Monday, June 12, 2006


I think we all could agree that playing board games, RPG's, CCg's or any of the other sub-genres of our particular hobby is just one apsect of many that define our lives and who we are. Usually, for most of us anyway, it's a minor aspect. Family, career, school, friends and other interests really are more important for most of you reading this article. If you're one of the freakishly obsessed Game Geeks who ranks the collecting, caressing and even playing of games more important than most other things in life, well then... I guess you are a Geek. A freakish one.

But insults aside, even accurate ones, I'm going to use my space today to opine a bit about how games are really not that important, but how they can set disparate people and paths on trajectories in life that are sometimes inexplicably aligned.

To start with, I haven't played a boardgame for 9 days now. That's because other, more important things have been going on. A little work... so I can buy a few things, some house cleaning, throwing a rod on my lawn mower and then the trip "over the hill" to Boise to buy a new one... just the usual mundane crap that everyone has to do. Oh, yeah, and then there was the big Family Birthday BBQ for my dad this week-end. He's now 80 years old... I've mentioned him from time to time on this blog. He's a great guy. So my immediate family, which is my grown daughter and son, my son's wife and my brother, all came to Idaho to celebrate.

Dad actually turned 80 on 6-6-06... which I think was supposed to be like Y2K or something. Hollywood released the re-make of The Omen that day, which no way can be as good as the original. How could it be? Gregory Peck and Lee Remick were towering talents when compared to the cookie-cutter, plain vanilla, sexpot Hollywood loser of today. Although, I did see a clip and the kid is as eerie and menacing as the one in the original movie from the 70's. Anyway, nothing bad happned on 6-6-06 that was any worse than the day before or after. Which is great, because the family getogether was important and it would have been a drag if Armageddon took place that week.

So anyway, my older son and his bride drove 12 hours straight from Humboldt County to Idaho. My daughter, who works for the Feds, inspecting imported agricultural goods in Chicago, somehow got enough time off to fly out here, and even my brother, who I haven't seen for maybe 6 or 8 years flew up from the freeway infested Silicon Valley. My dad and his lady of the last 15 or so years came out and their best friends, a man named Pete, who's from the Ukraine and his lady who's from Germany arrived. Add to the mix my highly energetic boy Wyatt and a great time was had by all. Great steaks. Many beers, smooth schnaps, single-malt scotch and so forth. Wyatt managed to stay awake from 7am Saturday morning until just after 9pm. That's a 14 hour energy streak for a toddler. That kid is unreal. He flat wore me out.

After the old people left and the younger one crashed in a heap on my big stuffed chair, the rest of us sat under a full moon, with 12 million stars surrounding it, and did what people do when they're with family. We talked about the how and why of our connections. My brother, who is pushing 60, has been a died-in-the-wool Scientologist since 1966 and I thought about asking him if Tom Cruise ever ate that placenta... but I decided not to. Instead the safe subject was Neil Gaimen, someone who both my brother and I "knew" when he was not much older than my boy Wyatt. We both lived in England at the time and knew Neil's dad and mother... because David Gaimen is also a life-long Scientology guy too. I asked my brother if he had ever read Gaimen's stuff and he confessed he hadn't. My daughter Jaimy was a huge Sandman and Death fan and she had never known that I had met the author. I explained that knowing a 6 year old kid who is a son of an adult you know isn't exactly a strong connection and then my brother asked about Sandman. Jaimy explained the comic books and that caused the subject to drift into my old game store. I did sell comics there for about 8 years, which is how Jaimy discovered Sandman and Milk & Cheese and a host of edgy, alternate comics. From there, her and Marshall started talking about you. Gamers.

I sat back and listened to them, sipping my scotch and being amazed at the stories they told about you people. Realize that neither of my older kids qualify as gamers. My boy is a unix guru of some sort and has his own private little tech company and my daughter is basically a Federal Agent. Jaimy does like to get together with old friends and play Cranium or Scrabble I guess. Marshall has zero time to game. He confessed to not even owning a television. They just make money and play music down there in the redwoods. But both of them got their basic working skills behind the counter of a game store. And both of them ended up appreciating it.

I'm not going to delve deeply into the gory details about gamer gross-outs, morbidly obese people, bad hygeine or poor people skills... yes, they had plenty of stories to tell there. But the focus of the reverie was the fun, the humor and the acquisition of communication skills as well as the blossoming of what I guess you'd have to call tolerance and respect. We all laughed out loud at my very, very conservative father's outrage at how "weird" gamers are. He used to just carry on endlessly about the really idiotic stuff people did in the game store. He was right, of course. People, probably even you, are often dumb, rude, unbalanced or just outright stupid. In a game store the departures from the "norm" (whatever the hell that is) seem more intense because gamers tend to take their games very, very personally.

But as time passed even my dad developed friendships with some of the customers. He discovered that many of them were active duty military or had served, so he recruited new blood into his VFW chapter. Others he just enjoyed talking to. One of his favorites being the shaven-headed, tattooed guy with those huge African looking ring inserts in his ear lobes, a real freak, who amazed my dad with his tales of his work. He was a counselor with an organization that worked to keep kids off of drugs. My kids cracked up talking about the really fat guy who worked for me that kept breaking my stools and how one employee called me in a rage and said if I didn't bring him a new stool, he'd quit. My daughter asked my why I showed up an hour later with a stool and I answered her; why not? It wasn't his fault the stool got broken. We laughed about the guy who lived in dumpsters and bought RPG dice... and how none of us could figure out why. Both kids worked for me during the original MTG rage and there were so many funny stories about obsessive compulsive behaviour that even my brother, the clueless non-gamer, was laughing.

Overall, it was one of the best week-ends I've ever had. And I didn't ride my motrorcycle or play a single game. But looking at the grown kids and listening again to how much of their view on life was formulated by their connection to a subculture that many people view as weird, I didn't need to play a single game to feel the same sense of satisfaction. My daughter asked, "Hey Dad, how are you going to give Wyatt the same experience we had? You don't have a store any longer?"

That made me smile.

I'll figure it out, that I'm certain of. I know what she meant though. What she was obliquely referring to was what she and her brother acquired by me forcing them to work for me. In a very unglamorous job... surrounded by geeky stuff and geeky people. What they received was an education by people other than me. They were taught about tolerance and patience from folks like you.

Tolerance isn't about accepting bad behaviour. Tolerance is, I believe, all about not allowing strange or different behavior to poison your perceptions about people. A game store is a fantasic place to instill tolerance, understanding, people skills and even a wider understanding of the human race. Except for my kids, everyone who shopped and worked there was there because they wanted to be. My kids initially hated the job... and when I cut each of them loose after serving their mandatory 3 years they quickly found other jobs. Not suprisingly, they excelled at their careers. They got along well, they had a well-developed work ethic and they just seemd to cruise along when all about them many others their age were having trouble working or complaining miserably about the job, the boss and the customers.

I'll have to try and develop Wyatt into a gamer. I didn't do that with his brother and sister, but I have more time now. So maybe he'll cross over... if you know what I mean.

I think one way of doing that is to take him to gaming events from a fairly early age. You know, get him used to you people. Over the last several years I have read scores of articles, mainly on BGG, about what repulsive places game stores are or how disgusting Cons and the people who attend them can be. I know the people who author those threads are being petty and judgemental and not even close to having real tolerance... and I really, really know their own life and their own habits couldn't stand up to even mild scrutiny. And the final thing I know is that I'd much rather have my youngest kid have the ability to crack jokes with a fat guy, never once judging the guy by his fat, or play a game with a table full of tattoo geeks, goth freaks and lawyers and manage to enjoy himself despite the fact that lawyers were present.

It's not my opinion that Game Geeks are any better or worse than other Geeks. I just happen to be a Game Geek myself and despite the erroneous and sometimes burdensome labelling done to us (and frequently by some of us) I pretty much prefer the Geekness of gaming over other Geeky genres. I'm not saying I like you specifically, I'm just suggesting that you, being a Game Geek, may be just a little more fun, a little more accepting and a whole lot less annoying than the thousands of other Geek Classifications out there.

And I suppose that now I'll have to start paying attention to all those Geek Lists about games for kids... since I don't have any intentions of having another game store I understand I'm obligated to pass the Geekiness along to the young one somehow. So, if you check my BGG profile in a couple of years and see me rating Chutes and Ladders a "9", you'll know why.


Anonymous said...

Nice post DW. You're dead on about how important it is to teach tolerance and respect of others. I'm working hard to instill similar values in my kids.

Sounds like a wonderful weekend you had there.

Anonymous said...

Good post, and right on the money. It is time you posted some stuff about liberals being satanic because im agreeing with you too much lately.