I discovered role-playing games when I was 10 and my friend was given a Basic set of Dungeons and Dragons on his birthday. I waited impatiently while he read the rules and we got started playing around midnight. I made a character and he ran the included dungeon all night and into the morning. Needless to say, I was hooked, and spent a lot of time playing D&D, Top Secret, Gamma World, Metamorphosis Alpha, and Boot Hill up until the end of sophomore year in high school. After that I put my games away until freshman year of college, where we played Stormbringer and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
At the end of that year, real-life concerns so completely filled my waking moments that I couldn’t get into RPGs anymore. I didn’t have the mental toolkit at the time to separate my problems and anxieties into appropriate compartments, so my creativity suffered and ability to imagine myself elsewhere suffered greatly. I didn’t join or run a game for many years, and I gave away a great deal of games and books. In retrospect, it was a sad time of bad decisions and poor health choices.
For a while the only game I played was poker, but weirdly and thankfully, that led to Magic: The Gathering when I read Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids by David Kushner. The deck creation and evocative art somehow restarted a creative spark in me. About two and a half years ago, I discovered a game store in Chicago–not in the suburbs, but just two L rides away–that had a huge library of games you could borrow and play at the store. After a while, I realized people were running “one-shot” RPGs, a concept that was new to me, having only really played in games meant to be long campaigns. I started joining these games when I could, and even got into a longer-running D&D 3.5 campaign which inspired the name of my blog. I was very happy to be playing games again, and it forced me to meet new people, which is not the easiest thing for me.
Then another game store opened, right in my neighborhood. I spent some quality time there and met some people who became good friends. They had moved here from out of state, and had been using something called “Google Hangouts” to keep in touch with old friends and play games. It took me a while, but eventually I got into Hangout games myself. I learned how to use Roll20, I became part of the community of gamers on Google+, and I started writing again.
For this, I am truly grateful. In the last couple years I have met an incredible number of intelligent, highly creative, and often very funny people not just in Chicago, but all over the world. I’ve met and gamed with Vietnam veterans, published authors, academics, artists, game designers, programmers, and an attorney that gets my geeky interest in military history and equipment.
My hobby has been immeasurably enriched by the ability to meet others over the wire. Of course I wish I could invite the folks from The Redacted Files to sit at my old poker table with me and drink some dark beer; of course I wish my friends in Chicago could meet my friends in the UK over a game and some curry. And if I win the lottery, believe me, I’ll be shuttling a lot of people around! But the community in Google+, and the Hangouts they use, have allowed me to have the second-best thing: great games with great people, while drinking my imperial stout and travelling to faraway places and times.