Hey all! I had a lot of positive response to the foreword I wrote for JimCon, so I figured I’d share it with everyone who wasn’t able to attend.
I love gaming.
No… I REALLY love gaming.
As with most boys my age, Star Wars was my first foray into fantasy and role-playing. I’d run around the neighborhood swinging light sabres, shooting blasters at imaginary storm troopers, and swinging across gorges with beautiful princesses. The burgeoning Game Master in me would also come out to play, expressing himself in the stories and dialogue woven for my first role-playing simulacra: the Star Wars figures I played with every day.
When I was seven, I read my first fantasy novel: The Black Cauldron. It whisked me away to the magical world of Prydain, where in my mind’s eye I adventured alongside Taran as he tried to thwart the plans of Arawn the Death Lord, and his dreaded Cauldron Born. I kept reading it, over and over again. I even crafted a likeness of the character Doli out of clay at school, had them fire it in a kiln, then painted it in the best likeness I could manage (an urge many of the attendees of JimCon can relate to). I officially had the fever, and I’m not talking about Dwarf-love (however true that may be). I began devouring every fantastical, or adventurish book I could find: Elwy Yost, Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Alexandre Dumas.
Shortly after I turned nine, I met my friend Jason and his little brother Ryan. They introduced me to my first love: The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, a.k.a. The Red Box. Dungeons & Dragons was like a book with a vast forest of possibilities based on an infinite number of choices. I was no longer a spectator watching someone else’s story unfold. It was MY story. I chose how to meet the challenges. I chose how to solve the mysteries. I was the captain of my own destiny.
Life was awesome for a couple years, but something started to change in me and my peers. Boys and girls started looking at each other differently, and all of them started looking at me differently. It was then that I heard the words Geek, and Nerd for the first time. They used to spit those words at us, punctuating them with fist, foot, or barbed tongue. The five or six years or so after that was a dark time for me. I hid away in basements and protected classrooms with the other ostracised, disenfranchised, physically abused, and psychologically tortured youths of that time…
…and we played.
For hours and days and weeks we played, desperately trying to escape a world that held little more than pain for us. The worlds of our own creations, became our safe places… places where we could be heroes instead of victims. Places where the good guys can win. Our well-meaning parents mistook this “abnormal behaviour” for Satanism, thanks largely to an urban-myth started by some churchy types (Yes, this really happened. Parents were really that stupid and gullible back then). We had to find safe places to game in secret, but we persevered until our parents gave their collective dice bags a shake.
Through the hell of our youth, we of the weird supported each other, helped each other cope, and despite the odds, survived to adulthood.
Gaming has been my best friend and constant companion. It’s been the girlfriend my parents hated, and the cult the neighbors swore was going to corrupt my soul. Gaming was, and remains my salvation… the rescuer that delivers me into the light from the blackest pits of despair. Some of the very same people that I’ve had the honour of sharing my life with are here today, and we now wear the titles of Geek and Nerd as honourifics. More than that… our children have joined us sharing tables, and weaving tales of their own.
This is what gaming… what all of you… mean to me. Thank you for everything.