Thanks everyone for replying to yesterday’s post. I keep forgetting that I have turned on the Facebook integration of this blog and must opt-out when desired. I had a moment of uncertainty when I realized yesterday’s post was going to Facebook. I knew the topic might be sensitive enough that discussion on Facebook could degenerate, but I figured at least that would be encapsulated in Facebook. I could always moderate the blog comments themselves, and for what it’s worth I do think we stayed much better focused here than what happened over on Facebook.
I am though a little disappointed in how much the conversation seemed to become about whether or not what I was proposing should be done at all, rather than answer the question I was asking: how to do it. There’s little doubt in my mind that I actually have a good idea here, so mostly I was looking for input on the logistics. It seems though perhaps I took too much for granted, and maybe I should lay out why I’m so confident that holding an intro D&D game aimed at including a diverse audience is a good idea.
Between the ages of around 12-14 years old I was pretty aggressively bullied, so much so that I ended up changing school systems. My parents were divorced since before I can remember, and when I was about to enter eighth grade my mom remarried and bought a house about half an hour’s drive from where I was currently living. The opportunity to move in with her and make a whole new start was exactly the escape I needed.
But before that happened, I discovered D&D. In fact, I remember reading the label on the red basic book that said “for ages 10+” and thinking I might get in trouble for reading it. I had no real mentor in this hobby. There were no gaming stores anywhere near me, the best I could ask for was a shelf in the back of the local comic book store. I certainly never discovered any kind of gaming community there, they just sold the books. I asked for those D&D books at pretty much every birthday and Christmas, and read everything I could get my hands on. It sounded like an amazing game. Despite all that interest, I could never get a game together at this time of my life. I was a shy kid, and had very few friends, and this is around when the bullying started.
Now I had my escape, I moved in with my mom, I made new friends, and eventually later in high school I started finally playing with a regular group. I recognize though that there was a lot of random chance involved in getting me that opportunity. If I hadn’t moved, would I have eventually found a group to play D&D with? Maybe. But when I then project onto my own personal experience what it would have been like had I been a girl, or black, or gay, or anything else that could pile on even a little more sense of being an outsider, I’m sure it would have been an insurmountable task.
Gaming has shaped my life. I am now a professional video game developer, an industry that itself was totally inspired by and built on top of tabletop gaming. Most of my friends I have through a shared love of this hobby. I am certain that life would have been radically different for me had I not eventually found some friends to play D&D with.
So when people recommend to tell someone “just buy the books, find some friends, and play” it breaks my heart. I know how hard an ask that is. Sure, you can learn the rules from reading a book. It’s not as easy as just sitting in a game but it does work, that’s how I did it. But I’m not talking here about just learning the rules. I’m talking about giving someone an opportunity to experience what playing the game is actually like. One game could be all it takes to change a mild curiosity or interest into a real passion. And maybe it introduces some potential players to each other who wouldn’t have found each other otherwise. I mean, part of me is desperate to go tell the grocery store clerk about the Dunkin Donuts girl. They work not 100 yards apart!
My plan is to continue do some research. I’ll talk to the local game store owners, and the YA librarian at our local library, and anyone else plugged into my local community. It’s possible that these two interactions were just a fluke, but honestly, I’d do this for just those two people if I could. I suspect though that I will find more. I’ll post back and tell you all how it goes.