I don’t want to harp on this point, because I think it’s been done many times by people with far greater reach than I have. But having recently experienced some benefits from this myself, I had to comment on it.
Next summer, I will have been involved in Role Playing Games (RPG’s to the initiated) in some capacity for 30 years. This was not considered a popular past-time in my youth. Hell, it’s barely breached some degree of social acceptability now, though I’m hard-pressed to understand why. I didn’t always choose gaming over other activities like camping, hiking, theater, back-yard volleyball, or even just hanging out and bullshitting. But the core of my social activities have involved rolling the dice since I was twelve. You can draw a line from every friend I have, and eventually you’ll come to me and a RPG – whether I met that person over a game, or through a friend I met gaming.
There is something about the shared story-telling, the “improvised radio drama without the radio” that I always found compelling. More than merely giving me a social outlet, gaming inspired my creativity. I might have decided to be a writer without it, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned elements of plotting, pacing, and character development that I couldn’t have picked up any other way. The entirety of the Cobalt Universe would never have existed if not for my love of super-hero games, and the characters and stories inspired by other players. Gaming has made me a better writer. Writing has also made me a better gamer.
And I love it. I can’t think of a better way to spend a few hours with friends on a weekend than making each other laugh and creating these massive stories together.
Funny how life works out.
Yesterday I had a singular experience which helped validate my almost 3-decade hobby. I was brought in by one of the graduate departments at the University of Washington to run a workshop to illustrate shared-storytelling through the use of role-playing games. Yeah. Me — an academic consultant on something I’ve done for love for most of my life.
I gave a bit of history on role-playing, and the evolution of storytelling within the hobby, a little surprised about how much I had picked up on the subject just by being a part of it for so long. I led one relatively new player and two total rookies through character creation and a brief explanation of the rules. And together we created the an awesome pulp adventure “movie,” shared only by the people present, witnessed only once — a dramatic piece of temporary art that would never have existed, but will echo for a while in the minds and stories of those who took part.
The moral of my little tale?
Follow your heart. It doesn’t matter if people don’t understand. It doesn’t matter if the perceived popular crowd mocks you. Do what you love — without regret, without hesitation. And the joy you will find could be more rewarding than you ever imagined.