I swung by the library tonight and picked up Word Freak, a tale of one journalists voyage through the world of hardcore competitive Scrabble. I'm only up to about Page 20 and I'm amused by the similarities to my own gaming circles. It seems human nature is the same no matter what fringe hobby you wander into. The Scrabble community has its own mix of nerds, social rejects, weird genii, and basically normal people with a slightly quirky hobby.
One startling difference is the way that it's so easy to tell the casual player from the hardcore Scrabblite. The casual players are drawn from the world of ordinary tabletop diversions. Scrabble, after all, is firmly wedged in the popular conscience as a family game. Lotsa regular folks play it. Since D&D is a less mainstream of a game, it's sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. It's easy to assume that because someone plays D&D that they are a hardcore gaming machine. The fact of the matter is that much evidence can be found to support the notion that most folks play D&D with the same casual commitment that other people play Scrabble or Monopoly. It took me a long time to realize that I was a member of the hardcore enthusiasts. It didn't occur to me until very recently that I have always measured myself against the standards set by the the people most devoted to the hobby. Here I am with a mile long list of dubious gaming credentials and I still chide myself for being a lightweight. It took the first couple of chapters of Word Freak to help me understand just how deep I am into this hobby.
Talk about a lack of friggin' perspective! Just the fact that I GM moves me up a notch on the Geek-O-Meter. Heck, I could just about build another version of the Gamer Purity Test by rattling off the points of contact shared by my life and the hobby. Let's list just a few items, shall we?
- I've had subscriptions to three different gaming publications.
I was an RPGA member back before free membership.
I've attended 5 or 6 different game conventions, most more than once.
I've GM'ed at a con, more times than I can remember.
I've played in D&D tournaments.
Heck, I've written two D&D tournaments.
I've played more incarnations of D&D than I can keep track of.
I've owned literally hundreds of games. Still own many.
I've been a playtester.
I've submitted an article to Dragon for publication. (The fact that it was rejected as "too wild an idea" but basically the same article got published a few years later still burns me.)
I've been published in an APAzine.
I'm active on various RPG internet forums.
I maintain a gaming-related website.
I write daily in a blog devoted primarily to gaming.
I have a room in my house set aside for my hobby.
Despite all this evidence, I still usually think of myself as a young punk in the hobby. I guess this comes from two big sources. First of all, I hang out with a fair number of grognards whose pedigrees are even longer and more colorful than my own. I'm so deep into the subculture that someone who played Chainmail with Uncle Gary back in '73 looks worthy of emulation. Secondly, I consider being a published and respected RPG author to be really damn cool. Since I'm such a hack GM and lazy writer I pretty much consider being a published RPG author an unattainable goal. Yet it's still there. That, to certain extant, keeps me humble.