Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In My Limited Experience

Never played with That Guy. Never saw his trenchcoat.

Never been to a con.

Never ran a game for strangers.

Never knew who the 'jocks' were in high school, never knew who the 'nerds' were.

Never got called a nerd.

Never had a crush on a cheerleader, or knew anyone who did. Never lived in a suburb, never borrowed dad's car, never had a car.

Never got locked in a locker.

Never said 'pwned'. Never knew anyone who said 'pwned'.

Never read a genre novel written after 1980.

Never played WoW.

Never called anyone 'bro'.

Never had a munchkin.

Never told a girl she couldn't play. Never saw anyone tell a girl she couldn't play.

Never played with anybody who called anything they thought was lame 'gay', except Kimberly Kane, who fucks girls and likes watching guys make out with each other.

Never got static from a girl about liking girls. (Or painting them naked. Or fucking them for money.)

I've known one rules-lawyer and she's my girlfriend.

Never read Penny Arcade, Order of the Stick, and whatever that comic is that's in Hackmaster.

Never saw Firefly or Serenity or the new Battlestar Galactica or Buffy.

Never argued about Kirk V. Picard or saw anyone do it.

Never willingly had an extended conversation with someone who acted like Comic Book Guy.

Never knew a grown-up who lived in his mom's basement.

Never thought only assholes played paladins.

Don't know what this 'I cast magic missile at the darkness' thing is about.

Never waited for a video game to come out.

Never got obsessive about a first-person shooter.

Never knew what day of the week my comic books were supposed to ship.

Never played a game with a skinny Peter-Parker-looking guy with glasses.

Never played a game with big fat guys with beards, except once, for charity. They were nice and didn't smell like anything.

I live in a big city. I always have. Once in a while I pull out a game and play it with my friends. They're all artists and sex industry people. When I was a kid they were all kids and they acted like kids.

When I hear people talk about 'the gaming community', it sounds like an insane towel-snapping locker room circus full of people nothing like anyone I've ever willingly spent time with in real life or ever will meet in real life who live in a Cheeto-strewn country called 'the internet'. I don't feel connected to them or disconnected from them or responsible for them or to them. Whatever. It's like seeing all that red on the map every November 2nd. Those people are also Americans? Huh, who knew?

I'm sure they exist. I just don't feel like they have some special significance to me just because we both own dice that aren't part of a Monopoly set. I'd be surprised if a lot of the people reading this didn't feel exactly the same way.


  1. It just makes things easier for everyone if they can cram everyone in a "sub-culture" into the same stencil.

  2. It seems a lot of stuff you've listed I'd have to agree with you on, not everything, but there's a lot of similar ideas there. There's a lot I hear about out there that is described to me as a 'typical' gamer experience. Whether or not this is what's typical or not I don't know and I'm not certainly not experiencing it. But things are pretty good either way so I tend not to worry about it.

    My friends and I only started D&D because we were bored and wanted something creative to do. I never felt it isolated me from people or forced me into any one particular group. It wasn't extremely life changing but it helps kill a lot of time and occasionally i get to feel like im adventuring, solving mysteries, and overall just having a good time.

  3. One thing you have to keep in mind: If you're interested in a particular subject, that gives you a set of commonalities with other people. It makes it much easier to interact with them socially; it's not isolating, it's liberating. Some of us just can't go out and make friends with porn stars whenever we want.

  4. You're missing out on munchkins. The cinnamon kind are delicious, but they're harder to dunk in coffee than donuts.

  5. A few of those make me a little sad. No Firefly? No genre novels post-1980? Lot of good stuff you're missing out on there.

    Of course, I also married a cheerleader. So we're basically in different universes. ;)

  6. I have seen Buffy, Firefly, etc, none of my friends are in the sex industry, and I am the skinny Peter Parker guy in glasses, but otherwise my list matches.

    I am not sure what my point is.

  7. Most of that stuff I don't have either but you're seriously missing out in not having read any genre novels post-1980 and in having not watched some awesome genre TV. No China Mievile? I think he'd be right up your street.

  8. @Nick

    forgot about China--
    but his alternating "interesting narration/dragging plot" structure is kinda boring.

  9. Most of these sound like stereotypes from watching 80s movies. But to save you the trip to google for the things you don't know about:

    New comics come out on Wednesdays except after Holidays then it is thursdays.

    The dead Alewives have a Wikipedia page:

  10. I live on the other side of the world, but our experience with soe-called "RPG-crowd" is very similar.

  11. Have to say that I can't sy never to all those things...but some of them ring very true...but maybe being a C64 geek in the seventies and seeing Star Wars on its first release counts for something.

    Does playing D&D with an escort count as playing with girls who work in sex?

  12. And these are among the many things that make you a fascinating conversationalist and a valuable addition to the intraweb hive-mind.

    Plus, ok, thanks for posting this as it makes it a lot clearer where you're coming from. I knew you had one foot in a vastly different culture, but I assumed you had more than just a toe in mine. In point of fact, it appears we are truly alien to one another. Not a bad thing at all. :)

  13. You totally stole my thunder--I was going to make a post in this vein. I probably still will; I've recently been forcibly reminded of just how alienated from supposed "geek culture" I am.

  14. Its also awesome to be Zak S. But only you are you.

    That is, I don't think the rest of us are playing with a group of beautiful women who get naked regularly on camera for money. I just don't bump into many of those at my FLGS. Peter Parker looking fellow with glasses? Works there.

    Since I know you're not always a fan of my humor, I'll put it more plainly. I don't know and haven't encountered many of the stereotypes and cliches you've noted either but many I have. They are not in my group but I have met them. They exist in larger numbers than say, cool artist dudes, funky cool women as attractive as Mandy and others that are not 'what you'd expect' a gamer to look like.

    Sadly, while modern media latches on to the most basic or most negative stereotypes, people fitting those stereotypes are there.

    And in the end, so what? Fat, bearded, socially awkward guys need a hobby too. ;)

    Incidentally, comics originally came out on Thursdays but it was switched to Wednesday in the lates 80's early 90's.

    In the Kirk vs. Picard arguement, the answer is Kirk. Its always Kirk.

    I was born in Brooklyn in 1969. We said bro all the time when I was growing up. I still say bro and get called bro by Joseph Cangelosi, drummer for the speed metal band 'Whiplash', who I grew up with and was my best friend back then. Its a term of endearment.

    Later bro. ;)

  15. This is probably more true in the 'community' that plays pre WotC editions. We play an old game. The 'community' comes from the fact that we share something not very common.

    I saw a guy driving a car the other day with a bumper sticker that said "I Survived Tomb of Horrors". It made me laugh, and I probably would have chatted with the guy happily, even though he may have been a dick and he indeed looked like Comic Book Guy. Because I also survived Tomb of Horrors. (My characters did not.)

  16. I've played games regularly with people who, including myself, collectively cover all of the above statements.

    All of my current players would identify with one or more of the above as well.

    Even so, I agree that all of the elements of the above portfolio are just periferal elements of cruft and not truly a core part of what D&D or RPGs in general are about.

    Loving role-playing games is something beyond stereotypical nerd culture.

  17. I had a trenchcoat in highschool. So I may have been 'that guy' - but I hope not.

    But then, I was also captain of the basketball team and an honor student - the jock/nerd thing is a bit blurrier when you have a grad class of 20.

    I've played WoW, been called a nerd (by my wife, so not so bad) - I've been a munchkin, played with rules-lawyers, read all the comics, read the genre novels, watched the TV shows (except Buffy).

    My gaming group has included Teachers, SAP Consultants, Policemen, Cooks and Firefighters but (sadly) no porn stars. We tend to say that something "sucks" as opposed to saying that something is "gay" - and when I play FPS's, which is rarely, the voice chat is never on.

    Really - the gaming scene is as diverse as the world, which is pretty damn diverse. But bad experiences tend to be easier to remember than good ones, so the stereotypes stay out there.

  18. So, you're saying you're not a geek, but you like DnD. Congrats? I guess? Not all of us get to hang out in L.A., be cool artists, and play dungeons and dragons with porn stars and strippers. I'm not trying to be a dick, Zak, but your post may have come across as condescending...just a tad. Or am I being captain obvious here, and that was your point to begin with?

  19. @Chandler

    I wrote that last sentence in the entry in order to say, simply, I'm sure I'm not alone and lots of other people are as different from the Alleged Platonic Geek Everyone Blames For Everything as well. I'm not special.

    Also, if someone else likes Firefly and did grow up in the suburbs, nothing I wrote in there is meant to suggest that's a bad thing.

  20. I'm sure you're not alone. There are many things in that list that I've never done, or been exposed to either, nor would choose to be. I just wasn't sure about the context of your post, is all. I suppose you're saying, that in many regards, you don't feel this sense of comradery with the gaming community, because you find yourself different than what most would consider the archetypical gamer or geek?

