So I spent yesterday pondering. Lots of things really, but mainly about games. Big surprise, huh? I recall once reading a books about horses some years back. My daughter wanted a horse and I was trying to self-educate. Anyway, the author said he had been through many hobbies, but he always came back to horses. I wondered while reading that statement, what it was I always came back to. The answer was easy of course. Games. Games, particularly roleplaying games--have always been my hobby of choice. There were times that I gamed less, in college for instance, but I always felt like I was missing something. And that something was gaming. For me, there was truly nothing like it. Yes, table-top roleplaying games were my hobby of choice.
So that got me to thinking yesterday. Sundays are a quiet time for me and my family. Conducive to pondering and intrapersonal ruminations. Anyway, I'm thinking about games of course, and my mind turns to my game of choice. Is there a game I always return to? For the longest time my game of choice had always been Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. It's what I started with, it's the structure in which I was most comfortable imagining and creating. It held lots of memories. It spoke the fantasy language I was familiar with. It had connections to people both met and unmet that I respected and admired. It was my game.
It has only been in the past few years, well it seems like a few but I guess it's almost been over a decade now, that I have been nursing a slowly breaking heart. It seems silly really. It seems childish. I mean it doesn't feel that way to me. This sadness and sorrow of loss feels very real and very present and very, very large. It aches really. For you see, it's like I wake up and am so tired of all the other games, of all the industry crap, of all my debates and diatribes and false starts. I decide to walk out to the horse pen. Back to the horses. I get dressed in my comfortable riding jeans, pull on my boots, grab my dusty saddle and careworn bridle still supple from thousands of loving applications of of saddle soap. I open the back door wondering where me and my horse will ride today. Along the ridges behind the property? Perhaps in the deep creek valley where the shade of the Russian Olives is so cool. Maybe towards the badlands and their beautiful, bleak mesas and hidden draws. Perhaps somewhere we've never even been. I reach the stable, which is unusually silent. I open the gate, clucking my tongue which always brought him running to me in anticipation of a long, sweet ride. But he doesn't come. No nicker, no whinny, no munching of hay in the back of the barn's shade. I search each stall, concerned. More worried with each step I end up back in the stable yard. My saddle hanging limp in my hand now, bridle dragging in the dust. And slowly the shocking realization dawns fully. He's gone. And I know he's just not gone for awhile. He's really, truly gone. And he's never coming back.
And there the metaphors die. Because the natural course of action in the scenario above is to go out and buy a new horse. Now, anyone who knows anything about owning pets. and not just owning them, but really loving them, caring about them like they were one of your family, knows that when one dies or is lost that you can't just replace it. Just buying a new one never does the trick. You need time to mourn, to grieve. And then after a while you will get a new horse or a new dog and you will end up loving it as much as the one now departed. You will still miss them, and that pang of loss never quite goes away, but the new love the new joy and companionship of your new pet makes the grief much easier to bear and at times it seems as if it never existed at all.
I've looked for new games. I've played dozens of games in an effort to find some new game of choice. I've even played retro-clones, and tried to dedicate myself to preserving that spirit of games gone by. Nothing has filled the hole. Nothing has fit the bill. I've wondered why, I've contemplated, written and talked about it with literally hundreds of people. I've thought I've come to decisions lots of times. But nothing seems to stick. nothing seems the same.
A common attack levelled at the Old School Renaissance gamers is that they are chasing nostalgia. I've talked about this before, but I don't think that's a fair assessment. We have truly lost something. We're not just talking about pining for the good old days. We/I have tried to "get into the spirit of things" now. I've played new games, and new old games. And I've even tried to gather all my old books and play AD&D like I used to. But even then it seems to be dead. It's like playing with a dead horse, or at best a stick horse. I suppose that's because noone I've played 1e with really wants to play. They humor me, but complain alot. But it's more than that.
Gary is gone too. ... ... ... Is it too dramatic for me to say that something died when he did? I'm not sure that's the case, but it makes me wonder. What else could it be?
So now I write about games. I still game. Pretty much whatever everyone else is willing to play. I hate to force my game choices on everybody else. That's a pretty sure way to make a game session fall flat. So I game other games. But they're flat for me. I try and hide it. I put on a smile, everyone loves my GMing. We tell stories that they seem to really enjoy. But me. I'm lost. And I feel like I'm the only one in the world who feels this way. You know that old saw about feeling alone in a crowd of people. Well, I can feel like gaming is dead in a crowd of gamers happily gaming away. I make comments at times, about games, about the old school, about what used to be ... but noone really seems to get it. To be fair I live in a small community and gamers are few and far between. I run the RPG club at the school where I teach, but that's a different ball of wax. Lots of gamer turn over from year to year as kids move from grade to grade. And they are kids after all. Most are new to gaming and need slow introductions to the hobby. Most of the older gamers have turned to MtG or Warhammer. Easy one session runs that fit into their adult schedules.
I can't help but feel that I'm still missing something. It's like I know what my hobby of choice is, but the stable is empty. It's like it's gone. I mean the hobby is there, but for me it's gone. Gone with TSR, gone with 1e and with AD&D, gone with Gary and Dave. Gone. And I'm left standing there at the gaming table, my book bag hanging limply in my hand, dice bag dragging on the floor. Speechless. A tear forming at the corner of my eye.
I miss you Gary ...