Speak Out with Your Geek Out: Paint a Picture, Tell a Secret
This week is Speak Out with Your Geek Out and it would be kinda silly if I didn’t raise my hand to be counted. Wouldn’t it. Though I’m not too big on labels, I’ll cop to this one. For, after all, I am a geek. It’s not, really, like I had any choice in the matter.
I was born with a polyhedral in my hand or, at least, very nearly was. I grew up around Chainmail and played the original D&D from my youth. I remember my older brothers being annoyed when I wanted to play and they’d only let me play cannon fodder at the beginning and a little here and there. They said I couldn’t “really play” until I read Lord of the Rings, including The Hobbit or it didn’t count. I tore through those books, reading them as my most sacred of texts. Through here, lays Dungeons & Dragons. I loved to read anyway and this only reinforced the craving. I read everything I could get my hands on and, as the youngest of five kids and a member of a reading family, there were tons of books to choose from. I gravitated towards the pulps and Edgar Allen Poe lit me with a fire to be a writer. I moved on to read Lovecraft and Derleth and Block and L. Sprague de Camp, and Asimov and a host of others. Oh, I left out the fact I grew up in a hobby shop. I played Squad Leader when other kids were playing Monopoly. I played Stormbringer and RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu and a host of other games. Being in the store all the time, I remember getting to playtest for Yaquinto when they came to our shop (it was Man, Myth, and Magic and I played this rockin’ little leprechaun) and I remember getting to game with Jean Wells (of TSR) when she visited our store.
I also ran a lot of games and got ideas and decided I wanted to be a writer early on, yet never let go of my gaming habit. I often wondered if it inhibited my writing creativity. Ultimately, it was me inhibiting myself. I can recount you of when I gave a report on D&D in the third grade (and, yes, later one on UFOs in the sixth grade, after all the truth is out there). I remember carrying a smattering of my games to college and, once I discovered I had more games than the entire gaming club, didn’t even bother to join. I ran games of WHFRP about five times a week and we played Blood Bowl and Labyrinth all the time (and lots of backgammon).
I had been used to being the loner in school. I ending up going to a different middle school than my friends (because this new school had a better curriculum) and I got pneumonia the third day in and was out two months. I never really got to go through the initial bonding phase everyone else went through being thrown to a new middle school and largely kept to myself–this is something I’ve never put out there–so the books and the gaming enabled me to have a life. Who cares if I’m alone in a classroom when I can go to the hobby shop and be a slayer of dragons or a doer of deeds? I learned as much about social interaction negotiating treaties with sorcerer-priests in Pan Tang (if not more) as I’m certain many of my school chums did cruising the mall trying to chat up girls. I wasn’t desolate or melancholy. I was having a great time. By the time high school wrapped up I balanced my social life with non-gamers and gamers and college was about the same. In college, I was still regarded as a gamer guy, but learned I could expand and define myself beyond that label. Remember when I said I’m not much for labels? I never really talked much with the fairer sex about my gaming habits as I could have mentioned I trafficked in blood diamonds and received the same response. It was something alien and dangerous and not to be trusted. And video games had not yet gained traction and I had a shrine of them in my place with the game boxes holding sacred spots in the entertainment pantheon.
Life rolled on. I gamed as I could, even through my ups and downs and those of my friends. People coming and going. Life happening. I still have fond memories of my other friends who blended everything together visiting from out of town and us getting a game of some kind going. It’s less frequent, but the memories live on. My buddy told me to hide my stuff away when I was dating and I did, but it always kept out, and I didn’t feel honest, so I figured people would best know that’s a part of me just as much as that girl over there liking country-line dancing or hip hop or whatever. For me, gaming was part of my life and people needed to accept that about me as much as anything else. Admitting that to myself and everyone else just felt good. Sharing it here is a bit scary and cathartic and about as transparent as anything I’ve ever publicly posted. Am I a Geek? Sure. Am I proud of it? Absolutely.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader (and, most likely, fellow geek), adieu!