Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Glory Days

This is a response to Sameoldji’s video about the darkside of tabletop role playing games, no not people worshipping Satan or sacrificing hamsters to Cthulhu but the dawning realization that many of us spend far more time buying and reading and kabitzing about tabletop rpgs than we ever do actually playing them.
Well, full disclosure, I have gone over to the dark side. My life has been stop and go with tabletop games since the very beginning and my last big spurt of activity began circa 2000 and ended with the release of D&D 4.0. I looked. I saw. I sniffed. The system stank. And that was it for me.
D&D 5.0 came out and looked a bit better but my life had changed. Free time is expensive and as an adult it is impossible to not feel pressured to justify every expenditure of it. The reason you are reading a written response and not watching a video response is because I can pound one of these out in less than half an hour. A proper video takes at least an hour to film and prepare, even when it’s only a few minutes long.
Every second counts.
Every minute is expensive.
Would I like to play again? You bet! But is it worth carving up my life and rearranging it to somehow shoehorn in a weekly game, which will inevitably be Dungeons & Dragons because that is all anyone can seem to agree on these days and which will also reveal itself to be yet another round of the same old game we’ve always been playing?

No, not really.
This is actually a major driving force behind the Red EFT. It is not just me hammering out my dream system to show the world what a tabletop RPG can be. It is also me trying to find a way back into gaming, a way to justify the expenditure by calling it work. Yes, I do have to do this - it’s my job. Wouldn’t that be a nice thing to say about your next game? My plan probably won’t work, but I have never been one to let an absolute certainty of failure stop me before. Sad. Sameoldji uses that word over and over in his video to describe the situation. He uses it so much it almost sounds like a dramatic recitation of Donald Trumps twitter feed. I disagree, because to me the word sad implies pathos. It is a way of calling someone pathetic without being blunt. I think a better word is regrettable. It’s not actually wrong but it certainly isn’t right either. In my comment on it I compared it to the song Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen and said that for many of us this is what our relation to gaming has become.

When I go online at night to see what’s on Google+ or YouTube (my two main sources for all things gaming) this is my replacement for heading down to the local bar to drink a few rounds with the townies and talk about whatever we might have in common. And it is not a sad replacement. It is a good replacement, because I was born left-handed and forced to be right-handed which carried with it the unintended consequence of causing me to stink at anything which involved throwing or catching a ball. I was actually quite athletic as a kid, just so long as it didn’t involve anything with the word Ball in it. Baseball. Basketball. Football. I don’t have anything interesting to say about them and I dread being stuck talking to someone who does, so there really is no place for me in your average sports bar.


Strangely enough, I was actually pretty good at Dodgeball but I’m not sure if that counts.
Now, when Glenn Hallstrom does a review of an old RPG I once played - that peaks my interest. I don’t know Glenn, have never met him. We probably live a thousand miles apart, but when he posts a video and I write to him about it and he does an After Hours video in response. It feels as if I know him. It feels like we’re old friends sitting at the same bar chit-chatting about whatever as Ivan Mike serves us up drinks.
It’s not an empty bar either.
Runeslinger is not too far away, half-watching Star Wars on the TV screen. Tim Harper is throwing darts with Nolinquisitor. Mark Abrams and Asif are at a back table discussing what needs to be done to make the world right again. Venger Satanis is racking up another high score on the pinball machine, standing like a man who once had a hot girl hanging off of each arm but now has a wife and kids waiting for him back at the house. Shawn Driscoll is hogging the Traveller machine. Again. Dr. Pulsipher is in the corner booth practicing his monologs for class. It's a bit dry but not uninteresting. Every now and then Zak Sabbath blows through with a horde of SJWs on his heels. Personally, I think he loves the attention. James West, Jens D, Megan Burke and a whole bunch of others are scattered about. It’s actually a pretty populous place. So is it really so wrong?
This is not to imply that these people are not active gamers. It could very well be that I am the only one among them. It is meant to say that there is more to the matter of role playing games than simply playing the games. Eventually everyone needs to sit down and play a game. There is no substitute for actual experience, but playing the games is not the end-all and be-all of gaming.

I’m not a big Bruce Springsteen fan and Glory Days is not my favorite song. I think it's a little too up-beat for its subject matter. Yet it does end in an interesting way. Nothing overly dramatic, just a guy pitching balls at a plank in an empty field. Eventually, his kid shows up to knock one into the outfield, not too far behind him is mom and the station wagon ready to drive them both home. You can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the guy because we all know there is no going back. The guys he used to play ball with have all grown up and are no longer in any shape to play ball even if they could find the time to do so. This guy is stuck. His glory days truly have passed him by. And that is where table top role playing games have the edge over high school sports. No matter what age you are at you can find a way back. You may not be able to pull off one of the weekend-long marathon adventures of your youth, but these games can still be played to great effect. As time goes by it only gets harder to pull one together, but there is always hope.