I have been thinking about role-playing a lot.
Not the kind where you pretend to be a nurse or a doctor so your significant other can feel turned on.
I’m talking about tabletop (pen and paper) role-playing games, multi-player role-playing electronic games, and single-player games. You know, the kind where you roll dice, and pretend to be heroes or villains in a world you have never heard of. The kind where you need to level-up to defeat the Troll King.
In my soon-to-be-released novella, The List of Five, a table top role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, takes center stage in the characters lives. I played these games and many others in my youth and early adulthood. Heck, I still wish I played. So I was wondering why. What was the appeal, for me? What is the appeal for others?
I got my answer yesterday. At least for me.
For many, role-playing is a creative outlet. It’s a way to release the creative energy that is bound up in every one of us. Like sports. Like writing. Like acting. It releases in us our desire to create. It’s unfortunate that many creative-types get made fun of for being creative. It never happens that way for sports…but that subject is for another time.
It’s through pretending to be someone else, in an environment that is far from real-life, that role-players can explore areas of life that get ignored in the life we live. Subjects like heroism, good and evil, patriotism, and how to relate to the world are explored in a typical game.
For others, role-playing is a way to get together with people who love things as much as them. Wil Wheaton spoke of this elegantly at Comic-con. Yet, even Comic-con is a way for these people to get together and express how much they like something. Like someone at a football game, screaming for their favorite team, role-players have a desire to express their fandom too.
But the reason I did it, the reason I role-played, was different than this. I got hit with it full on yesterday.
Some people role-play to escape the world.
I suspect more people do it for this reason that not.
I role-played because in those characters I found heroics. I wasn’t heroic. I got chased by three guys who wanted to beat the hell out of me for being different. They hated me because…well, for no real good reason. They just didn’t like me.
I role-played because my step-father was an abusive man who hated the creative side of me. He hated Star Wars, he hated Dungeons and Dragons, he hated that I loved to read and could spend long periods of time doing it. Because he hated those things and was very vocal about it, and those things were ME, I also figured he hated me.
I felt hopeless for much of my life.
I role-played to go somewhere else, where I had a little power.
Yesterday morning, someone tried to break into our house by force. The person or people tried to kick in the door and invade our house. I was in the living room at the time. When they couldn’t get in, they threw two rocks through our window. It was terrifying, but no one was hurt.
We were blessed not to endure anything but a broken door frame and windows.
But right then and for the rest of the day, all I wanted to do was run away. I was taken back to those days as a young teen when all I wanted to do was fight or run. I guess we all feel that way once in a while. I've never been 100% comfortable with the world. I've learned to function in it, but was having a hard time understanding why, if I stay out of everyone's face, they would feel the desire to get in mine.
Right then, I wished that I could run into one of those games and fight.
For those of you who have a creative outlet, writing, role-playing, acting, painting, sculpting, drawing, or anything else I’m not mentioning, keep reaching for what you love. Keep reaching for the kinds of things that you love. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s stupid or geeky.
And for God’s sake, don’t let the world suck the goodness out of your life.