Wednesday, February 19, 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop] Day Nineteen

First gamer who just annoyed the hell out of you.

In the early 2000s, shortly after graduating college, I stopped gaming regularly due to a variety of factors coming together at once. I was no longer in touch with the group I'd been gaming with since the early 90s, but I still very much wanted to game. Therefore, in late 2002, I turned to...the Internet.

This was back in the days of Web 1.0, when the idea of social networking was just starting to gain traction. There was a website called Access Denied (which apparently was still operating until...holy crap, just a week ago!?) At any rate, all of my gaming up until that point had been done with people that I'd gotten to know at least as an acquaintance or friend-of-a-friend prior to their sitting down at the table. This was my first experience trawling for gamers in the wider world. I was well aware of the potential for disaster, but I chose to try and focus on the positives instead. Using Access Denied, I concocted a short-list of about 20 gamers in my local area and started sending emails.

One of my first and most enthusiastic responses came from someone who lived maybe about 10 minutes away from me. Even better, he was into a lot of the games I was, including GURPS. His emails seemed well-written, and everything seemed pretty much on the up and up. Let's call him "P."

In the end, I got a pool of about six gamers out of my email barrage, and we agreed to meet up at the local game store to discuss getting a campaign going. It was then, meeting "P." in the flesh, that the red flags started going off. Nothing I could really put my finger on; just general mannerisms. A strange way of interacting with people. In short, he was a hardcore nerd. And not the sort of lovably eccentric sort, either. Like, seriously lacking in basic human skills.

Still, as I said, nothing terrible about the guy, and he got invited in to the campaign. I only ended up running two sessions with that group. The different personalities were just too disparate for my taste, and I was more uncomfortable than I'd anticipated with the idea of gaming with strangers, especially in such a large group (there were at least six other players...maybe upwards of eight by the second session?), especially coming from a scene where I considered a four-player group to be a ridiculous luxury.

To be honest, that group was kind of a panoply of annoying gamer stereotypes, from the Know-It-All to the Weird Quiet Guy to the Creepy Gamer. "P." occupied the latter category in spades, seriously weirding everyone out with his strange mannerisms and behavior. Again, I can't recall anything specific other than some bizarre in-character behavior, but everyone at the table was clearly losing patience with his antics.

I stayed in touch a bit with the group after I bowed out, and I know that they ended up kicking out "P." They used a Yahoo group to coordinate meetings, and he posted a few angry messages after they booted him. He also continued to try and call me for a few weeks after he left the group, leaving rambling voice mails inviting me out for drinks.

Amazingly, I ran into him at a convenience store months later, and miles away from our respective houses. He was manically walking around the store, talking on his cell phone and waving around an opened box of condoms. I was with my girlfriend at the time, and he got off the phone when he saw me, then preceded to tell us how he was getting together a band of "the best unsigned musicians in L.A." He was going to be the singer, and actually sang a few bars of "Ziggy Stardust" for us, right there in Aisle 8 in the nearly-deserted store.

"P." was nothing compared to some of the freak shows profiled in the infamous "Creepiest Gamer" threads on, but he very quickly disabused me of any notions of a mutual interest in gaming overcoming personal differences. It was certainly a lesson in no gaming being better than bad gaming, and it was probably a big factor in my at-the-time decreasing interest in attending gaming cons. And it would be another decade before I'd attempt to use the Internet to put a group together - much more successfully that time, thankfully.
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