Origin Story

My Gamer Origin Story - taken from LJ, Dec 2008

I started Gaming in 1999. I would love to pretend like i've got some kind of backup history about myself, ready to reveal why my life was filled with storygames before that. But that's just insecurity. In the end i've got to face up to the facts about my own 'geek cred.' The truth is i haven't been a Gamer all that long. We live in a world that seems to value Ethos above all else. My opinions are scrutinized before i finish forming them. My words are considered questionable before i've put them to page. And i'm sure a lot of that stems from the fact that most of the people i adore as Storytellers where there when i first started Gaming. They were the ones that introduced me to it. Count into that the fact that a massive amount of the artform is defined by the online world, which i lurked in but never had the mind to put my name into, and it becomes obvious that the traditional authority derived from presence and a body of work doesn't back me up. As such, i'm forever just a fanboy. An alchemist homebrewing group-specific systems. A hobbyist.

But a Quest is a Quest. And somewhere in the blur of the Early Two-Thousands i decided i loved it too much to quit. I loved it so much, in fact, that i began an illicit affair with Gaming, behind the back of my first love, Writing. To this day i'm not sure which relationship will hold out to become the love of my life. I know that being a good Writer means being a good reader. And being a good reader means taking time to actually read. Meanwhile this new flirt, Gaming, is easy to hang out with. Easy to find time for.

But that's the funny thing about Gaming. The weird paradox about the whole scene, the whole romance. It's welcoming, but selective. Profound, but limited in the ability to reach people.

I left several homes in an attempt to say goodbye. This process took me five years, drifting from Texas, to Arkansas, to Missouri, to Oklahoma. There and back again. I was working out my own wounds the entire time, and Gaming made that possible. I was also bolstering myself, trying to earn up enough experience to be able to say 'goodbye' and not be empty from it. I thought i'd learned how to do it growing up in a divorced home. But in truth i never learned how to say goodbye. I learned how to say "see you later." Only in that 'later' did i realize that some people don't come back around.

So five years was actually pretty quick for me. I could have taken longer. I still keep up with a lot of these people. Some of which will be vacation friends until the day i die. But it was hard. And that took time. And as such i was very late getting to my Emerald City. My first allies, those who had raised me and gone before me, had stopped anticipating my arrival.

But I did arrive. After learning about games while living in many hold-out shelters, i finally threw as much as my valiant steed, Betsy, could keep in her back seat and trunk, and i drove one long road to my current home.

And here's the thing: I was doing it all on one big Quest. I came to Seattle to write, to draw, and to create games. And just like when i first started putting ideas on the markerboard with Haakon back in '04, i was doing it all with a lot of mistakes already rattling around in my head.

I made a lot of assumptions. I started working on a system for a game called Alterscape. It's the second oldest game i've got. And it's pretty much all derived from a work that's nothing but a bad cobbling together of the parts i gutted and reverse engineered from White Wolf's Storyteller system. It's still a bad system, for the most part. It only works because i animate it, like a lazy Dr. Frankenstein trying to get away with puppeteering. And the hard part to admit is, i started out thinking, "Okay, this tryst with Gaming…it's a phase. I'll bang out a game, a good one, and then move on. Go back to those Novels i keep swearing to put out." I thought it would be easy, compared to writing. I thought i could get it done in a month or so.

That was the summer of '04. Only last summer did i solve enough of my Alterscape puzzles to feel i've got a good enough Setting & System to call it a "Beta Test Version." True art takes time. I just have to believe that. Even when Hemingway hits a home run by cracking out another prize-winner over a weekend, there's some part of me that holds faith his heart was harboring those words for decades prior to the forging of the first page.

So i started out saying goodbye, because i had friends i knew could help me. Friends that claimed they had found Geek Mecca.

But further mistakes had to be made. I had assumptions about D20 that sparked this thought process, assumptions i've abandoned at the game table with Hans Andersen. Old feelings reimagined after reading this. I had theories about the nature of systems that were altered when i realized i'd gone from being Chaotic/Good to Neutral/Good. An epiphany helped along by my guru Jayson, Dork Lord of Geekerz.

But in the last few days i've been thinking a lot. Hard darkness seems to collect like a halo of cigarette smoke around me when i'm trying to sleep at night, big quiet nothing asking tough questions. What have i got to offer? What if i've already met the half-dozen people that like my games? What if they don't actually even like my games, they just like me?

The big truth is i'm not doing this because of the addiction. I'm not doing it because i'm a fanboy. I'm doing it because some of the hardest weights i've carried became lighter after learning from the stories i told and played in Games. In the end, i'm searching, striving, hoping…to make the world a better place. And in Gaming i realized: Fiction teaches us more than Fact.

We immediately throw out Hypotheticals when we argue. We toss around examples of a would-be reality. People single-player role-play every day, every time they have an argument, a debate, or stretch their imagination to discuss a situation or problem or person. "What if Jenny came to work wearing that dress?" "What if the new line doesn't ship until next week?" "What are you going to say if she notices?" Our imagination is derived from our experience. Our experience is guided by our imagination.

And then there's the fact that i'm a Star Wars nerd. And i'm a LotR Nerd. I'm a friggin' comic book Nerd. My Mom sighs and puts up the Christmas ornament on the tree every year with a picture of my 5 year old face and the words i'd chosen to etch at the bottom in yule tide cheer: "I want to be Luke Skywalker when i grow up!" I still sing the Rankin&Bass syntho-stupid pop-version of Tolkien poetry. I went to bible college, and wrote in my Bible next to Luke 12:48 "With Great Power comes Great Responsibility."

And it all started back in 1999.

One semester into college a guy tells me he wants to me to play pretend with a group of guys. He wants me to be the true descendant of Elric of Melniboné in a campaign of Stormbringer. I'd spent the first half of my life tearing up personal property on accident because i'd been too immersed in my own imagination to take obvious precautions. I'd done Duet Improv all through High School with my best friend, Smokie. And now i was asked to do something i felt i was born to do. My first Game. I had three 'first GMs.' Each of them rolled a different world, a different tale. Stormbringer, Hunter: the Reckoning, and GURPS. And things took off from there.

In Montana, my oldest and truest home, i ran a homebrew game with the White Wolf system called The Dreamlands. It started out in Oklahoma, with a group of tremendous friends. I learned to GM with those wonderful guys. And with that training i went to the woods in the Rocky Mountains where i ran my first successful campaign, start to finish. I had joined the homebrew faction of fiction. To this day it's what i believe in. It's that part of me that says i'm not just competent, i'm actually good at what i do. And it confirmed for me that i must do this. That i was truly pulled in. That same summer i started imagining the Alterscape as a serious dream. And i made final plans to begin my goodbyes, so that i could drive to Seattle, Washington. So i could get to my Emerald City.

I fought with the OGL explosion along the way. I fought with the rise of VideoGamers. I fought with a struggle to be faithful to Fiction while wasting all my hours at RPGs. I fought with Gamer stereotypes. I even fought with anti-Gamer sentiments (I was once actually kicked out of a diner in my hometown because they didn’t serve our kind, no joke). At that point i had to get out of my old soil, i had to uproot. I had to go where others were like me. I had to go where my thoughts could be responded to.

And with any luck, i will learn what i must, and i will achieve what i can only hope i’m capable of. I will finally do something that’s worth my being around. I will finally give back to a world that has given me so much. This is how i can do that, i believe that. I believe in the potential, nothe Magicof telling stories. It's all i've got to offer, really. I'm not good at anything else. And for that i'm willing to give it what i can, with heart, and with perseverance.

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