Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Save versus Enlightenment

I wanted to write something about Gary Gygax dying, but I wasn't sure what. Gaming is very important to me, as I think anyone who knows me will recognize. I wanted to run my own game company for a while, and spent some number of years in pursuit of same. Standing on the dancefloor of the White Wolf party at GenCon in '93 was probably one of the turning points in my life, for good or ill. And that's all owed to Gary, and Dave. So it's a passing I'd like to note.

In my life at least, the most important thing about D&D is that it was the first time I didn't believe something my parents told me. Specifically, that it was a recruiting tool for the satanic church. I was conditioned in such a way that I just believed that, initially, as I believed everything my parents told me in that realm. I can still remember my dad getting angry when I expressed an interest in it. Anyway. I eventually convinced them to let me play Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) which had some interesting stuff in it, and in some ways was a good system to start with. I played with a bunch of kids from school. Their parents expressed concern, so we had to have them all over for dinner one night, and then they sat around and watched us play for a while, flipped through the books, and asked a bunch of questions. Most of the questions were so...ridiculous. These people simply couldn't discern fantasy from reality. At the time I didn't make the connect, that they were so heavily invested in one of the deepest fantasy worlds created, so I answered their questions with a smile and they let us play. Still some of the best gaming in my life.

The more familiar I became with the game community as a whole, the less I bought into the whole "recruitment" thing. There was just such a disconnect between what I was being told and what I saw, it was hard to respect the more outrageous position.

When I got to college I decided to settle this once and for all, in my mind at least. I rigorously researched all the evidence presented against D&D. I was at one of the premier religious colleges in the world, I had the resources. They were...paltry. The case was built almost entirely on hearsay and popular belief. And the books that were written in prosecution were themselves not researched. At all.

So I gave up. It was the first substantial crack in my armor, and it set me on a path of self inspection. I had been raised just believing. It took a while, but I re-evaluated my life, my belief system. I came up with something that I believed, not because it had been handed to me, but because I honestly believe it.

I guess in a way that makes my parents right. D&D got me out of the church, once and for all. Just not the way they thought.


At 1:48 PM , Blogger colin said...

It's interesting to me how the few memorials to Gary Gygax I have seen have had in common that D&D was seen as a link to Satanism by parents.

I was introduced to the game by my cousins, and I think I asked for (and received) the Basic Set that Christmas. My parents were never worried about it, that I could tell. But neither of them was very religious.

It also kinda freaks me out to hear you say you believed what your parents said. I don't remember unconditionally believing my parents ever (although I do tend to trust them). Depending on the topic, my daughter won't believe a word I say, and she's seven. I find it very hard to fit children accepting things by their parent's say-so into my world view...

Anyway, even though I don't play anymore, role playing was the highlight of my junior high and high school years, and a fun part of university, too. Without it, I think I would have been even more socially inept, if that's possible. I certainly would have been less happy. So, thanks Gary.

At 2:06 PM , Blogger Tim Akers said...

Well, I grew up in strange circumstances. I should specify that I didn't believe everything my parents said, just everything that related to religion. They were strong believers in getting to kids before the world could corrupt them. There's a strong current of "intelligence is dangerous" in the culture of my youth, and that's something I increasingly found myself at odds with. Anyway. As a child, I accepted my parents as an authority on matters spiritual, and over time that became untrue. They tried to build me in a way that would keep me from questioning my religion, because it's not something that can stand the scrutiny. That strategy didn't work.

At 1:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"At the time I didn't make the connect, that they were so heavily invested in one of the deepest fantasy worlds created, ..."

Well put.

At 1:47 PM , Blogger Tim Akers said...

Thanks. One of the pivotal points in my life...figuring out I was participating in a little fantasy game that people actually believed was true.


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