Gaming without your brother

Category Archives: Tabletop Gaming

You guys. Holy crap.

So I heard some of my friends were going to PAX a month or so ago, and I was pretty bummed because for the first time in my life, I thought that I might be able to start going to cool things like PAX or ComicCon or any of the other awesome cons that are around the country. But, because it had never really been on my radar before (in a real, I-can-actually-go sort of way) I wasn’t aware that PAX Prime was Labor Day weekend, and I missed buying tickets. Frankly when they went on sale, I was most likely too poor to buy them anyway.

Arguably the best gaming convention in the USA.

Arguably the best gaming convention in the USA.

Last night I was hanging out with these PAX friends and my hometown of Seattle came up so naturally, one friend asked if I was attending the Prime convention next week. I said no, I was bummed and jealous of them, but also excited for them and thought it would be awesome. AND THEN, the best sentence I had heard in a really, really long time was uttered as this friend said “Do you want to go? I have an extra ticket.”

I said yes without thinking about how my monetary situation is kind of tight right now, but I don’t mind eating beans for the next week and a half and a few weeks afterwards to take advantage of the opportunity. Because there are so many reasons why this is a great thing for me.

A)    I just love being anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. I anticipate being at the convention all day, every day of the weekend, so I doubt I’ll really get to soak in the Puget Sound or the lush greenery, but simply being in the vicinity always makes me feel a little more whole. I’m pretty dang obsessed with the place.

B)     I love video games so being around video games is spectacular. I will get to play games and go to panels and all the great things that come with going to PAX. This is the “duh” bullet point, but I felt like I should at least put it down for the record.

C)    I don’t think I’ve ever been around a large group of people that love video games and nerd culture . . . ever. In this quest to start this blog and work in the game industry, I’ve realized how oppressed I really felt, as though video games were always a waste of time and a lesser hobby than anything else. WRONG. So, spreading my wings even further by going to PAX is just going to help more, with all of those feels.

Always makes me laugh, despite being creepy. Nerds know my feel.

Always makes me laugh, despite being creepy. Nerds know my feel.

D)    I am going to try to network the crap out of that place. I am printing business cards as we speak, that are admittedly sparse, but they list this site and my email address so . . . *sigh* here’s hoping. Head high, Laurie! Hope for the best! I refuse to feel defeated before I even get there. Phew. Good pep talk.

Anyway, these friends I’m going with are just awesome guys, so it’s going to be a blast, I’m positive. And the best news for you guys: I’m gonna blog about it every day! So will everyone else and their dogs I suppose, but hopefully I can offer a more personal perspective and maybe look at things that other news outlets will skim over. At the very least, it will beef up my writing portfolio and I will enjoy it. Boom. The end.

If any of you are going to be at PAX, I would love to bump into you and say hello! We probably won’t have much to talk about, but it would be cool right? I just love strangers with one purpose all together in the same place. Like when everyone sings the same lyrics at a concert. Those are some of my most uplifting memories, that really give me faith in humanity. I don’t want to project too much on PAX, because it could turn out to be full of tools, what do I know? But I actually feel confident at the very least it will be highly enjoyable and at the very most, it will make me love everyone to a Pinkie Pie kind of level. That’s right; I just dropped some Ponies on you.

I might end up loving everyone.

I might end up loving everyone.


I had such great momentum last week, meeting my 3-posts-a-week goal on this blog. But then the date for the new Mass Effect 3 DLC was announced and came out on Tuesday and last week and this week I’ve been playing through ME3 one last time to make sure I’ve seen all the endings, and playing multiplayer finally to make sure I get to see the “perfect” ending in my own right and not just on YouTube. Last night I downloaded the Extended Cut DLC and will be playing it tonight (if you post a comment with any spoilers, you will bring dishonor and travesty to you and your family).

I'm coming for you! I swear!

I’m coming for you! I swear!

And because I haven’t really thought of exactly what I want to say about ME3 (because I do have to say something about it) and more specifically, how to say what I want to, I haven’t published anything about it (yet). But that also means that since that’s all I’m playing, this blog has been silent this week (lame), which brings me to the thought that has been bouncing around in my brain for some time:

There is a special mix of video game nerds, bookworms, movie buffs, and those that actually go to work and make money doing something entirely unrelated to their hobbies, all while maintaining relationships with real life people through tabletop gaming. These are specific activities that I’m using for the sake of example, but the general principle I’m getting at is the super geek. The super geeks seem to do it all with time to tweet about how they love drinking bourbon in their downtime (I’m looking at you, Wil Wheaton). I’ve always been perplexed by how these super geeks get it all done.

