For a few years I collected cans from recycling, getting the
cans mostly from the break room at work and from some relatives who set them
aside. It originally started as a means
to just set aside a little money for coin collecting, though over the past
couple of years my goal has mostly been to get money for table top gaming. It’s not a particularly fruitful
pursuit: every six to nine months I was
taking them to the recycling center, and getting between $30 and $60 per trip.
However, we have decided that garage space is too much at a
premium at our house, so Friday was my last trip. This was $33 worth of cans (about 52 pounds).
I have given my can bin to my co-worker, Carolyn, who wants
to take over.
Most people who know me well also know that for a few years
I have been obsessed with board games. I
guess “obsessed” is the right word. I
spend a lot of time thinking about them, reading about them, listening to podcasts
about them, and watching videos.
I can trace my history in this. I remember, when I was about ten or eleven
years old, asking my parents for a strategy game for Christmas. I got Stratego, which I enjoyed. Shortly
after that, I discovered Dungeons and Dragons, though my friends and I played
with a very skewed, watered-down version of the rules that we made up in lieu
of reading and understanding the real rules.
After that, RPGs remained my mainstay in the gaming department until I
was about 30. After that, due to time
constraints (both on my part, and my friends’), I started moving back into more
and more board games and card games.
But why? That is
harder for me to figure out. What do I
find so attractive about games? And why
do I like certain games more than others?
There are numerous reasons, but a new one that occurred to
me recently is the concrete nature of the rules of the situation the game
creates. A game creates a little world
(which, within the theme of the game, might be something abstract and geometric
like alternating checkered squares, or it might be expansive like an
artistically-rendered galaxy populated by various aliens set on conquering and colonizing
neighboring star systems), but this world functions on a system of rules that
the players know and must work within. I
like this “logic” aspect. I like knowing
“if A, then B;” or “if A, then you must choose from A, B, or C.” The rules might be complex, and not solvable
in the way that tic-tac-toe is solvable, and the choices might be hard, but
there are rules that I can look up and which do not change.
In this regard, I find games a refreshing temporary refuge
from real life. In real life, every
single person is playing by a different set of rules. (It just occurred to me
that maybe this is one of the big attractions of religion. Maybe, on one level, many people like
religion because it makes them feel like other people who share the same faith
are going by the same rule book, and it makes their society more understandable.) I think most people play by similar rules
sets, but they are so complex, inscrutable, and mutable that the rules can
hardly be called rules.
It does occur to me that comparing a game rule book to a
metaphorical “real life” rule book might be sort of forced. It might only be an apt metaphor for someone
like me who spends a lot of time thinking about games.
In that regard, a month ago I took a class pertaining to the
legal bases for government appropriations, and we spent quite a bit of time
skimming through legislation and legal decisions with regard to federal
agencies’ budgets, financial obligations, and expenditures. Half way through the class it started to feel
to me like I was reading a very large game rule book, which prompted me to
think, “When your primary system of thought is game rules, everything looks
like a board game.” This is akin to “When
your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” I liked the class much more than I expected
to, perhaps because it seemed so much like a game rule book.
I don’t think this is the primary reason I enjoy board
games, but it’s up there.
I have been playing roleplaying games with the same core
group of friends for 25 years. Maybe 26—I will have to double check—but I think
I started with these friends in 1989. A
few old friends dropped out over the years, and a few friends joined, and there
are quite a few who came in late and left again after a few months or years. There was a period of a few years when I was living in Wyoming and was not a member of the group, and there have been a few long stretches when for whatever reason we were not getting together to play with any kind of regularity.
The past decade has been a struggle because people have kids
and other family obligations (not to mention some health problems, business
travel, family vacations…), but I feel like things are sort of on the upswing
again as kids get older and members of our gaming group are able to spare a
little more time away. It is still hard
to meet more than once a month, but I have confidence that we will keep getting
We started playing 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons
& Dragons in ’89, then started in on Shadowrun in the mid-90s. There have been forays into other interesting
games over the years (the most significant being Earthdawn, but also a couple
of short starts into Star Trek and Star Wars RPGs whose rules bases I cannot
remember, and a few other short-lived games), but different versions or
editions of D&D and Shadowrun have been the mainstays.
Here is a photo from this past Sunday night, when I was able
to get together with Keith, Paul, and Aaron.
A few other of our main players could not make it, but our game
Certainly, the appearance of the players has changed over
the years. A few of us have a lot less hair on our heads, and we generally
weigh more. The games are still pretty
much the same, though. One big
difference here is that there is no Mountain Dew on the table. We’ve mostly moved from almost exclusively
drinking sodas to beer, water, coffee, and tea, depending. Another big difference: laptop computers and smart phones have largely
taken the place of rulebooks.