Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A quick story

Have you ever met someone famous? Was it a good meeting? I would love to hear stories of your encounters. Please use the comments to share.


As a teenager I had a few odd jobs. Usually my job was 'be the cute white girl sitting at the front desk and answering the telephone'. For a few years though I did some office work at my father's store, bookkeeping and collections mostly. I loved helping out, and it gave me enough pocket money to buy tickets to some great summertime rock concerts. Good times.

My dad's place was in the village in New York City near Canal street, which was a half-hour walk from home.  Using my feet instead of taking the bus or the train gave me a chance to get some exercise, do some window shopping, and listen to some great tunes on my walkman.

One day I was zipping along my usual path; straight uptown on Broadway approaching the shoe stores that lined the avenue near St. Marks. A man was walking quickly toward me. He was crazy-pale white, wearing a grubby tee-shirt, a black jacket and tight black pants, which was fairly typical attire for 1988 in New York City.

He was walking so fast and I was going so fast that I only caught snippets of him, just tiny puzzle piece images. He was really skinny, I remember. I think I could have wrapped my hand around his ankles they were so small. As he passed me I caught a glimpse of long black hair draped sloppily over his face, a prominent nose, and a definite sway to his walk. It was more of a lope, actually, like his whole body went up and down as he took each long step; and he was moving along at a good clip on those teeny tiny legs.

Only after he passed me did the entire image of him come together in my mind, and I stopped. I know him. How do I know him? Who was that? Why do I know him? Was that...Joey Ramone?

I immediately started walking back downtown as fast as I could. "Was it really him?" I thought as I walked. Maybe it's not him. Maybe when I see him up close I'll see, it's definitely not him. He's moving fast, can I catch up to him? Should I be chasing him? All these thoughts came in a quick jumble as I tried to justify why I was now walking really fast away from home, trying to catch up to a guy who maybe, maybe was a member of the Ramones. "I have to know", I thought. I was literally running at this point and about to turn around, when all of a sudden there he was.

I scuttled up and said quickly (slightly out of breath), "Excuse me, are you Joey Ramone?", thinking again, "I have to know." He stopped. He looked at me, said, "Yeah" and I knew, I knew it when held his hand out, I knew it when I shook his hand, I knew it as I looked at his face behind his hair. I must have watched the movie Rock 'n Roll High School a dozen times in the past year, I was certain it was him. I shook his hand, he let go and slung himself away again. He was very quickly out of sight.

I stood there for a moment just letting the experience sit in my belly. Joey Ramone. He said "Yeah". Actually, the way he said "Yeah" was kind of like the rest of him, I reflected, long and drawn out with a bit of a twist in the middle.

I turned around and headed home, repeating the story in my mind so I could tell all my friends later; and now, I've told you. So I guess we're friends then. :)

Did you ever have one of those experiences that went exactly the way you wanted? Yeah, that was one of those times for me.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Getting into the gamer's mind Part II - The Magic Circle

Last night I spent an hour playing with my husband while the fireflies danced outside the window. We were playing Marvel Dice Masters, and I lost because I misread his defense, and I didn't have enough strong characters in my bag.

I've been called a gamer*, because I play games as an adult. I often play with groups of other gamers at events (such as “game day at the library”) or at conventions (Ubercon, GenCon, etc.). By going to these events I get to try new games, play old ones and generally just have a good time.

I find it interesting that no matter how often I go to these events, that I meet new people, spend hours and hours of time, and I don’t make friends. Well, actually I have made friends at these things but it’s rare; it only comes from extraordinary effort. Thinking back to my days in college, when I played games with a group for years and years, I hardly got to know anything about them. When I finally moved and stopped going, I never contacted any of them again.

I see here a dichotomy. On the one side I've seen groups of gamers who are the most welcoming and inclusive people I've ever met. At the gaming groups there are no judgments; it doesn't matter what I look like, no matter how I speak or how I act, pretty much everyone and anyone is welcome at the gaming table. On the other side; there’s not a lot of actual communication going on outside of the games, and it can be nearly impossible to make a connection with another person. I think this dichotomy relates to an idea that a friend told me about, the 'Magic Circle'.

When we play a game, we create a Magic Circle around the game. Actions are taken in the Circle, and there are no consequences outside of the Circle, as long as we follow the game rules. It’s called the Magic Circle because no matter how hard I ‘hit’ you and how many times you ‘kill’ me in the game, when we stop playing all of that hitting and killing is magically gone.

Also, when in the Magic Circle we are not ourselves. You and I cease to be the people we are, and instead become 'player 1' and 'player 2'. I can be mean, or I can be silly, or nice; I can pretend to be a queen or a vampire. Everything stays within the game.

Although I spend tons of time with these people, I'm not doing it as myself, and neither are the other players. Putting myself into the other gamer's shoes; if I'm sitting at the game table and a new person arrives (who I might make friends with) firstly, I have to remove all expectations of who they are based on how they look. This is because I want to get to know their ‘in game’ person, which could be completely different from the exterior person I see before me. I believe that's why we gamers can be so open; it's a necessary part of the gaming environment.

However, this also means that I'm not making efforts to get to know people outside of the game, outside of the Magic Circle.


I also know that the Magic Circle isn't always solid, because I see that we sometimes let our true selves show. Rivalries and grudges can and do carry from one game to the next. I've seen people flirt within the game, and I've seen people break up over games. Especially harsh behavior can be punished, as I once saw the host of an event kick out a girl who was counting cards and teasing others about their moves. This type of rejection was rare but it did happen. 

As I said I have made friends at these gaming events. Usually, though, the friendships are formed in-between the gameplay, at the snack table or near the coat rack. 

Do you play games? Have you ever wanted to go to a gaming group or play games with a group online? I definitely recommend it.

Happy Gaming,


*See part I, here.

tldr: Gamers are open and welcoming, but the limits of the gaming environment mean very little social interaction happens there.