When I was a kid, my favorite thing was to play pretend. I alternated between being Barbie, one of the Goonies, and a hobbit. Don’t laugh.
My best friend and I probably played pretend a lot longer than most people play pretend. Maybe not. I don’t know what other kids did. I never felt normal enough to say if other kids did the same stuff I did. But I can tell you that when we were old enough to want to kiss and stuff, we found a great excuse to do so in playing out the romance between Brandon and Ashley. Although truthfully, I had a serious crush on Mikey … yeah, the kid with the inhaler. That speech he gave at the bottom of the wishing well? *melt*
Ok, you’re allowed to laugh now. I’m sitting here snickering to myself as I write this. I desperately wanted an inhaler because Mikey had one. I swear.
Anyway, playing pretend fell out of fashion as the world of junior high school closed in on us. Every now and then we would try to revive that imaginary world which was once indistinguishable from ours, but after a certain age, it always fell flat.
I didn’t forget about playing pretend, though, and I often wished throughout junior high, high school and even college that I could go back and just live in a make believe world sometimes. Instead, I hung out at coffee shops, smoked a lot of cigarettes and wrote a lot of poetry.
Some of the boys I knew would sit around with dice, books, and stacks of paper for hours playing Dungeons and Dragons. I was curious about the game and would’ve seriously considered going out with a couple of them. Yes, they were nerdy, but um, we’re talking about the girl who had a crush on Mikey, ok? But when I asked if I could join their game, I felt distinctly unwelcome. They didn’t exactly say I wouldn’t get it, but they didn’t seem too eager to explain anything to me.
But this is not a woe-is-me tale of being the only girl at the nerd party. I found my way in, even if it was the long way. I discovered an anime club at my college, but after sleeping with one of the club members in a rather unfortunate fashion, I decided not to join. I went to some gaming conventions and a lot of LAN parties, but it wasn’t until I moved to Maryland and attended my first Otakon that I began to understand the sheer enormity of nerddom.
Now, a single blog post can’t quite trace my whole history with games, conventions, and my fellow nerds, but suffice it to say I adore geeks of all kinds, yet I always had this little sad spot in my inner geek life because I’d never played DnD. I actually felt sorry for myself about it.I didn’t want to play Magic the Gathering or any game that required me to collect things — especially cards, which I have a tendency to lose and/or soak with soda or beer. But DnD seemed like a fun and imaginative game that would allow me to finally become a well-rounded nerd.
I was so excited the first time a friend invited me to join her DnD game. I filled out some character surveys for a zombie apocalypse campaign and created a whimsical stripper named Sheila who carried brass knuckles, wore glitter at all times (obvs) and consulted a homeless psychic named Cerulean. Unfortunately, I had to drop out of that game because of complicated time conflicts.
I was too intimidated to join a game at any of the local comic shops, where I have often been received with suspicion due to boobies and whatnot. However, I was very happy when another friend invited me to join a game. This time, it’s a post-apocalyptic world, and my character is something like Rainbow Brite if she were born and raised in a society of underground vault dwellers.
While the stereotype of tabletop gamers is that of the comic book pedant from The Simpsons, neither of the groups I’ve encountered is like that. My current group is open to all kinds of inventiveness, and while they stick to the rules for the sake of cohesion, they are by no means pedantic. They don’t even mind that I chose Rainbow Brite for my token.
After playing a couple rounds with this new group, I can say I finally understand why this game has been around for so long. It’s something I’ve been looking for ever since those early days of pretending to be a Goonie. It’s the chance to delve into an alternative world for a while, to be someone else who is also not entirely separate from myself.
Or as the Muppet Babies say, “When your world looks kinda weird, and you with that you weren’t there, just close your eyes and make believe, and you can be anywhere.”