Monday, November 07, 2005


With all the changes going on in my life: selling my property, prepping the store for it's closure, planning my next career, establishing a proper routine for my young son so he gets an equal share of Mom and Pop, I haven't felt the creative writing juices flowing lately.

So I have started to look over some articles I wrote 15-20 years ago for my old store newsletter, These Are Dark Times. Today I'm offering the first part of a fairly lengthy article I wrote back in 1989. One goal I had back then, other than to try and entertain, was to attempt to diffuse the very strong perception non-gamers had in the 70's and 80's about what a bunch of dorks and losers we all are.

Most of my Dark Times articles were a little rough and the big focus of the era was role-playing and Warhammer, which at least partly explains why I was so abusive of the Brits. Board games were waning and CCG's were still years away. But the newsletter was eagerly awaited by customers and went out to a number of industry people, some of whom reprinted a few in their house newsletters. So today I'm offering up the first part of one of those articles. I'll post the second part on another Monday. Hopefully you won't be too offended if you find yourself in here. If you are, well, tough nuts!


DW's Field Guide to Gamers ~ Part I

I’ve just about had it! For years and years I have listened to derisive slurs and insidious comments about gamers. And I have had it! Up to here!

Writer makes slashing motion with hand across exposed throat

Oh sure, at first it was funny, all the references to Game Geeks and Dice Dorks. After all, gaming is not a serious endeavor and gamers, of all people, ought to be able to laugh at themselves. Agreed?

But Jaysus-H-Christo! The constant and seemingly endless stream of so-called humorous comments over the last 20 years has worn a little thin on me. So let’s us analyze the non-gamer’s perceptions of the gaming mainstream for a moment. How do they see Gamedom? Hmmmm?

Well, for starters, I think they don’t understand a gamer’s passion, and like the weak mammals they are, the tendency is to strike out in fear at what they cannot comprehend. I consider this to be irrational behavior (except in the case of British gamers, whose existence defies all the laws of nature and whose gruesome appearance would cause even the most battle-hardened and cool-headed career soldier to fumble about wildly for the extra clips). The non-gamer’s feeble attempts at understanding gamers will almost always fail – the result of which is the onslaught of verbal abuse and name calling that we are all so used to hearing.

Damnit ! We don’t have to take that! All gamers are not the same. We are not some faceless, milling herd of dice rolling freaks. We are distinct and different individuals… sensitive, caring and (usually) intelligent. Oh I’ll admit that a non-gamer’s first look at a large group of gamers can be unnerving. Even frightening. Ian and I had that experience when we went to our first Con with the old Dark Horse Miniature Company. It was overwhelming to begin with but we stuck it out. Sure, we had to drink lots of beer and yes; we did tie a rope to our waists to insure we wouldn’t get too far apart. But we survived… and we learned. After three days we came to understand that that there are actually very distinct categories of gamers… they’re not all the same.

As luck would have it our first major exposure to a large group of gamers was at OrcCon in Los Angeles, a show which drew maybe 1500 gamers. Had we gone to GenCon first and had to confront over 9,000 gamers things might have been tragically different. So we watched, we talked, we learned.

We learned that not all gamers weigh 350 pounds, wear a druid’s cloak cut from burlap and have body odor thick enough that it can be photographed. Not all gamers speak in strange, TV based languages, carry huge stacks of evil books and typically look like the before pictures in a Stridex ad.

No, not all gamers are weird, para-intelligent Geeks. Some are, I’ll admit, some are. But not all. Not even nearly all. Why, I’d bet that at least half, or nearly half aren’t even recognizable as gamers out side of a game store or Con. You just have to know what to look for if you want to spot gamers in the wild. If one has a little education in the subject one will find that there are several very distinct types of gamers. And amongst those easily identifiable types are many subtle variants and crossovers. Gamers are like a mosaic… a puzzle, complex, yet at the same time, simple. If a non-gamer tries to look at the whole picture at once its confusing and scary and hasty judgments are made, prejudices formed. But with a little patience and some remedial coaching even a non-gamer can begin to appreciate the wonderful world of gamers.

So let’s start with a brief examination of the four distinct classes of gamers…

TYPE A ~ The Skinny Little Dweeb

This genus of gamer is what the non-gamers usually call a nerd. With his thin body, jutting elbows and size 14 quadruple-A feet, the TYPE A is often the object of verbal and even physical abuse. Because the TYPE A appears frail – and often is – he is an easy target for mouth-breathing non-gamers who feel the need to prove their missing manhood.

In my pre-gaming days we used to beat these guys up all the time. Despite the fact that TYPE A’s appear quick, they are usually slow and ungainly. One TYPE A I remember was known in my high school as “Bones Jones: The Incredible Folding Boy”. That was on account of the fact that we could actually fold him up and fit him into a standard hall locker. What we didn’t understand about TYPE A’s like Bones was that all we were doing was toughening him up.

TYPE A’s tend to have a greater than normal success ratio in later life. Despite their geeky clothes, silly duck walk and pained expressions the large majority of TYPE A gamers turn out better than just okay when they hit their mid-twenties and early thirties. Low-life cretins and casual hoods (like my buddies and yes, like I used to be before my conversion) have taught them the hardest lessons in life early. The “skinny little Dweeb” you pound on today is likely to be the dude who ends up owning the slum you are forced to live in tomorrow. The new Porsche and the Bitchin’ Babe on each arm are just a couple of the perks that go along with being a full-grown TYPE A gamer.

