“… but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
“I get older, they stay the same age.” – David Wooderson, Dazed and Confused
Despite my best efforts to remain immature, I have not been able to stop the ravages of time. The lines on my face, the pronounced swell to my belly, the unmistakable salt in all my pepper, this is the evidence that I cannot deny. They are the result of a life hard lived, and I don’t mean because of drugs and alcohol and a steady parade of women with poor vision and worse judgment. No, by any reasonable estimation, I’ve had a fairly dull life: married early, a few kids, steady work, a regular roof overhead, an occasional functioning car. But even a life that dull comes at a cost, and I’ve been paying it for long enough that I saw the original versions of all these reboots that Hollywood is burying us under.
Of course, because I’m old and irritable, I can’t help but glance around at all these little bitty toddlers running around at any of the gaming mixers (the conventions, the Game Days, the Encounter Nights), and wonder if maybe I should just grow up and hang it up. I’m just filling a seat that would be better used by someone many decades my junior, or more often, I’m off taking a nap somewhere because I was up until an unthinkable 2 AM the previous night, rolling dice and playing at childhood.
I should be doing adult things, like playing bridge or attending silent auctions or getting my prostate examined. What I shouldn’t be doing is pretending I’m a troll named Brutus with a laser-axe and an impulse control problem, or a weretiger archer who can shoot the wings off a fly using his spirit beholder, or silver-shiny Colossus being thrown in a modified “fastball special” by the Blob at an attacking Sentinel, or a cyborg rocker who jacks his B.C. Rich Warlock directly into his brain using the same port where his Glock 9000 connects.
This is kid stuff, and I have rent and bills and taxes to worry about, and a house to clean and laundry to wash and snow to shovel, and kids to protect and food to buy and meals to prepare, and middle-of-the-night trips to the emergency room, and chronic illnesses, and a car that won’t start and a bank account that is perpetually empty and too many days of unsatisfying work and too many nights of lousy sleep.
But could I stop? Could I really turn my back on my one healthy obsession? Roleplaying games kept me clean all through high school, though it did help that I was a massive nerd who never got invited to parties where my peers would routinely “get obliviated.” Roleplaying games also helped me forge some of the best friendships I’ll ever have, considering everyday real-life provides me with very few opportunities to slay a dragon and sacrifice my life to save a friend. Finally, roleplaying games allow me to live in the novels I’m reading and the movies I’m watching, and become the hero I so desperately want to be, even if it’s only for a few hours.
I’d like to think that I could bring some gravitas to the gaming stage, that I could translate all of my true life struggles into the weight of my character’s experience and reality, that I might be able to draw an emotional response from the other players around that table… but that’s just a lie I tell myself. In fact, I’m just there to roll some dice and tell some jokes and have some fun, to make some temporary acquaintances and forget about the world outside those doors. At the end of this game or at the end of this weekend, I have to go back to all that real reality, but while I’m here, I’m a child again. And there’s nothing wrong with that.