I don’t talk about being a role-playing enthusiast outside of this blog and the circle of my friends who also indulge in this pastime. This holiday season reminded me of how uncomfortable I am talking about this hobby that I love with people not counted amongst the choir. As I moved through the social events of the past week, often finding myself in conversation with my extended family by marriage, I talked and chatted and joked as I am wont to, but not once did I mention the fact that I enjoy rolling oddly-shaped polyhedrals and pretending that I’m somebody else from time to time. It’s just not something that I can do.
I’m quite sure that I’m not alone in this reticence to speak of my gaming habits. Many other people find that it’s easier to gloss over this hobby of ours for reasons as varied as the games that we play. A lot of the older gamers remember the bad times of the 1980s. A time when the moral majority of America decided that D&D was the latest tool of the debbil to corrupt the souls of youth. Other gamers seek to keep their connection quiet to avoid being branded with the stereotype of the socially inept gamer dude. Still others of us have just grown tired of trying to justify their continued participation in a “childish pastime.” Some, such as me, remain silent for all of the above reasons.
This hobby is, and always shall remain, a niche activity. Despite a brief period of faddism that occurred in the 1980s, unfortunately accompanied by the anti-rpg witch hunt of that time, role-playing games are never going to be embrace by the public majority as an acceptable way to recreate. Similar pursuits, such as MMORPGs, have somehow managed to garner more public acceptance, but those of us strange enough to pretend we’re someone else without either a computer or a stage to prop us up will always encounter odd stares when we talk about these games. And that’s a damn shame.
I’m not going to indulge in cataloging all the positive things that this hobby has taught me. Others have done so in much better fashion than I possible could, and if you’re reading these words, you already know them yourself. I’m not going to point fingers at other recreational activities that do more damage to homes; families and livelihoods than role-playing games ever could, and yet still remain more socially acceptable to the public. I’m not even going to try and attempt to offer a solution to the ostracism that this hobby engenders. I simply don’t have one.
I know that my unwillingness to speak of my participation in this pastime does not make things better. That silence is compliance, and to do nothing to make things better is to accept the status quo. But, quite frankly, I’m too tired to swim against the tide and punditry has never been of much interest to me. So what’s a poor, recently-returned gamer to do?
It seems that my only option is to keep quietly guarding the flame. To continue to give back to the hobby that has brought me much joy. To instill in the next generation the pleasures of using one’s imagination as an escape from the sometimes cruel realities of modern life. To try and live my life as a reminder that, while we all have to grow old, we don’t always have to completely grow up.
That’s my real gaming resolution for the coming year. All of the ones that I mentioned last week are merely part and parcel to a greater goal. To all of you out there currently doing the same, I salute you. Every one of you who is currently blogging about this hobby, writing your own adventures and crazy-go-bananas homebrew rule systems, submitting articles to the professional publications and fanzines, taking time to teach your kids and significant others the fun of tossing dice and moving little plastic guys around a map, or just getting together with friends to occasionally share in this pastime, is feeding a little more tinder into the fire that’s been burning since 1974. I don’t care what game you’re playing, or even if your preferred edition jives with my own. The simple fact that you’re out there doing so is enough for me to gladly count you amongst the keepers of the flame.
Just don’t ask me to do it in public…