Nostalgia II: What Makes A Gamer?

Gary Gygax’s Dangerous Journeys was the first rolelpaying game that I played as a kid. I remember a trip to the bookstore – my parents felt like they should feed my book addiction with library and bookstore trips now and then. I was wandering the fantasy/sci-fi section, having just been turned on to this kind of stuff by Hobbits, Narnia, Earthsea and so on. There was this little section that stood out on the bookshelf, of larger books. One of them was the one pictured above.

I got the book and read it over and over, trying to figure out what the heck it was about. It took me a little while to figure out how a book could also be a game. It came packaged with two little ten-sided dice in shrink-wrap (I still have them, actually) and after a bunch of readings I finally caught on. Dangerous Journeys starts off with Mythus Prime, which is a very simplified version of the Mythus system. The other three hundred or so pages of the book, small print, double columns, was the full Mythus system in all of its convoluted Gygaxian glory.

So a weekend came up when we went camping, and as usual I brought along a friend, and I talked him into playing this game. It was goofy and absurd in every way that a game run by an middle-school kid would be, but we both had a lot of fun. We gamed an entire day, afternoon and evening by. People were worried because we just sat in the tent and played this game. We intuitively knew that it would be almost impossible to explain to my parents and their friends, so we probably didn’t make a lot of sense when they asked. By the afternoon, though, they were all pretty drunk, so they liked that we were quiet, and when it started raining, we had something to do to keep ourselves occupied.

I got to thinking yesterday – what would have happened if I never found this book, if I never decided to give it a try? Is a gamer geek born, or is a gamer geek made? At this point, I can’t imagine not gaming for any length of time. I can get by on MMORPGs the way prisoners can get by on bread and water, but they aren’t real sustenance by comparison. Reading and writing stories and poems and nonfiction is also great, but not enough by itself. But would I have felt this way regardless, or is this the person I’ve become?

Part of why I am wondering this is because I wonder how someone gets into gaming in the first place. Is it a natural affinity? Or do you have to be sold on it (by a book, a friend, etc.)? I also talked to my older brother on the phone about Parsec last night, and gaming in general. He’s past the point where he’s worried that I’m going to Hell, it seems, but he still doesn’t really get what it is that I enjoy doing so much.

Maybe its just one of those things.

One thought on “Nostalgia II: What Makes A Gamer?

  1. I definitely think some things about gaming are natural affinity. You have to want to create imaginary realms in your head, full of imaginary people, and imaginary dangers to face. Not everyone really appreciates that.

    On the other hand, I don't think a gamer is really “born”. I think you need certain proclivities, but that people get into it for a variety of reasons including, “my friends were doing it”. So I think the key to getting new people into gaming is really social assimilation.


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