A Gamer’s Gratitude

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For the last four days, I have attended GenCon with my daughter. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip, just like I do every year. But this year, I felt a heavy and profound gratitude. Two years of mass disease, two years of professional frustrations, and a year of age related wear and tear have been tough. Four days of fairy bards, Stargate missions, and dice bag shopping, somehow, showed me how special this world is and why my presence in it is truly special and why all of you are special.

The epidemic has reminded us of a deep truth. Our spirit may be strong but our bodies, and our communities, are frail. Within a few months, many passed and social life was ravaged. Not only were two of my relatives hospitalized, but many of the things that provided meaning in my life were quickly whisked away. And one of those things, a big thing, is gaming.

If you follow my Facebook feed closely, you know that I tried to maintain the connections. I organized an all sociologist Diplomacy game, which the fiendish Jeremy won. I ran two separate Pandemonium sessions for Nora, Richard, Yesh, and other folks and I did three sessions of Zoom D&D for Tim, Jack, and Wesley. Once society opened up, I visited Steve in Texas, as he hosted Capla Con 2021, and then I held FabFest a few weeks ago. All these meet ups acheived their goal of nourishing social connections and generating laughs and good memories.

But GenCon was different. It was a shell of its former self. The conference normally attracts 60,000 people but it was probably a third of that at best. Halls that used to be packed wall to wall with a motley crew of cosplayers were very empty. Still, even in its exhausted form, I was reminded of how amazing it all is.

GenCon, and other gamer conferences, are truly amazing events. The attendees do not sit passively and wait for celebrities to tell them about the good old days. Instead, people spend their time playing games that require humanity and imagination. Last week, I played a tiny fairy, a Revolutionary era Algonquin warrior, and an Air Force captain charged with rescuing alien allies. There were no winners or losers. Just people whole love story telling and being a hero.

But that’s only the beginning. Gamer conferences encourage endless streams of creativity. It could be a fiction writing workshop, or a costume design contest, or a live action role playing session, which is essentially a bunch of people improvising a play.

Cosplayers have a special place in my heart. They are pure joy. They spend their own money and a lot of their time making these wonderful costumes. And what do they want? Nothing, except to bring a smile to your face and appreciate how you love the same character they do.

Ultimately, it’s about bringing people together and enjoying a few hours of fellowship with people you may never see again. It might be the private detective who uses his real life skills to question an NPC. Or the military vet adding her color commentary to a battle that only happens in “the theater of the mind.” The sound of the dice, the “oohs and aahs” you hear when a cosplayer with an amazing costume cruises by. And yes, even the complaints you hear about screwed hotel reservations. All these things are part of being together, which ultimately is what the gaming hobby is about.

So I am grateful. Grateful for the other players. For the GMs who spend their own time and money making games that maybe six people will play. For the hospitality staff and custodial workers at the convention center who spent countless hours making sure the convention center is safe and clean. For my spouse, who tolerates such an odd hobby. For the city of Indianapolis, which built such a nice facility. For all the exhibitors and the gamer industry as a whole, who brought an amazing array of games and merchandise. For my daughter, who spent three days with me. I know that she will soon be an adult, with her own life. This time is truly precious. 

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Please check out my books:
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4)
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A theory book you can understand: Theory for the Working Sociologist
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine.

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