This series of articles will explore some of the ways some of us have matured as gamers over the years. I know I have a different perspective now, as I enter middle age, than I had in the 7th grade or even in college. We grow up, get jobs, get married, have kids, and life intrudes on our game time. But we persevere – and continue to play for a variety of reasons – including the fact that it’s still fun after all these years!
Many gamers started playing roleplaying games (RPGs) while in middle school or junior high. I started in the 7th grade playing AD&D 2nd Edition. I still fondly remember the red and blue box sets from those early days and the long afternoon and evening games over weekends at friends’ houses as we’d conquer evil, slay dragons, and hoard our own treasures.
It’s hard for me to believe that was almost 25 years ago. I’m still in touch with a few of the gamers from that early period, but most of them have gone on with their lives. I stopped gaming in high school for the most part – just not enough time between school and being a band geek. But once I got to college, I started gaming again with a vengeance. We played one day for 12 hours straight, with a 2 hour car chase in the middle of it for good measure. Yes, those were the good old days.
Somewhere along the way after college, I met a girl, got married, had children, moved around a bunch, and have only now settled back into a routine enough that I’m able to fit gaming into my schedule. I joined a group that’s been playing a campaign once a month for over a year now and am having a blast.
But we found ourselves discussing some things recently which led me to writing these articles. Mike, our GM, is running a campaign in a world loosely based on our own and we are in a Roman Empire-esque world where slavery is the norm. In the ancient world, and into nearly the modern day, slavery was just a part of life. Now we look at it and wonder how anyone could have owned a person as property, but throughout history it occurred again and again.
Even though we as members of the 21st century might be diametrically opposed to the idea of slavery, it’s very interesting to be playing characters in a world where it is the norm. My character was born into slavery and escaped as a youth, burning his own flesh to hide the brands of his master. He has a very different view of slavery than the other characters in the group, an Asian monk and a mage, who, at least until my character joined the group, had never really looked at slavery as anything other than life as usual.
My character has thrill-seeker issues and as an escaped slave has some definite opinions about slavery as being a “bad thing.” He was tasked with visiting a couple of slave markets to see if he could track down some people we’d been hired to find. He entered the market and couldn’t resist the urge to free some slaves. (I did try to roll a Willpower check, but it was no use – the dice were not cooperating.) He deliberately killed two guards and cut a rope to a free a group of slaves roped together, and had to kill a third guard to escape the area.
Now, do I condone slavery? No. Do I condone killing people? No. Does my character as a rogue and escaped slave condone both of these? You bet. But as an adult, that distinction is more easily made than if I was a child or even a college student.
We had a discussion about the fact that each of our characters would have a different stance on slavery. The mage, after hearing of my rogue’s actions, went to another slave market to check it out more closely, considering the ramifications of what slavery means to him. Eventually we will discover if the mage changed his mind about it or will turn my rogue in for the reward money. But that’s a decision that character has to make.
My own character has well thought out opinions on slavery. Slavery in general is bad. But it’s only evil for those who are not given the choice (either by actions or consequences) to be free or a slave. Criminals can serve their time as slaves to the state for the greater good to work off their debt to society. And there are those people who would choose a form of indentured servitude (just a fancy way of saying “temporary slave”) to work off a financial or some other perceived debt to a person or persons.
But those people born into slavery like himself should be given a choice to live free. It’s not like the idea of the “stain of sin” in Christian beliefs where you’re guilty until proven innocent. He escaped the bonds of slavery and hides that fact as well as he can to avoid suspicion. For, if caught, he would be returned to his former master and probably severely punished.
And it’s these philosophical and ethical decisions by our characters that I have to admit I find fascinating. We are adults and discussing philosophical changes in our characters and discussing those same topics as players and coming to different conclusions.
I wouldn’t have been able to do that in the 7th grade as I was killing goblins and contemplating killing Orcus on his home plane or listening to my friends talk about killing Tiamat and taking her treasure.
In college we played games like the Call of Chthulu and I recall one incident where my character went insane while holding a machine gun and managed to kill most of the rest of the party because they were evil. I think I laughed maniacally during that killing spree. But it wasn’t really discussed as anything other than part of the game. We laughed about it.
Now I feel I have the capacity to explore these characters at different levels and play them as well as I am able. And the fun doesn’t stop when the combat is over – the fun is in contemplating my character’s actions and consequences and finding out how the world will react to my little slave freeing spree.
I’m interested in hearing from other gamers, from all age groups, to hear what you think about. What excites you about gaming now as opposed to 5 years ago or 25 years ago?
Thanks for your time. Next time we’ll explore gaming as parents vs. as children. Take care