Thursday, October 29, 2009

Whys and Wherefores

It has come to my attention that, even though I have written a lot about what I think about gaming, and tried to share some of my favorite things, I haven't really said much about why I like gaming. Let's see if I can address that without sounding too much like a robot.

I'm normally a very introverted person; I have very few real friends, and I have never been very good at meeting people. I was lucky enough to have the same roommate for all four years of undergraduate college, and we were introverts together, though we certainly met other people along the way. Even though I'm an introvert, though, I still look for the company of others - I'm just not very good at expressing what I want in that area.

Gaming, at a fairly early age, intersected with one of my other big interest - fantasy novels - and became one of my best ways of getting to meet people. I was the kid with the book that explained how my friends and I could pretend to be elves, dwarves, and other fantasy creatures in a world with dragons, demons, and all manner of magic. For a certain group of people, that made me cool, and I enjoyed that. I still have that first gaming book, a no very tattered 2nd Edition AD&D Player's Handbook, somewhere in my basement.

Gaming appeals to me because sometimes I get to play as the hero I read about in novels. Everybody wants to be the hero, right? He swings a big sword, or casts awesome spells, destroys monsters, evades traps, looks cool, and gets the girl. I could be Perseus in Clash of the Titans, or Prince Colwyn in Krull, or Wesley in Princess Bride - though, in all fairness, I was more fond of Inigo Montoya. It is an escape from the inane situations and banal happenings of real life, and lets me just hang out, joke with friends, and pretend to be an elf for a few hours every so often.

It gets me in touch with parts of me that I don't think about very often in day-to-day life. When I play a righteous paladin, I think about how my paladin worships his god, when I am personally agnostic. When I play a terrified monster hunter, I get to feel that fear of what is around every corner, which is refreshing sometimes - though sometimes it just leaves me locking all my doors and checking behind all the furniture before I huddle up in my bed. It lets me feel a sense of wonder I don't seem to feel often, a sense of wonder I had when I was a younger kid getting the chance to wander the castles of England and pretend that I was a knight.

I've since moved on from that first gaming book. I now have a thriving collection, one that bows the shelves of the bookcase I keep most of it on. It spans many genres, from fantasy to horror, from Western to science fiction, but they're all still games that I look at and wish I could put myself into them, to go where they go and see what they see. Gaming has informed my tastes in movies, in TV, in reading, and even in academics - on some level, I think that stories like Beowulf and the Iliad were stories where people could get a sense of what it was to be a hero from reading or hearing about those characters.

It's still good, though, to get a stack of books together, get my assortment of pointy polyhedral dice together, grab a table, and sti around it with a group of friends who, for a time, will become my boon companions on an epic quest to destroy evil.

Or, y'know, just kill things and take their stuff.

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