Friday, March 7, 2008

Coming out of the (Gaming) Closet

A lot of people who play Dungeons & Dragons don't admit to that fact.  Not that they necessarily lie about it, but they don't bring it up.  I know I have strong tendencies in this direction.  While I was pretty open about playing D&D at my last job, at this one I kept it pretty close to the vest.  When a co-worker would ask if I had "any plans for the weekend" I would say "I am getting together with some friends" rather than "I have a D&D game this weekend".  Technically true, but definitely a semantic dodge.

Being in the gaming closet is a relatively common phenomenon.  There was an entire series of Knights of the Dinner Table strips devoted to the question "At what stage in the relationship do you divulge that you are a gamer to your significant other?"  It probably wouldn't have been so funny except I have had that same conversation with many of my gaming friends.

Considering how deeply in the closet some gamers are, it is amazing we can find other gamers to play with.  One of my college friends likened finding other gamers to Vampire: The Masquerade.  In that game, vampires maintain a world-wide conspiracy hiding their existence called "The Masquerade".  One consequence of this is that you can't just ask if someone else is a vampire without breaking the Masquerade.  So if you suspect someone is a vampire, you ask a series of leading questions and carefully gauge the responses. Only when you are certain you are talking with another vampire do you own up.

If you think I am exaggerating, observe this real life conversation I had with a former co-worker.

Co-Worker: "It's like that game, Dungeons & Dragons.  Have you ever heard of it?"

Me: "I have."

Co-Worker: "Actually, I used to play it"

Me: "Me too"

Co-Worker: "You know, if I could find a group, I wouldn't mind playing it now"

Me: "Actually, I still get together from time to time with some guys to play"

Co-Worker:  "I still know some guys too"

Obviously, this is absurd.  Football fans don't use secret code to determine if you are a fellow football fan, they just ask.  But I understand the reticence of D&D players to come clean.  When D&D players are presented in popular culture they are almost always held up as objects as scorn and derision.  A lot of writers use D&D as dramatic shorthand for "Look! Nerds!".

I really feel the treatment D&D players get in the popular press is worse than similar groups, like comic book readers or computer geeks.  It is usually at its worst in mainstream television, but even shows that you would think would be D&D friendly often go for the easy "Look! Nerds!" joke.   Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel had relatively nuanced jokes concerning Star Wars and comic book fans, but revert to type when D&D is brought up.  For goodness sake, the "Look! Nerds!" joke appeared in Shrek 3, a movie about an ogre and a talking donkey.

(As an aside, the writers at The Simpsons and Futurama have inserted very funny D&D jokes in their shows.  However, comic fans seems to take it on the chin.)

In any case, I am going to make an effort to be a little more forthcoming about playing D&D.  It came up at work when news of Gary Gygax's passing came in.  Not surprisingly, my co-workers finding out I play D&D was not the end of the world.  It never is.  One of these days I will get old enough to realize this. 

PS - I would like to dedicate this blog post to my friend Brian, one of the LEAST "in the closet" gamers I know.  Brian has never been shy about proclaiming his love for D&D, and if every D&D player had his evangelical nature, the hobby would be in much better shape than it is today.


Bronz said...

I have previously held these kinds of reservations as well. When asked what you're doing on a weekend night, "out with some friends" and "playing DnD" obviously have some very different connotations.

But as to the significant other part, I've found it useful, and it has helped me both mature and has been pragmatic, to just come out and say it. That way the other person knows what you enjoy doing, and might even enjoy doing it with you.

Many people have a predisposition to roleplaying, or gaming in general, that is usually false as it is predicated on stereotypes (ala the Simpsons example given). If we don't talk about it, no one would ever understand what it is we do.

Taking those two together though, I now have a significant other that I think talks more than I breathe. Anytime there is a Saturday that she ends up doing one thing and I end up gaming, I still get goosebumps as she proclaims "he's going to that game of his!" as an excuse to why I am not with her.

All I do is smile though, and enjoy being "a hero twice a month."