Caribou Coffee. White Bear Lake, Minnesota.
Written May 11, 2014. Updated January 2, 2015.
My oldest son and his friends recently discovered D&D and started a campaign. I’ve been trying for a few years to spark an interest in him but it never really took. Now that his peers are getting into it, I think it has clicked and he’s having fun with it – not like I did at his age, but its a start.
Man. I miss gaming.
Not gaming like many of you are probably thinking. I’m not talking about gambling-type gaming or video-type gaming or boardgame-type gaming or the addictive hell that is collectible card gaming (there’s a special place in the Abyss for Richard Garfield). I’m talking about GAMING. The type of Gaming that gave rise to the term “Gamer”.
I miss that.
I’m 42 and, by many measures, I’m successful. Wonderful wife I’ve been married to for 15 years (still madly in love with her). 3 great kids. Bigger house than I need or have a right to, nestled safely on the outskirts of the yuppie ‘burbs. 401(k). Dog. But when I’m really honest with myself, the reality is that I’ve worked myself into a job that I don’t really like anymore; a job that is no longer fulfilling.
I spent nearly a decade in the Air Force; after 9 1/2 years, the Air Force and I mutually agreed that splitting up was the right thing to do. I spent nearly another decade as a Defense Industry contractor during which I convinced myself I was helping to save lives by building better tools to assist with targeting the right bad guys. I guess I still believe that. Anyway: I was a successful software “engineer” (tools and processes people!) and even designed a few really cool tools and systems for the Air Force and Defense Intelligence Agency. The last system I designed, MISTIC, I also selected and managed the team that built it for 3 years. Life happened, I left the Defense Industry, moved to Minnesota and took up with a Management Consulting company. I don’t build software anymore; I manage other people who build software – none of which can, in any way, be linked to either saving or improving lives by any ostensible measure.
Along the way, I lost all of my hobbies – except a love for Fantasy and Science Fiction novels (and I even lost that for awhile); there just wasn’t time. I devoted myself to being the best software developer and technologist I could. I stayed up on all of the latest tech at the time, read 5-6 technology texts a year, read countless articles and forums online, etc.
And the whole time (the WHOLE TIME), I missed gaming. I kept telling myself I would get back to it. I would find time.
Oh, I kept most of my gaming “stuff” and I would take up a pencil every now and then, dig out my old materials and try to get something going but it never lasted; I was still trying to balance family, career and hobbies and career was winning. Every. Time. I did a short stint with a great group in Omaha but I couldn’t make that last either. Why? A variety of reasons…
Okay: one reason.
What I miss most about gaming is making other people excited about my ideas; entertaining them. World-Building. Plotting stories with unexpected twists and complicated characters. Never before or since have I been involved in any hobby that was so captivating or fulfilling as when I was a Gamemaster in High School and my early college years. It was some time after playing with the Omaha group – where I was a Player – that I realized that Gaming matters most to me when I’m the Gamemaster. When I know things that you don’t know ((Somewhere in the suburbs of Chicago a group of old-time gamers are pointing their fingers at me and laughing. Hey Erin, Adrian, Sean, Johnny, Jeff. Chris (RIP). You guys were right: it was ego. I wasn’t able to see it then but that’s what it was. Control. Attention. Wanting to be the only one who really knew what was going on so I could surprise you with some crazy plot twist. Too bad it didn’t work out that way more often. 🙂 )). When all of the secrets belong to me and I get to dole them out to you one at a time.
So…where does that leave me?
My life is out of balance and I’m trying to figure out who I want to be for the third or fourth time in my life. I don’t want to leave my job – it supports me in the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed – but I do have to find a way to express myself creatively and have more fun. I need more happiness in my life and could do with a bit more social interaction as well.
So I’m falling back on what I know; I’m going to make a grand attempt to go back to High School (metaphorically). To a hobby I once loved and could never imagine giving up. Gaming. I’m dusting off my GURPs books, going through the world-building notes I’ve accumulated over the years and seeing if I can pull together yet another version of the world I last really, truly, visited over 25 years ago.
I’m heading home and I’m really looking forward to it.