers have the capacity to explore a lot with a lot of passion. I kept being quiet, I still found it hard to speak and certainly hard to speak my mind, but I was there enough to be a friend and to reciprocate friendship. Most of these people who found me also found RPGs and eventually they shared them with me. I lived in one of those houses where RPGs were forbidden, but that restriction just affected where we played – not if. That was part of the adventure too, I guess.

The more things change

I would like to say that the games brought me back to myself, and got me back into the center of things, but that would be a lie. They did allow me to express things that were not going to be expressed otherwise, and more they allowed me to see myself having a positive impact on the lives of others. They gave me things to think about and talk about, and challenged my mind. In the long hours of the ongoing sleepless nights I inherited from my parents, they took the place of the dreams that were outside of my reach, and in the awkwardness of social effort they provided context for interaction as good or better as any I had ever had before.

In the beginning it was hard to be a part of these game groups, and it was hard to find a place to play. We had at times to bike to a national park for several hours along the crumbling highway, to the site of an old French fort in order to play, and that limited who wanted to participate. Still, little by little, I found a way to gain access to the outgoing person I had been before – at least during game time – and then feel that person slip away once the dice were back in the bag and we were headed home.

It was enough.

Certainly better than the alternative.

The Glue?

Games stayed with me even though the moves continued. Though thanks to the kindness of my fellow strangers in a strange land, I was now armed with the tools to integrate with people I could relate to, wherever I went. The games were a huge part of my university life and by then I was learning how to be in-character in public. Some of what I was able to tap into in the games was leaking out into the real world and although it wasn’t the same and I often felt like I was wearing my own skin like other people wear costumes, I was no longer limiting all of my socializing to RPGs.

One of the biggest moves of my life was to Korea, where I still live, but have continued to move around in. When I left Canada and the groups of amazing gamers I had felt privileged to be a part of for more than 6 years, it was my intention to return within a year or two. It wasn’t good-bye, it was only au revoir. That was more than twenty years ago now. I didn’t quite make it back.

When I left, one of the older members of the group took me aside to say his farewells and mentioned that the particular group he was a part of would not stay together once I had left. “You are the glue,” he said, “that keeps us together.”

I didn’t believe him. Such a thing is not possible when you are as Megadeth so eloquently put it, ‘the skull beneath the skin’ and your face is just something you wear. I thought is was nice of him to try though.

That group didn’t exactly fall apart. Such things only happen in stories, but it did change, it did fragment, and then eventually the games just drifted away. I wasn’t the center of its existence. I wasn’t the thing that made it happen, made it good, or whatever. I was, however, important. My being there mattered. My not being there mattered.

That was an important gift, and I would have missed it had it not been for an exaggeration in a friend’s farewell.

Changes

So, twenty years on from that I have found that talking comes easily again and that the road back through gaming was the right one for me to take. It is still my preferred method of socializing to do so as someone else, but it is not required nor even hard to skip that step. I am still private. I still have boundaries. I still typically prefer dogs to people, but what sane person doesn’t?

Much to what would have been teen or even twenties me’s surprise, most of my work is in public with people. I still need a push every now and again to be social, but I keep my hand in.

TOMORROW

The #RPGaDay prompt for our second weekend is keyed to the idea of “wild”. The prompt for Saturday, August 11th is about character names, and is followed on Sunday by character concepts. Whether these are ones of your own crazed imaginings, those you have encountered in print, or from others around ‘the table,’ it’s on topic for this wild weekend.

#RPGADAY 2018

This is the second week of the fifth iteration of the monthly roleplaying gaming celebration launched by Autocratik for all forms of social media. Share your responses however you prefer to share. If you want to get involved, grab and share the infographic with the prompts and jump right in!

RPG-a-Day 2018 High Contrast@willbrooks1989

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