Gamers make geekiness a good thing

VICTORIA (CUP) – Some people have never heard the phrases "roll for initiative" or "attack of opportunity" before, and they'd probably be confused if someone asked how many ranks they had in Spot.

For others, phrases like this make up a vocabulary they know all too well – one that's been part of what they do, and also a part of how they keep themselves sane when the trials and tribulations of everyday life come a-knockin'. They're gamers. More specifically, they're role-playing gamers.

Role-playing games (RPGs) allow players to each control a single character, made using the game's rules. They speak for them, describe their actions and make dice rolls to determine their outcome. Another player, called the game master (GM), controls the setting and support characters, as well as villains and enemies, describing the events of the fantasy world.

Gamers come from all walks of life, and many get into the hobby by accident.

"It's something I found in a bookstore on vacation when I was younger," says Jesse Cowell, a writing and theatre student at the University of Victoria (UVic). Cowell was drawn to gaming as an outlet for his interest in storytelling. "I'd sort of been making stuff up for a long time," he says.

Despite an interest and passion for gaming, a lot of players are reluctant to bring up their hobby with friends and family, for fear of ridicule and embarrassment. Cowell recalls a time in acting class when the subject came up.

"All but one or two people laughed. No one likes to feel like that. No one likes that feeling of derision," he says.

Carson Upton, a graduate of Victoria-based Camosun College’s computer engineering program, found his RPG hobby was with disapproval from his family.

"My parents both used to be pretty conservative Christians," recalls Upton. "There was a time when [RPG Dungeons & Dragons] had a bad reputation, and my parents were being told that it was somehow evil, and would lead to things like Satan worship. They never really tried to stop me, but they didn't approve. They're okay with it now, though I doubt they'd ever give it a try or anything."

Despite the criticism they find along the way, neither Cowell nor Upton regret what they do.

"It's my hobby. I sort of make of a point of it," says Cowell. "When I make friends, I say, 'I'm a gamer. Is there gonna be a thing with that?'"

Upton says he’s "always sort of reveled in the geekiness" of gaming.

Like most hobbies, real-life gaming isn't free. With rulebooks costing upwards of $30 or $40 a pop, it can start to add up. Upton says over the course of his gaming career he's probably spent around $1000 on books, as well as thousands more on trips to various gaming conventions.

Similarly, Cowell, over the course of the last six or seven years, says he's spent close to $10,000 on rulebooks and other gaming paraphernalia.

"Let me put it this way. I don't drink, and I don't have a car," says Cowell. "This is where I spend a lot of my money. Sometimes I'll buy a game to read it, even though I know I'll never play it."

For a lot of gamers, RPGs are an easy and enjoyable way of spending time with their friends.

"When enough people hang out and do this it becomes the default social activity,' says Cowell. "You can spend eight hours gaming, but not all of it's [for the game]. A lot of it is other social interaction, like hanging out and eating."

Despite the social stigma attached to gaming, gaming communities continue to grow. Upton co-founded the Vancouver Island Gaming Guild in 2003 with a group of friends as a way of helping gamers network.

"Geeks accept other geeks," says Upton.

Once the reputations, myths, and misconceptions are stripped away, role-playing games are just that: games.

"RPGs are my social activity of choice," says Upton. "They let me get together with my friends and we work together to create a story."

//Shawn O'Hara
Nexus (Camosun College)

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: