Darkness creeps across the calm prairie with a chill wind just cool enough to bring goose bumps to the skin’s surface. You’ve been followed by an unknown for most of the day now. You’ve seen a figure off in the distance pacing you step for step. Looking around the campfire, your companions seem to have no interest in your observation of the pursuer. It’s as if their interests are elsewhere. Indeed, the conversations abound with current affairs of entertainment and not of rich, vivid adventures that you have partaken. With the last glimpse of sunlight disappearing below the horizon, you wonder if it was all worth keeping the truth of your assailant a secret from your friends. Too late, the follower arrives…
Recently I had dinner with a new friend to which my gaming experience came up in discussion. I had vaguely mentioned that I played nerd games with my uncles on occasion, hoping to dodge the subject for at least until we knew each other more comfortably. She pursued the vagueness more, wishing to know exactly what I meant by nerd games. I confessed of playing Dungeons & Dragons despite my age, yet I was fortunate that she had also played the game…when she was 6.
I’ll admit I am a bit of a closet nerd. When in my element such as a convention, I will throw back the veil that I wear while in public and talk lingo that only my fellow gamers would understand. We debate hypothetical situations in role playing games on DM decisions or share tales of past games that were most memorable. However, when I am with non-gamers in public, I seldom, if ever, bring up the notion I even play the game, let alone admit I have a few thousand rule and sourcebooks. It’s not from shame or embarrassment because it’s really no different than watching sports, going camping, or grilling out in the backyard. There is a stigma (not stigmata) of the concept of role playing games. Long gone are the days when there was a belief that games had a connection with satanic worshipping. People have moved on from that. There is a stereotype that remains among gamers that can cause awkward silences and moments among others, however.
“Castle” by TinyPilot
I’ve been to conventions many times before. And although it’s not an overwhelming factor, there are some truths to the stereotypes that I see throughout. The biggest factor is that there is a lack of hygiene among attendees. It seems the larger the convention, the more abundant the funk is as the week progresses. You would think that the majority of people who have access to deodorant and running water would take advantage of such basic necessities, but this would not be the case. I have seen some conventions try to hand out free sticks of deodorant and watch as they all go untouched (except me! You bet I want free deodorant! Those are $3-5 a stick).
Another stereotype is that many who play the game are not “socially comfortable.” The unfortunate truth is that the collective whole of this world can’t be in the same group. We have different beliefs, behaviors, desires, motivations, and looks that cause separation. Whether you feel this is right or wrong, it is what it is. As a result, those who might not have the confidence in themselves to speak up, mingle with others, or become comfortable around strangers tend to either fall back in the crowd or find those who are like them. Like conventions.
There have been so many individuals whom I have had the pleasure of meeting at gaming conventions that shine like a lighthouse at these events. They will step up, show leadership among their peers at the gaming table, and act very comfortable and outgoing. The second they return back to their regular daily lives, they revert back to their hesitancy.
For one, conventions and role playing games are incredibly powerful for people who struggle to find their inner voice and gives them an opportunity to be more themselves. Yet they are only temporary. Those who don’t attend the conventions or their local game night might never see the real side of these people. Observers go on to feel they are just socially awkward, which can often lead to avoidance or limited conversations with them.
It’s really no one’s fault for associating role playing games improperly. I have introduced the game to people who would never dream of touching the game only to discover they love it. On the other hand, I have seen many lose interest immediately. It’s a lack of association with the game that brings up these various stigmas that people refer to at the mention of RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons.
There is no shame of playing RPGs. And no one should ever judge or misjudge you when mentioning your enjoyment of the game. However, also keep in mind that the game is not for everyone, and unless they have shown interest in playing, which many people do not, then don’t be discouraged by keeping the idea to those who are. Your true friends will accept your interests and embrace the fact you enjoy the games, but when dealing with co-workers or associates that are just acquaintances, respect the fact it’s not for everyone and know that there may be misconception.
Having said that, if there is ever a chance to introduce them to RPGs, take advantage of it. Show them the very general concept of the game. Don’t get too involved or in depth. Don’t have them create characters, provide them with pre-gen’s that are stripped down to the bare necessities. These would include some kind of health measurement (i.e. hit points), a single weapon, some kind of protection, and a few skills to show what kind of character they are playing. If you provide them with a spell caster, have a printed out sheet of the spells (limit to no greater than 4) with a 1-2 sentence description of what it does (ignore the tedious measurements of distance or time, just the effect).
And keep the game simple. The party explores an abandoned church or windmill or two-room crypt with some minor role playing at the start. Always keep in mind they know nothing of the rules and the concept of a roleplaying game other than when they were kids and pretended to be heroes in their backyard.
Although the perception of the game has changed over the years, it still remains to be a game that the majority of people in this world view differently than gamers. They simply have no interest in hearing about it just as if you have no interest in hearing about quantum physics. Perhaps, however, with more interest in various commonalities within the “nerd world” such as super hero movies, shows like the Big Bang Theory, and popularity in fantasy and sci fi books like Harry Potter and Hunter Games, the bridge will become shorter and the concept more acceptable and understanding among the majority.
Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with. Thanks for stopping by.