Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One Man's Dungeon is Another Man's Dragon

Apologies for the extended hiatus. I flatter myself to think you missed reading my musings, lovely readers, and that you will start reading again.

At a common area here on campus there is a group that meets every day, and they are there for several hours at a time. They seem to have a strong sense of friendship and community, they welcome new members into their group, they eat together, they study together. From what I’ve gleaned while observing them as a sociological phenomenon, they look like a group of guys and girls that anyone would like to be a part of. That is, of course, excepting what it is that they do for those several hours: this subject field group in my study of people-who-don’t-know-I’m-watching-them is none other than the Fantasy Card-Game and Role-Play Club.
I’m sure that’s not their official name, and I’m sure that they all stopped caring if I watched them around the seventh grade. But as another part of my human behavioral study, I have also watched people watch this group, and I am fascinated by their reactions. Most people just smile and chuckle when they realize that there is indeed still a market for Pok√©mon card binders, or remark without viciousness, “I remember when those were, like, the coolest thing.” This is a perfectly natural and unjudgemental reaction; it’s about what I did the first time I noticed that the Dungeon and Dragons faction of society had relocated their fanastical battles from someone’s basement to the actual real world.
Then there is another group entirely – the group that would never deign to play an imaginative card game, or dress up as a wizard even once, or indulge the fantasy of a world where magic exists. When these people see the tables of knights battling orcs or supernatural beasts with special powers simulated on two-by-three cardboard, it’s not a smile and a chuckle that come to their faces. It’s a condemning snicker, a scoff, an “Omigawd, what a bunch of freaks” that leaves their lips. These reactions are thankfully infrequent, and while I realize I am overly harsh in my condemnation of these magicless nay-sayers, I also get overly upset with anyone who condemns a passion on a glance. Maybe these haters’ lives are so magical that they don’t understand the need for alternate realities. But I doubt it.
My real objection to those who laugh at a group of obviously intelligent people who display a sense of community and care is this: Why is uncool to have passions? Sure, I’m not so skilled at Dungeons and Dragons, and I wasn’t even cool enough for Pokemon when they were the coolest thing. But I appreciate anyone who is interested in anything. The time and effort it must take to learn all those rules, all those details of the elaborate other-worlds inhabited in those games, the community that is created when the players come together to ‘battle’, and even the open display of such a fringe passion, is commendable. We all have our own alternative realities, and it seems to me that the one of wizards and dragons that the card-players seem to favor is much better than the altered reality the rest of campus seems to like to escape to (that is to say, the State of Intoxication).
I have probably grossly misreferenced the games these people love so much, and I have probably misjudged both this group and those who condemn them. But from where I sit, watching them without having them watch me, to care deeply is to take a risk. To display one’s passions is to risk being watched, being lauded, or being condemned. And these are risks we should all be willing to take to make a few friends, have a little fun, or make a tiny piece of our fantasy worlds become real.