Disclaimer: I do not mean the terms nerd or geek to be derogatory. Webster tells us that geek can mean “an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity” and that nerd can mean “one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.” True, I just omitted some choice, negative words from those definitions but I embrace them as part of my identity and don’t mean to put anyone down for any activities they pursue.

When I started this project, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t be able to dedicate enough time to it, and so far, I’ve been right. Although, to be frank, I’m kind of lazy so this might have less to do with a lack of time and more to do with my disinterest in something once it becomes a requirement. But it’s also due in part to the fact that I have varied interests. Maybe not that varied, but varied enough that I didn’t know if I could commit the majority of my free time to just gaming. I have a full-time job, I enjoy a few TV shows, I like watching old and new movies, I love reading, I enjoy tabletop gaming with friends, I love sleeping, and I occasionally go on dates with eligible bachelors. Throw making Mac ‘n Cheese for dinner into the mix, and I’m booked every night of the week.

It's almost disgusting how much of this I eat. Almost. But not quite.

It’s almost disgusting how much of this I eat. Almost. But not quite.

In reality, my social life isn’t much to talk about. Tabletop gaming usually for a handful of hours on Saturday is the best I can say about that, and sometimes that doesn’t even happen. I also haven’t read any books in way too long. But I do work eight hours a day, I do make food for myself when I feel like I’m about to die, and I do spend too much time watching TV and movies on Netflix. And dating has been a mixed bag recently, thanks for asking.

So the adults reading this just say “prioritize your time, do some things some days and other things other days, dedicate a few hours to each hobby every night, this isn’t rocket science!” and they’re right, of course. My obsessive personality keeps me from seeing this all the time but it’s the absolute truth: all things in moderation, right? Don’t play Mass Effect 3 until 4 a.m. for two nights in a row, right? When you say it like that, it sounds so simple!

The other half of this is that I desperately want to be a super geek. I want to read all of the Game of Thrones installments so I know what’s going and am involved with that and I want to play the latest video games and I want to finish watching Battlestar Galactica. I want to be a “good geek” but what the hell does that even mean? Why am I trying to compare myself to the super human/geek known as Felicia Day? I suppose the first step towards recovery of my own geek identity is realizing how foolish it is to live by anyone else’s definition of what a geek entails.

I don't believe in you, Felicia Day. You are too perfect.

I don’t believe in you, Felicia Day. You are too perfect.

I suppose this is just some rambling about my own personality flaws, which makes for super interesting reading for you, I’m sure. /sarcasm. I just want it all, internet strangers. I just want it all, immediately, at no cost to me. The super geeks seem to be able to do it, and I have not attained that zen level yet. Or maybe I can’t really trust the status updates and the tweets of the super geeks when they discuss they’re perfect balance of life and hobbies. Maybe, like the rest of us, those social media tidbits are the idealized of their lives and they’re sweating all the great media and content they’re missing too.

Seriously, I want to hear from you guys. How do you juggle all of your hobbies or all of the kind of standard geek culture that you love to be a part of but is really time consuming? Leave me a comment or suggestion or commiseration or reprobation.

In previous posts, I think it’s been obvious that gaming was a big deal in my house while I was growing up, but for the most part, it was relegated to video games. We had board games but as the youngest child, my siblings weren’t really interested in playing a lot of board games with me (although I distinctly remember the times that they did, and they were great times). Clue was (is?) my favorite board game, but the biggest roadblock was that I could never gather two other people to play with me. My mom loved Scrabble and Rummikub and we played those sometimes on lazy Sunday afternoons. We were all also fairly competitive, but genial enough that if there was little trash talk, we could finish a game (but someone would probably be annoyed because they were losing in the end). In high school, I played Cranium and Apples to Apples with friends and remember some really fantastic nights with friends playing those party games.