  21. @Chandler

    Why did I say what I said? I think Trollsmyth hit the nail on the head up there.

  22. I understand where you are coming from, now. Didn't mean to jump in your shit about it, I was just trying to understand your perspective.

  23. "Also, if someone else likes Firefly and did grow up in the suburbs, nothing I wrote in there is meant to suggest that's a bad thing. "
    I would have to argue. Growing up in the suburbs is almost always a bad thing.
    Jokes aside, this reminds me about those "You might be from if..." lists. I took this as you making a point about stereotypes and the fact not everyone fits them, but that's the ruse of stepping from caricatures into the real world. I would point out the fact this extends an idea you touched on in an earlier post, about how the schism between submersion in a game and the ability to joke in regards to it serves to give definition to the experience, but then you've probably already thought the same thing. After all, you wrote it.
    Of course, there's also the aspect of these social templates being a bonding flag for people who sometimes have trouble with making friends, hence why a lot of the "nerds" I know wear such with a sense of pride. I can't claim innocence either: I proudly refer to myself as a "geek," even though most people think I'm a typical biker until they talk to me.
    Or, maybe I'm being an over-analyzing twat. Probably the last....

  24. Also, if someone else likes Firefly and did grow up in the suburbs, nothing I wrote in there is meant to suggest that's a bad thing.

    Except that both of those suck, and festering resentment of anyone free either of those needles into one's soul.

  25. I actually moved back to the suburbs, I liked them so much.

  26. Speaking as a commercial artist in the film industry here in Los Angeles (as well as an avid D&Der), I enjoy the quote-unquote outsider perspective of your blog just as much as I enjoy the geeky commonalities of gamers I have known and played with growing up and moving up and down the coast.

    I think you bring a refreshing -and needed- hip and creative voice into the gaming hobby and have never sensed that you've been anything but polite and tolerant of the uglier side of the D&D internet discussion scene.

    In my experience, the stereotypes of the gamer fandom are largely playful and self-mocking. I've been to a couple cons and done some drop-in gamestore gaming and it's far more like "none of us are actually like that but every single one of us has MET a creepy gamer exactly like that so lets joke around about how all gamers are like that." Is that bad? I don't know.

    By far the whole locker-stuffed basement-dwelling self-indulgent insecurity complex associated with tabletop gaming is a myth, it really takes a special kind of bravery, social empowerment and love of fun to pretend to be an elf with a bunch of other folks.

  27. That's an interesting list, it helps give a bit of perspective on where you're coming from. Are you also saying that you have no intention of doing those things or is it purely that you haven't?

  28. What does this list prove?

    It proves you're still a 'fucking American' sometimes, despite writing what you wrote in that last paragraph.

  29. @b3kym

    What on earth are you talking about?

    Did someone somewhere in some acid trip you had say this list was supposed to prove something?

  30. I don't think this list is all that remarkable for a person who plays D&D. I do think it is remarkable for someone who has a high-profile blog (for D&D values of "high-profile") about the game.

  31. I suppose I am the nerdiest guy you play with on a regular basis...

    We've had vastly different lives with a disturbing amount of similarities... here's our overlap:

    I've been called a nerd, but only by girls who exclaimed it proudly.

    I had a crush on a girl who turns out used to be a cheerleader before she sprouted blue hair.

    Never got locked in a locker.

    You and I both know several people who say 'pwned'… we just choose not to remember it. In fact I've probably said it ironically… and also chose not to remember it.

    William Gibson wrote my favorite genre novels in the 80's.

    Never played WoW.

    Never called anyone bro in a non-mocking tone.

    Never had a munchkin.

    Never told a girl she couldn't play. Never saw anyone tell a girl she couldn't play.

    Also never played with anybody who called anything they thought was lame 'gay', except Kimberly Kane, who fucks girls and likes watching guys make out with each other.

    Never got static from a girl about liking girls. (Or photographing them naked, for money.)

    Never read Penny Arcade, Order of the Stick, and whatever that comic is that's in Hackmaster. Though I've played the Stick board game.

    Never saw Buffy.

    Never argued about Kirk V. Picard or saw anyone do it.

    Don't know what this 'I cast magic missile at the darkness' thing is about.

    I have lived in 4 countries. In cities, villages, parks, cars, mansions, trailer parks, couches, suburbia, farms, and tents… always have.

  32. Don't know what this 'I cast magic missile at the darkness' thing is about.

    It was a bonus in a game. Characters from the game were sitting around playing D&D. Here's the link. Pretty funny.