Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Colossal Waste of Time?

Sometime back, I listened to a podcast from All Games Considered on old school gaming. It was pretty interesting and went far to validate a lot of things about the hobby I knew about or suspected that I knew about. Listening to these podcasts also works for me as it makes my daily morning exercise walks a great deal less monotonous - not to mention lifting my spirits as I seem to have to be reminded periodically that I am not alone in my interest in this hobby and a big community of awfully decent and intelligent people out there share all of this with me.

A line from one of the speakers caught my attention at that time, specifically her remark that she entered the hobby relatively late in life on account of her father's adamant belief that role playing games were a 'colossal waste of time'.

Hearing this brought a smile to my lips as many of the people I grew up with shared this belief. For the record, I think they still do to this date- they just learned to watch their mouths more carefully in my presence.

Speaking for myself though, I can't deny how this interest in role playing games went far to help me out in real life.

I can't exactly remember if it was during one summer break in the eighties, late in high school when, finding myself doing nothing at home, I decided to leaf through the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. Eventually, I found myself reading up on waterborne adventures and various sea travel/combat rules none of us ever used before. While none of our gaming group really applied any of these rules, this suddenly got me interested in the peculiarities of maritime travel. Before the week was out, I started reading up on the concepts of longitude, latitude, knots, and other peculiar terms such as starboard, port, fore and aft.

I didn't think much of this at that time and just added all this to what others tended to dismiss as othewise useless bits of interesting trivia I tended to accumulate in my brain.

Fast forward to the nineties, a year after graduation and I land my first job in a firm which handled, amongst others, maritime litigation. One day, the partner-in-charge is giving me a rundown on the nature of the cases I'll be assisting him from here on. He gets to the part about Safety Of Life At Sea, charts and distances.

"Oh you mean nautical miles," I answer, getting on with the discussion. I could see he was pleased as he didn't have to spend so much time lecturing all these all over again to the newbie.

When we got to collisions and allisions, it was my turn to say, "Oh right, the starboard side of the vessel, not the port side."

I guess it was the right thing to say as he looked quite pleased and asked me 'how I knew all this stuff.' At that time, I felt that maybe it was going to be alright working in that firm.

Happily, it worked out for all of us- and it was alright.

The point I'm driving at here is that this interst of ours in gaming opens doors for many of us into a wider and more vibrant world - and many times, we don't know it has happened, until after the fact. I firmly believe that no experience, no matter how trivial is wasted in this life. Everything happens for a reason - the reason just manifests itself to us when the time and circumstances are right.

Taking the time to read up, prepare for and attend games does take up blocks of time from our already hectic lives. This said, I can't say this is all a waste of time. At the very least, the experience of hanging out and gaming with people you consider your friends is always a welcome activity which goes far to regenerate one's spirits and renew one's strength- thereby enabling one to cope with the ever-present pressures in life. If I could put the good I get from gaming in a bottle and market it to the world at large, I wager I'll make myself a crapload of money to enable myself to retire in style.

So in the face of the oft-repeated belief that this gaming life of ours is a colossal waste of time, I say: Game On! I'm a Gamer and I'm proud of it! My kids will be gamers too and I'll be proud of them as well.

I'm sure you all have similar stories where your experiences in role playing games have served you in good stead in the real world and served to advance you in 'real life'.

If so, I'd sure like to hear them.

By the way (I almost forgot this)- that podcast from AGC I linked to above also includes an interesting review of Mutant Future too!


  1. Wow, I was just posting about my experience listening to a TTC lecture about medieval history and how it helped me understand socio-economics. Its like there is some subconscious feed back loop going on :D.

  2. ...and when my co-workers talk about spending their entire evening watching crap like Dancing with the Stars and American Idol, I can't help but wonder who is really wasting their time...

  3. @Nikolas: real strange dude. Maybe it's some sort of affinity or telephathy. This is like the third time it's happened?

    @Ryan: so true. I share your thoughts on this one. Same thing happens to me everyday as well.

  4. Rob Kuntz (Lord of the Green Dragons blog), others, and I were discussing the very same thing recently.

    I'm glad I found your blog. :)

  5. Thank you Timeshadows, hearing that seems to confirm that we gamers have a lot of shared concerns on this matter. :)

  6. Great post. I turned back to tabletop gaming when I felt that computer/console gaming was too alienating. I missed my friends! I value my game time highly, and I feel fortunate that my wife and daughter are supportive of my hobby (and sometimes participate!)

  7. man, rpg's (at least for my friends and i) gave us a leg up on the other kids - extra math problems, learning to study and understand maps, writing... all encouraged by the games we played. not to mention art! as an adult, there are so many other things one could do as a past time which are more expensive, less creative, and more time "wasting" than any rpg could deliver! not to mention the psycho-therapeutic and social aspects of playing. like the last commenter here, i've actually returned to gaming after (among other things) re-realizing how alienating computer gaming is. I've a lot of friends who are addicted to computer gaming but yet would quickly judge our hobby as silly and wasteful - crazy.

  8. @Anarkeith- yes, computer/console gaming can be loads of fun but the social aspect of tabletop gaming (particularly when done with people you consider your friends) can never be beat. My hat's off to your wife and daughter - you are a fortunate man to have loved ones who support (and even participate!) in our hobby.

  9. @ze bulette- How I envy you (I've always been math-challenged, no matter how I tried). But yes, I agree wholeheartedly - the hobby fosters a learning attitude in kids and this really helps later on in life. I can also say the same thing for many adults I know here and elsewhere - I guess it is very easy to point fingers at rpg players but just take one look at how THEY themselves spend their time.... and all you are tempted to do is smile and shake your head wonderingly. :)