I stole all of my parents board games when I moved to college, imagining a group of people wanting to hang out and play games together for fun. I don’t know what kind of weird college fantasy I was imaging, but we really hardly played any board games. Occasionally, Apples to Apples got busted out but that was about it. Mafia and Werewolf were popular, and for one glorious summer we enjoyed Ticket to Ride, Killer Bunnies and Bang! fairly frequently. Otherwise, my tabletop gaming experience is limited and sad to think about, because I love playing tabletop games and rarely do.

Enter Dungeons and Dragons into my life.

Enter Dungeons and Dragons into my life.

Some months ago, a friend mentioned how she always wanted to learn to play Dungeons and Dragons and she found a group to play with, with players we actually had acquaintances with. I admitted that I too had always wanted to try Dungeons and Dragons (“with so many people playing, it can’t just be a one-off weirdo game, it must actually be fun” was my logic) and asked if I could join the next campaign. A few weeks later, I got invited to go to the DM’s apartment to get help setting up my character before the first session of a brand new campaign.

I confided in the DM that I was a little nervous. I expected quick turnaround time and having to be clever and come up with storyline and character conversation. I suppose some people really do play like that but thankfully, the DM I would be playing with pointed out that most of the players in our small group were fairly new, or at least fairly quiet. Expectations wouldn’t be too high and any interaction I as a player would want to include would be welcome but not required. Also, the DM explained that he would be coming up with plots and quests, players wouldn’t have to think too extensively about those aspects of the game.

A few days later I showed up on a Saturday morning for the first session and to get the details on the adventure we were about to be starting. I had decided to be a wild elf ranger, named Vseqra (thanks, randomly-hitting-the-keyboard, you gave me a cool name with a silent V), who was a guerilla fighter and escaped slave (that’s the extent of my back story for this campaign. I realized that for future characters, I should work a little harder to come up with some motivations for my character). I wield a longbow to control enemies and their movements and am actually pretty freaking powerful.

Funny how I pick to be an escaped slave and then my avatar is randomly assigned to be black . . .

Funny how I pick to be an escaped slave and then my avatar is randomly assigned to be black . . .

We’ve been playing for . . . months now, with a short month-long hiatus a little while ago due to a traveling DM. We usually try to get together once a week. We picked our own characters to a certain extent but knowing we were noobs, the DM intervened a bit to make sure we had a balanced party that could explore multiple facets of combat and the game. We even got an additional noob halfway through (which was good because she’s our tank and she’s awesome).

I suppose that’s something that’s also worth note – out of our playing party, we have three women and one man. The DM is a man. The stereotype of “girls don’t play D&D” is actually pretty accurate, and it’s incredible that the majority of our group is female. But it’s great; we’re pretty silly (I referred to an ice mage Kobold as Val Kilmer for an entire session) and we bring food (ugh, that sounds so sexist . . . we buy food and bring it because we’re thoughtful). Anyway, it’s a great dynamic, and I love playing in such a new and inclusive group (which is due in large part to our mostly patient DM).

What’s the point, Laurie.

I wanted to include you all in the magic that is our small group, but I also wanted to make a point, so the bottom line is this: Dungeons and Dragons is the most fun I’ve had in a really long time. When I started playing, I was in a rut socially and emotionally and getting a small group of insta-nerd friends was a dream come true. Actually, better than I could’ve possibly dreamed. Going to those weekly sessions became my one bright spot in the week. And even now, after those initial sessions have helped pull me out of that rut, I still look forward to them so much.

Aside from the social implications, I love being a part of yet another fictional world, just like what I get to do when I play video games or read books or watch movies. I love the creativity and the twists and turns I would’ve never saw coming. I love that our DM requires us to say things like “I look around” instead of assuming that’s part of walking into a town (that actually led to some bad news for our party, but now it’s a great inside joke). I love everything about playing D&D with these people, and it’s something I want to continue doing the rest of my life.

I was thinking about D&D as I had the thought for this post, but I also think about tabletop gaming a lot more in general recently because of Wil Wheaton’s show (Tabletop) on Felicia Day’s YouTube channel (Geek & Sundry). It’s a great show where Wil Wheaton gathers popular figures in geek-ish culture to play a board game every week. I had heard about Munchkin but never felt compelled to play it until I watched that episode, or Settlers of Catan, or Small World. It makes me want to first save some money and then buy these games and host tabletop gaming nights. Anyway, so ends a small plug for the show because it’s great fun, and for as much as I love and talk about video games, there’s room for tabletop gaming in life as well.