Gaming without your brother

Tag Archives: Geek & Sundry

Originally published on 1/23/13

I realized tonight, after my weekly D&D session (yes, I am that awesome) that my opinion post yesterday missed some vital points. Someone pointed out that guilds are wonderful communities and when you get in a good one, you’re in it to stay and people are family. I hope my opinion didn’t offend any guild members. Although, if it did, I’d encourage you to comment and rebut my statements, heh.

The other particularly huge exception was tabletop gaming! How could I have left out this entirely vast and wonderful world of gaming! Again, I was thinking about gaming with others tonight in particular because I got together with five good friends like I do every week and we raided a dungeon and some of us collected the teeth of our enemies, and some of us pet werebears, and some of us got poofy, supernatural hair, and some of us tried to knock a swarm of bugs prone. We’re a varied, and ridiculous bunch, all the more when we get together to comb dungeons and slay dragons. It’s a wonderful, wonderful few hours of my week, and I thoroughly enjoy getting to be a part of it.

Aside from what many would deem nerd tabletop games, I also love board games (which many would still deem nerd games). I love watching the YouTube show “Tabletop” by Geek & Sundry that showcases awesome games I might’ve heard of before, but have never tried or seen, or games I’ve never heard of, and get to see and be intrigued by. Since embracing the expansive world of board games past Monopoly and Risk, I’ve played Munchkin, Fantastique, Small World, Shadows Over Camelot, Sentinels of the Multiverse, a ton more that I’m forgetting, and I have a game gifted to me called Race for the Galaxy that I need to bust out and play finally.

The point is that my post last week was a little hasty. Sure, there are things I really despise about playing with others. But there are things I also love, and wouldn’t give up for anything. I guess like all worthwhile things in life, you take some bad with the good, but it all averages out to awesome in the end.

*cue moral-of-the-story sitcom music

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.