It’s been practically 15 years since I’ve played D&D, but in my high school years, and again for a couple years when I moved back to San Diego to go to community college after dropping out of school for a couple of years, D&D was an important part of my life. I don’t buy the common stereotype that role playing games, and particularly D&D, are the refuge of the anti-social. They are, if anything, profoundly social, ways of connecting for people, especially young people, who yearn for the sociality gaming provides. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that so many of the folks who developed the backbone of the social Internet were gamers, nor that so many of the Free Software leaders were also.
At some point, the “start-up” costs of gaming became too much to bear — as did the challenge of finding similar-aged gamers to play with. New editions were issued, meaning new books had to be bought (the last books I bought were 2nd edition, and I only bought a couple; they’re on the 3rd edition going on the 4th now). And the thought of sitting down to role play with teenager when I was pushing into my late 20s (let along through my 30s) gives me no pleasure, none at all.
There’s a world of difference between gaming at 15 and gaming at 25; when I was 15, it was the “awesomeness” of it all, the ability to pretend to be a warrior wizard, to “level up” (as the WoW kids say), that made gaming fun. In my 20s, it was the act of collaborative world-building, of creating and exploring an improvisational storyline that became more important. And all the harder to find like-minded players.
I could play again today, but to what end? Nostalgia? Irony? No, I suppose I’ve gone in a different direction, and gaming isn’t really on the table any more. Still, it’s saddening to see Gygax pass away. I understand he wasn’t the easiest fellow to get along with; at the same time, it always seemed to me he was hard done by the company, and the industry, he helped create. In any case, he created the forum in which I, and thousands of others, found the social outlet we so craved as smart teens with over-active imaginations.
Here’s to him!