Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Paean to the Hobby

This can be a tough hobby to love sometimes.

Comic books and computer games have both largely shed their old stigmas, even acquiring a certain patina of "geek chic," but tabletop gaming is still something as often spoken of in whispers as not. Then there's the social element of the hobby; having to rely on others for your fun can and often does lead to terrific levels of frustration.

But goddamnit do I love gaming.

The same social element that can lead to such frustration can also expose you to some really interesting people. In the course of running games, I've mused about what roast pheasant tastes like - and received an answer. I've had someone describe what it feels like to be struck by a lightning bolt - based on personal experience. I've talked history, cosmology, anthropology, religion, literature...a college catalog-worth of topics, really. I've gamed with people from the U.K., New Zealand, and all over America, people with heritages ranging from the Arctic circle to the equator.

And even in its more solitary moments, gaming has enriched my life. If you're gonna run a campaign set in the real world or a world approximating our own (i.e. 99.99% of the campaigns that have ever been or ever will be run), in order to be an effective GM you have to familiarize yourself with a variety of subjects. You have to be a bit of an historian, a bit of an actor, a bit of an accountant.

(When I started doing my taxes as a young man I was not the least bit intimidated; filling out those forms and doing the column arithmetic wasn't far off from some systems I'd run during high school, after all!)

Throughout high school, college, and my adult life people have always assumed me to be well-read. I suppose that, compared against the general populace, I am. But the fact of the matter is that I'm actually a bit of a slow reader; I can't blaze through a book in two days, like many people I've known. And I usually try to read too many books at once, guaranteeing that I finish few of them.

No, what others have mistaken for erudition is actually down almost entirely to my two-decade-long devotion to the gaming hobby. Gaming has improved my vocabulary (I learned "obfuscate" thanks to Vampire: The Masquerade, "attribute" thanks to D&D), taught me about history, military theory, world culture, magic and superstition, religion, Jazz Age slang (and taught myself HTML in order to put together my first website to share said knowledge), and on and on. Thanks to my miniatures hobby I've learned to wield a paintbrush with some small level of skill and am comfortable with basic carpentry and craftsmanship. As both player and GM I've been challenged to think in non-linear, creative fashions.

I could go on, but you get the point. For all the frustrations that can come with gaming, my life has been enriched in countless ways, both personally and professionally, by the hobby. And sometimes it just needs to be said: I love gaming!

I don't know what I'd do without it...

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