Gaming without your brother

Tag Archives: TableTop

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

Originally published on 11/17/12

“Hey Laurie, you have been dead on the site. That’s really weird. What is your deal?”

“Great question! Thanks for judging me without knowing me, JERK.”

Just kidding. None of you are jerks. I’ve had zero troll comments thus far on the site (that I know of. Plenty of spam, but no trolls). That means you all rock. But the observation is valid: I have been super absent from the blog. Here’s the skinny:

I got a new job! And I was offered another one at the same time! And I was still working my other job during the whole process! So it was a lot of time! Exclamation points! And herein lies the story I’d like to share with you, about gaming, related to that information.

At my now old job (last day was today), I worked with my D&D Dungeon Master and my boss was also into D&D. A bunch of the tech guys there were in a D&D campaign that had been running for . . . years. Probably not the same campaign, but they all played D&D together for ages. Another co-worker and I bonded over the Assassin’s Creed series, and one other co-worker and I chatted about writing and video games a lot (check him out at The Married Gamer). One breakroom had a Wii, and another had an Xbox and a PC with an emulator (never played, not sure which console[s] were emulated). The point is: it was easy to be a gamer where I last worked. Those who didn’t play video games thought they were cool.

So I started applying to get a new job and my first interview with first interested place asked me where I saw myself in five years. I see the value in the question, even though it’s kind of the dreaded question of most interview processes. “What if I say ‘not the hell here’ and that totally disqualifies me for the job?” I erred on the side of being naively (lovably?) honest and said that in five years my dream job would either be working for a video game company or working for a video game journalism company. Thankfully a number of programmers were interviewing me so they all found that to be an acceptable answer (note: my unfair stereotype is that programmers play video games. These ones happened to, not all do, I get it). I mentioned some of my gaming writing on the side and they seemed to approve. No lost points, that I could tell.

Then I started interviewing with a second company, and again got the same question. I again erred on the side of being lovably (stupidly?) honest and gave the same answer. The culture of this company was different though. It was hip, it made a lot of jokes in its ads and marketing, it was cool. Would I be disqualified not because I wanted to get out but because I was too nerdy? As I started to give my response, I hedged with, “. . . and I know there are a lot of stigmas surrounding the admission that I really like video games . . . but” and I launched into how I would love to be writing for or about games in the near future.

The woman interviewing me laughed off my qualifier and said that tons of people at the company liked games. She went on to ask me what my favorite game was. I thought it was just a polite, try-to-make-conversation question, so I quickly said that I thought Red Dead Redemption is a damn near perfect game. She asked why, and I thought that was kind of deep for a just-being-polite question, but I launched into an explanation of the setting, the characters, the storyline, the design, and the music, and how all of those elements culminated into a completely immersive and compelling experience overall. And then she started to explain how those principles would apply to trying to write fun and compelling technical documentation that is easy-to-read, not a chore, like a video game. A) Best interviewer I’ve ever spoken with B) good company policy, to try to make writing fun and accessible and C) I wasn’t a leper for being really into gaming!

Aside from those take-aways, which led me to take the job with the second company, I was also kind of . . . impressed? That seems too pompous . . . I dunno, I guess I have just been contemplating a lot how I handled the situation. Sure, I was nervous. Sure, I didn’t want to come off as the stereotypical gamer, obsessed with her hobby and unaware of social norms or queues. But at the same time, I didn’t abandon it. I used it, I declared it to be apart of my life and personality, and it didn’t blow up in my face. I think that doesn’t happen everywhere, but I’m pretty pleased that was my experience with this company, and pleased to realize when the chips are down, I don’t abandon an industry and pastime I love. I owned being a gamer, and it was awesome.

Comment! Let me know what’s up! I wanna talk to you guys because like we established in the beginning, you are awesome, not jerks.

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.