As for Bones, the last I heard was he became some sort of electrical engineer or some thing and got in on the ground floor of some company called Microsoft. Hopefully he turned out okay and wasn't too scarred for life, from what I understand this software stuff can be used maliciously if the guys who write it have an axe to grind.

TYPE B ~ The Large Blimpy Oaf

These guys are the heavyweights of gaming. Most of them are just out and out large and that’s easy to understand, they are fat because they eat a lot of food. But is that any reason to make fun of them? Just because a guy looks like a Sumo wrestler gone to seed is no reason to call him terrible names.

The Type B gamer is a staple at all Game Cons. They roll through the aisles like an aircraft carrier brushing aside assorted Type A and other classes of gamer like so many puny gnats. They require two folding chairs to sit on and they buy their Doritos by the case. TYPE B’s are loud, tend to have booming voices and you most often find them at the head of the game table, running the game and ensuring everyone is having a good time.

Me and the pack of dogs I used to run with in school normally avoided TYPE B’s like the plague. When we did get up the courage to jeer at one it was usually from across the room or at a safe distance. The non-gaming antagonist has a deep-rooted, genetic fear of TYPE B’s. For good reason too.

In there early days of gaming there was one classic TYPE B that we used to tease incessantly. We’d snatch his books, make fun of his clothes, ridicule his sweaty brow and heavy breathing and even snap Polaroid’s of him in the locker room. We later stuck one such photo on the Student Activities Board with the caption: “Dallas student’s weight found to be cause of Earth’s loss of Spin Rotation”.

The torment came to a head one day when we discovered that he was a gamer. It was too good to be true as few things in Texas in the 1960’s were more reviled than teenaged boys who engaged in cerebral activities. So after school we caught him at the edge of the school yard and surrounded him like a pack of yapping hyenas. Darting in and out we snatched at his books and clothes, made farting noises and teased him about dice and slide rules. The general idea was to get him to tip over and we’d snap another Polaroid.

But he didn’t fall over. Instead he got mad. First he got red in the face, then he slowly dropped all his books and pencils, then he carefully took off his cardigan and removed his pocket protector. Laying them gently on the ground he straightened up and just stood there for a moment, his eyes glinting with malevolent fire.

Being a little slow on the uptake, we just stood there, too closely, and watched, wondering what the heavy-set geek was doing.

He started twirling around… slowly at first and then faster and faster until all his heaving, pudgy excess was compressed by centrifugal force against his body. The TYPE B now looked like a rotating Conan with short greasy hair and glasses… I swear he looked like Boris Valejo painting with a pasty complexion. It was magic.

Then he slaughtered us.

Letting out a huge roar and still spinning at high speed he waded into our dull group like a wheat thresher in a ripe field. It was ugly

Jimmy went through the chain link fence with his face… which actually improved his looks somewhat.

Bob was slammed head down into the Texas hardpan. When he was later dug out by paramedics he uttered the first complete sentence he’d ever said, “Phew! That hurt real bad.”

Randy was pummeled senseless and went into a walking coma. When he came out of it 9 years later he discovered he was now a typewriter repairman in San Francisco with a 38-year-old wife and three stepchildren.

He sat on Leroy and flattened him.

I didn’t see much after that as the furious twirling had set up a sort of mini-cyclone which, in addition to blowing out all the windows in the school and causing an emergency closure of Love Field Airport several miles away, swept up all of his loose papers, one of which hit me square in the forehead knocking me out cold. The force of the paper hitting me blew me into some nearby bushes where I was overlooked by the ambulance crews who came to clean up the mess. When I regained consciousness several hours later the first thing I saw was the paper that had knocked me out, which was stuck to my nose. It was an early catalog from the Avalon Hill Game Company.

And so began my conversion.

As for the TYPE B? Well, he gained a huge measure of respect and, of course, a bevy of Bitchin’ Babes. Remember, TYPE B’s are sensitive, intelligent and take-charge kind of people who are usually smarter than you. And if called upon to do so they can easily beat your brains out.

Perhaps next week I'll post the rest of the article where we get to delve into Gamer Thugs and gamers who attempt to hide the fact that they're gamers. I also have been revisiting games from my distant past lately as well. Several plays of the classic Regatta this week have again piqued my interest in older designs. We also played Formula De, which I hadn't played for close to two years. I went through and pulled out several other titles from the 80's and even 70's and plan on giving them a whirl in the near future.

Like many, I missed the first BGG.Con, which I had paid for months and months ago. Little did I know that my semi-planned change in both career and living arrangement would arrive so quickly. Hopefully Derk and Aldie will put my $40 to good use... I'd suggest whiskey for the men and beer for the horses.

1 comment:

GrillTech said...

Hmmm 70s and 80s classic boardgames to play with DW. 3 words buddy "Renegade Legion Interceptor". And I'll add a few more words. "I'm ready to do some Wolf'o'Meter style butt kicking in it".