Gaming has always meant social to me – even when social meant “with friends” and not “with automatic Twitter updates”. Gaming meant stuffing bags full of extra controllers and teaching your friends new finishing moves. Or deciding as a group that that one character is way overpowered and off limits. It meant your babysitter showing you the castle patterns in Mario and your cousin teaching you to juke in Madden. Or taking down Magneto at Godfather’s pizza with another kid who begged some quarters off his folks.
In high school, gaming was something you did only after lugging a desktop computer and 19" CRT into your friend’s basement. We’d spend an hour of carving out space, an hour or so of arguing about which game to play. Two hours patching everyone to the same version. Eventually, if we were lucky, we’d play games for about 30 minutes. I loved it.
Most of my gaming today comes in the form of pen and paper roleplaying. A friend runs an excellent D&D 4th Edition campaign, and I’ve recently started a small group on Edge of the Empire, a Star Wars universe RPG. Telling stories with your friends is a wonderful experience (not to mention good practice in crafting personas, brainstorming, and collaborative problem solving).
I’m not terribly social. A bit by choice, a bit by brain chemistry. I’d be even less social without gaming. Games give occasions enough structure to keep my anxiety (mostly) at bay, but enough unstructured time to accommodate conversations and camaraderie. I find being a player much more comfortable than being a guest. It gives me permission to be there. That probably sounds crazy, to feel like you need permission to be around friends. And I suppose it is. But you know what? My life has never been improved by worrying if the thing that makes me happier or more comfortable or more capable of doing what I like to do is “normal”.
Having said “no thanks, I’m busy” to more game nights than I’d like to admit, I suppose I’m writing this in part to publicly commit myself to saying yes more often. It’s also an invitation for you, dear reader. If we don’t know each other as well as you’d like, or don’t know each other at all, how about we play a game?
After 30 minutes, someone would decide they wanted pizza and/or there wasn’t enough Mountain Dew, so we’d load into a rusty ford Escort or Civic or what-have-you and go pay for soda and Totino’s in change and crumpled bills. ↩
I’m scottrocketship on Game Center. And should we run into each other at a conference or event, I never leave home without at least a deck of cards. ↩