My Pathway to Gaming – a look at one girl’s evolution of RP

I was thinking about the idea of role playing the other day, my thought process started as usual from a question asked by one of my students. We had the “what did you do this weekend” conversation and I truthfully told them I was running a D&D game. We got into a conversation about what role playing is and my students concluded that what I do on the weekends is a mixture of the video games they all play with the kind of imaginary games they used to play as children. As 12 to 14 year olds it’s been a very long time since they played those kinds of games and they were slightly amazed at the fact that as their 26 year old teacher I was still playing them. On my subway ride home that night I came to the realization that I never really stopped playing my imaginary games, I didn’t go directly from playing with Barbies or dress up in mom’s clothing to pen and paper games, but I found other less satisfying ways to keep my imagination moving at a faster pace.

I was the grade six student who spent her recesses and lunch times playing games with a group of children who were in grade three. I was the grade eight student who spent her summer before high school playing games of pretend with a group of kids four to six years younger than me. In high school, not having an imaginative outlet in which to partake, I put pen to paper and created a story about the characters that my younger friends and I used to play. In the year 2000 my mom bought a computer and got us THE INTERNET. It was through this new portal that I was able to find my first encounter with actual role playing.

I found myself searching for role playing before I had actually really known what it was, can’t remember exactly how I did it but I found a website where people were creating a character bio and then making posts as that character, I wasn’t able to sign up quickly enough. Soon enough my online role playing would expanded and I found myself playing on a vampire werewolf site, a Harry Potter site, an X-men site, a site based on Neil Gaimen’s Sandman series, and those are only the sites that were successful. It was an obsession but it was a way to engage my imagination, until the next step up the ladder of role play was presented to me.

Thinking back now I can’t exactly pinpoint the exact moment when D&D entered my life, I know that the summer before my second year of university my sister had me join her and her friends in a D&D game, as well my boyfriend at the time had a childhood friend who played and she let me flip through her PHB, but I can’t remember when I actually first decided I wanted to start playing I just know that I did. Personally I don’t think my love for the game started until the day I was asked to run my own campaign. It was only a few weeks after I had rolled my first d20 as a player, but I was more than willing to create my own world. From that point on pen and paper rp became my favourite past time.

For the next two years of my university life I spent every Friday night gaming, sometimes we even spent Saturday and Sunday gaming as well. Even when I had a life crisis, such as my boyfriend and fellow gamer of 5.5 years breaking up with me out of the blue, I gamed. Mind you I wasn’t able to do as much as I wanted to because of my three players one had been my boyfriend and the other was now siding with him. I coped, and I found a new group online even though I usually was so shy in new situations I hadn an anxiety attack when needing to make a phone call to someone other than my best friends. I always seemed to find a way to game, even when I wasn’t really looking.  I moved to a city a 24 hour drive away from home, and more importantly my gaming group so I could get my teaching degree. I lived in a dorm with students all younger than me and somehow the rumor that I played D&D was started and before I knew it I had six or seven guys wanting me to teach them. Even now, as a busy teacher I game. Sure it’s not the same as university with the ‘need to game every weekend or it’s the end of the world’, but it’s nice to spend a few hours on the weekend in a different world.

This is my story about how I became a gamer. I’ve heard words like escapism thrown around when talking about why people game, and I won’t deny that sure it’s nice to get away from the real world, however I don’t think it’s the main reason I have and will always game. I have an over active imagination, it’s a true fact and it’s something I would never change about myself. It has needs and it needs to be fed with stories of dragons and faeries. I don’t game because I need to get away from a horrible life, I grew up a very happy, naive little girl and I am now happier than I could ever be with a life I would change for nothing, yet I still game.

I’ve now shared my pathway to the world of gaming, maybe I’ve got you thinking about how you started. Was it similar to my story? Did your love to roll dice start from playing games such as cops and robbers or was it something else? I’d be interested in hearing other peoples’ stories, like I said; I love my stories of dragons and fantasy.

[tags]Dungeons and Dragons, fantasy, Role Playing Games, childhood[/tags]

9 thoughts on “My Pathway to Gaming – a look at one girl’s evolution of RP

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  1. The theme I get from your story is that gaming has always sort of been there in your life, even it wasn’t expressly a tabletop RPG, and I can identify with that a lot.

    For a while, gaming was something I did because I wanted to be accepted by the people I called friends. In the last year, I have been gaming because I *want* to, and these gaming sessions have been some of the best of my life.

