Wizards of the Coast
I decided playing could be an act of sociological inquiry -- much like when I went to my first and only Phish concert.
The Badger State lost a luminary on Tuesday with the death of Ernest Gary Gygax, the Lake Geneva resident who created a game, a subculture and a powerful merchandising machine with Dungeons & Dragons, the seminal roleplaying game.
True, D&D has lost some of its cachet in the digital era, since gamers can now use videogame consoles and the Internet to roam the dungeons. Still the D&D phenomenon rolls on: A fourth edition of the game is due out in May, according to current publisher Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro division.
Even so, you won't find me rolling for my charisma score anytime soon. I had my one experience with the game in the early 1990s, over the course of a week. That was enough.
I was living with some D&D devotees at the time -- I was in college -- and their playing sessions intrigued me. Certainly I was familiar with the game. It figured prominently in the film E.T., and when I was a child I contemplated taking it up. After all, from the beginning, the game was denounced by various right-wing Christian groups -- so, I reasoned, it must have a lot going for it. Still, I kept choosing sunshine and fresh air instead.
But I kept getting invitations to play from my housemates, especially the one who had no job and spent most of his time churning out various D&D-related maps and essays. Finally I relented. I decided playing could be an act of sociological inquiry -- much like when I went to my first and only Phish concert, years later.
And so we gathered around the dining room table one Friday night. We had provisions (cigarettes, tequila), and we commenced by designing our characters. This I enjoyed. It seemed like an act of creativity, but largely amounted to filling out forms. I wish creativity were always so easy.
Then the game began. Imaginary worlds were explored. Magic was used. Creatures were slain. Twelve hours later, we were finished. It was light outside, and my head hurt. I was pretty sure I hadn't enjoyed myself. I went to bed.
The next Friday my friends asked me to join them again. I said I wasn't willing to make that kind of time commitment. That last one was unusually long, they promised. We bought more cigarettes and tequila. We played once more.
Eight hours in, I was ready to stop. "Can I just kill myself?" I asked. No, they said. Eons later the game was done, and I renounced version of this article first appeared on my blog Back With Interest.