For over a year now I have been living in other people’s spaces. Spaces that are devoid of my own personal things. I have with me some basics; clothing, computer, royal blue Snuggie and everything else, is somebody else’s stuff.
Its amazing what you learn by living in someone else’s space. Not only about them, but about yourself too.
In 2008 Rance and I had to move out of our apartment six weeks before the start of a contract job working on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.
With nowhere to go we made plans to sell off a great deal of our belongings, and put the rest of our stuff in storage. We talked about the idea of traveling for six weeks, which would have us spend money we were trying to save, or the possibility of going back to Portland, OR and spend that with our parents. Which had us both breaking out into a cold sweat.
And then thankfully our dear friend Rene came to our rescue. He offered us his guest room/office in his hip, cool condo for six weeks, rent-free while we waited for our contract with Second City to start.
Rance is in heaven. Not only because Rene is a great guy, he’s also a gaming geek. His condo is decked out with every electronic doo-dad a gamer dreams of owning. Huge flat-screen TV. stereo surround sound, Blue Ray DVD, Xbox, Wii, Rock Band with multiple instrument upgrades, and EVERY Xbox game Rance has ever wanted to play at his fingertips.
So this morning after Rene gets up early and leaves to go to his job that affords him all these wonderful toys. Rance gets up puts on his gaming sweats and sits on the couch to spend hours shooting snipers, fighting demons or playing electronic Uno.
Here’s the deal, if you have surround sound, you lose all sense of how loud and agitating the sound of gun-fire and a running footsteps and people dying can sound when you’re not involved in those activities.
To try and escape, I create a little corner in Rene’s guest room to read or work on my computer. Please note that “work on my computer” actually means check Facebook statuses regularly and search for reruns of Little People Big World on YouTube. We all have our coping mechanisms.
It’s in this room that my eyes are opened to a whole new world. There are multiple bookshelves filled to the brim with books like: “Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka”, “Star Wars Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine” “The Courtship of Princess Leia”, “Boba Fett: A Practical Man”, “Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition”, “Dungeon Master’s Guide: Core Rulebook II”, and “Tuesday’s with Morrie”.
I am clearly in a strange, new world.
What helps to get over any judgment I may have about all of this is that Rene is a really interesting, multi-faceted guy. He’s got an IT job he’s good at, he was in the air force, he skydives, he performs with and produces some of the best improv in the city, he loves to travel, his condo not only has the best electronics but he has great taste in art which is evident in his décor, and he would give you the shirt of his back if you needed it. So knowing all these other sides to this complex man help me to reconcile the library of geekdom.
And if I am to be completely truthful, I’ve always had a thing for geeks. Not that I want to live in their world of wizardry and make-believe, but even in high school I believed that it was the geeks who would ultimately have the last laugh and become the successes of our graduating class. I am also drawn to the kind of people geeks usually are: kind hearted, thoughtful, intelligent. They play enough games for entertainment that they don’t usually spend a lot of time playing them in their relationships. It’s when they get together and start talking about their passion for the game that I lose interest. I’m a realist and have always preferred dealing with actuality than fantasy.
Rance takes a break from playing Halo and I come out of the bedroom to the welcoming silence to make lunch and talk about what our respective mornings have been like, which lasts all of about 30 seconds. When Rance drops the bomb.
“Hey, some guys are going to come over tonight to play D & D”
“D & D, Dungeons and Dragons, you’re going to play Dungeons and Dragons here?”
I feel an undertow of anxiousness begin to build. I don’t have anywhere to go tonight. In fact I need to stay home and finish writing a piece I am working on.
“Why do you have to play it here?”
“Rene’s the Dungeon Master and he’s gathering everyone.”
Dungeon and Dragon’s here in this house, while I’m here. My breathing shallows. I’ve never had one ounce of desire to take part in a D & D game. In my conservative suburban upbringing, if D & D was mentioned it was quickly followed up by words like dark, sinister, evil a disturbing game played by troubled kids.
For me it conjures up images of glassy-eye guys, in dark basements, role playing with swords and eating babies. I mean there’s a dungeon master, and spells and dwarfs all of this points to something terrible.
I knew Rance had played D & D when he was younger I just really wanted to believe he had no interest in that sort of stuff now as a grown man with limited responsibilities.
“Do you have the right clothes, don’t you need a cape or something?” I asked in a desperate attempt to abort the event.
Rance burst out laughing, “A cape? What would I need a cape for?”
“I don’t know, isn’t that what you do? Fight each other with swords and twirl around in a cape while casting spells?
Rance doubles over in laughter and I join in reluctantly. I am sure at least some of my assumptions are based in fact. Why else would my parents and the rest of the Christian right be so up in arms over this game.? Clearly they had to know something.
So as the afternoon wore on, my anxiety grew. Rance discussed setup plans with Rene over the phone. Move the table, arrange the furniture, gather the snacks, darken the room, light the candles, assemble the torture devices, slaughter the goats. Yes, I had walked out of the room when the phone call started but I knew the plans they were making.
Rene gets home and the energy in the condo ignites. As Dungeon Master he clearly has a very important role and I watch him from my vantage point of the guest bedroom/office. He rushes into the room with an evil glint in his eye and a lust for blood, grabs a few aforementioned D & D books. The demonic powers are about to appear.
And then the first D & D gamers arrive. I stand in the hallway to get a good look and hopefully enough details of the evil-doers in case some serious shit goes down. In my mind they’ll be dark, gothic looking guys, wearing dark hooded cloaks to cover their tender pale flesh. So imagine my surprise when Neal one of the nicest, dare I say bubbly guys you’ll ever want to meet, walks in.
“Hey Deanna, it’s good to see you, you gonna play?”
“Uh, no”, I reply as I shuffle back to the guest bedroom. Trying to hide my confusion as my brain computes what I’m seeing with what I know is going to happen once the game begins. Neal’s here? I never would have taken him for one of those kind of guys.
Quickly the remaining players all show up and they toss around a light-hearted banter that seeps through the closed door to my room. And then I hear it, a sound that makes me tilt my head like a cocker spaniel trying to figure out his owner’s command. Wait, there it is again.…a woman’s voice. A woman? This does not fit into any imagery I’ve ever conjured of a D & D game. Does she play the role of some sort of token wench? Is she a virgin to be sacrificed? Is she supplying the baby? I come out of the room once again to say “Hi” and let them all know I’m in the spare bedroom. I’m hoping with the knowledge of me being in the house they’ll keep the evil down to a minimum.
What I see stops me in my tracks. I look into that room and am completely confounded. These are all people I know, and moreover I like them all! And the woman’s voice I had heard is the girlfriend of one of the guys now gathered around the table. The lights aren’t low, there are no candles, no torture devices, no goats. In fact if anything can be said they’ve got too many lights on, let’s save the earth people. There’s pretzels, chips and sodas and beers. They’re all laughing and clearly having a great time.
Dungeon Master Rene sits at the head of the table with a pile of books next to him. Now opened these books read more like technical manuals and how-to-references rather than evil scripture of destruction.
The best part though is that instead of whips, and weapons of torture, each of the players has in front of them what looks like a job application and grocery list. Dungeons and Dragons is a game of filling out forms!
And that’s when I lose it with laughter. All these years I really thought D & D was a dark and sinister game and in reality people who play are getting practiced and skilled at filling out a sheet that resembles a form 1040A.
So, for anyone out there who has children and you’re worrying because they play that disturbing game D & D you can stop. Geeks aren’t evil, or sinister or dark they’re just in training to become our future highly successful tax accountants.