    As an aside, I am going into teaching and I have seen a lot of parallels between the job of running a classroom and the task of running a game. In fact, it’s probably going to be my Master’s thesis. As a fellow educator, I thought you might find that interesting. =)

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  2. I started gaming because I had nothing to do and very few friends. I always loved reading, and I loved making up stories even more. It just seemed natural, when I found out about roleplaying (aged 15 and a half) that I would soon be making up stories and worlds for my friends to explore.

    I think that human beings have a need for stories, just look at the abundance of soap operas, the same stories retold and recycled over and over and over. Even now, I’ve not gamed properly in a few years, but I still think about the stories we told together, the stories I have left to tell.

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  3. Me, my Mom bought me the original PHB, DMG, MM and D&D from a yard sale for I think $0.25.

    I was 8 or 9 and became hooked after sitting in my room and reading through them all.

    Thanks Mom!

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  4. Thanks for the replies guys, it’s always cool to read other peoples histories with something I myself enjoy so much. I know most people will have similar stories to mine, I just really had never seen how ‘gaming’ had always been a part of my life until I actually specifically thought about it.

    Tracy – that sounds like an amazing idea for a Master’s thesis, I know that my time behind the DM screen has helped with my classroom managment and that’s just one of the many parallels I’ve encountered myself. I would really be interested in reading or discussing your ideas when you’ve worked though them.

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  5. In 1980, my older brother and his friends started playing a relatively new game called D&D. I was entranced. I will always thank him for letting his younger sister roll dice with him and his buddies.

    By the mid-80s, I was running games inside during recess at my elementary school. I began loosing friends when their parents learned that through D&D I was obviously teaching their children to worship satan. (rolls eyes)

    By the early 90s, I still played D&D, but also ventured into other RPG games: Paranoia, Shadowrun, Rifts. Had a solid gaming group of teens and young adults.

    After a break for about 7 years, in 2001 I started up D&D again with a new group. That group has expanded quite a bit in the decade since, but the core 5 people have remained the same this whole time. We now play an assortment of RPGs and have also started integrating a second long-term gaming group in with ours, so now it’s quite a massive collection of people. D&D (4.0 & 3.5), Hackmaster, Arcanum, Delta Green Cthulu, Earthdawn, Buffy, Eclipse Phase (I was a play-tester), the games are now ever expanding as people are seeking out new interesting systems and worlds.

    I notice that you have to defend (my word) yourself from people claiming that RPGing is “escapism”. Of course it’s a form of escapism! And I would argue a much better entertaining, intimate, interactive, creative, team-building, puzzle-mastering, social-developing, problem-solving, math-using, vocabulary-increasing, wonderful form of collective story creation than ALL the various escapisms that non-gamers participate in (TV, movies, sports-watching, hanging at bars, etc etc). This has always blown my mind a bit that non-gamers suspiciously think of gaming in negative and elitist ways still to this day.

    A couple years ago, the CEO of the company I worked for said in the lunchroom that “people who play games like D&D are weak-minded and socially inept.” Just this year, a judge upheld a WI prison ban on D&D because, “it could lead to gang behavior and fantasies about escape.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/us/27dungeons.html) In the Israeli army,”18-year-olds who tell recruiters they play the popular fantasy game [D&D] are automatically given low security clearance. “They’re detached from reality and susceptible to influence,” the army says.” (www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3052074,00.html) Even one of my good friends, who is younger than I but still about to turn 30, told her very open-minded mother recently that she has been playing D&D, and her mother got very quiet and concerned and asked if that was really an okay thing to be doing… cause, don’t people get a “little too carried away?” It’s been 30 years since I started playing, and I’m honestly a bit amazed that this stuff persists!!

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  6. Anby, if I may call you that, thank you for your thoughts amd stories. I know do get a little definsive when I hear the word escapism but that is mostly because of the context I’ve heard it in the most, which is that any one who needs to escape through RP is only doing it because they can’t stand their real life, or that their real life is filled with drama and horror. I know that rp is a form of escapism, I just don’t like the negative picture the word paints of my perfectly happy life.

    I agree with you that it is totally the best way to escape, and yes everyone needs to get away from it all every so often, I was just trying to say that it’s not the only reason I play.

    Once again thanks so much for your thoughts!

    Oh and Tracy please do!

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  7. It just seemed natural, when I found out about role playing aged 15 and a half that I would soon be making up stories and worlds for my friends to explore. I think that human beings have a need for stories, just look at the abundance of soap operas, the same stories retold and recycled over and over and over.

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