Thursday, March 28, 2019

My Closest Friends are the Ones I've Gamed With...Here's Why

Salutations, my curious congregation. There's been a lot of talk floating around twitter about gate keeping and women in gaming, and I have a guess there was a specific incident behind it that we're not going to talk about or give any more press to here. Needless to say it was a shitgibbon throwing feces and the internet, in its infinite wisdom, saw fit to engage.

I don't. I'm not here to talk about that. But a lot of the people I'm talking about as I write this are women and many of them I never would have met without tabletop. And honestly, I feel blessed. These are people that I'd bend over backwards and stick my neck out for and many of them I haven't even met in meat space.

So what is it that makes people so willing to stick together with the people they've rolled dice with? I have some thoughts about that.

Content Warning: As always, a healthy dose of irreverence. Probably some swearing (I say fuck a lot). Radical ideas about women being people and enjoying the shapes of plastic that determine your life and death in a world your friend Bob made up. Could cause itching and double vision, but I haven't done any studies on it and I'm not going to. Also, brief mention of sexual assault in the vaguest of contexts.

There was a brief period of time in my life a few years back where my friends weren't speaking to me and I had yet to get new friends and it was just me and my partner in our isolation. It wasn't great. I knew there was something missing and felt it to my core. Bitches, you should always know who your party is, and I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do.

I got depressed. I didn't want to roll my ass out of bed to do mundane things. It hurt, because I trusted these people to have my back and they didn't. There's a special corner of hell reserved for those who betray their adventuring party.

Never Split the Party

So let's talk about what makes the party so god damn important.

Everybody wants a safety net. You want to feel secure. You want "your people" and to know they have your back. And yeah, a lot of us are married or seeing someone, but it's seriously not healthy to put every need you have on just one other person. That's a romantic idea, but it's also stupid.

It seems perfectly logical that one person can carry one person's baggage, right? Those numbers add up? Except they don't, because your SO probably has as much baggage as you do, and they aren't always (or ever) going to have all the same baggage you do and thus aren't likely to know how to help you when you hit a snag that they haven't dealt with personally.

Prepare yourselves, I'm about to hit you with a radical concept.

That's what friends are for.

And you know what, it's pretty great to have a lot of them. I have friends that I'm comfortable going and talking to about my history with abuse because I know they've been there and stand with me on that shit. I have friends that I go to when I'm enthused with something LGBTQ+ related. I have friends I go to when I'm angry about my fandoms, or when something new is coming out, and friends I go to  to reminisce about shared history that my partner just wasn't a part of.

Lives are complicated. That is why you have the party. Listen, bitches, the rogue isn't going to talk to the paladin about all the crimes they do. Most paladins just aren't going to get it. And don't you go tweeting me with '#notallpaladins', you have a reputation for being babysitters and you know it.

And aside from that it isn't fair to put all of your problems on just one person unless that person is your therapist and you are paying them. Because, another shocker; some people just aren't going to care about all your trauma minutiae. Save that shit for someone who has a stake in it. Or scream it into the void. I don't care, just handle it.

So The Party. Really fucking important. When you share trauma with someone, it makes you closer to that person through that shared trauma. Which leads me into my next point.

How the Mind Experiences Fiction

What would you say if I told you that when you watch TV, your brain isn't experiencing you watching someone else do something, it's experiencing it as if that thing were happening to you? That's true of reading and video games as well. We imprint hard on these characters. Don't believe me? Consult the experts.

It's no small wonder then, that we have a tendency to internalize our gaming the same way. When you have a good dungeon master it doesn't feel like sitting in a dank basement eating cheetos and drinking mountain dew, it feels like actually bringing the ring to fucking Mordor.

Maybe you did all this from the safety and comfort of your own home or your friend's home, but to your brain there is no discernible difference. On a side note, all you asslords that try to argue "it's just a game" for not session zeroing and then bringing sexual assault content or torture or whatever it is that's bothering your players into your game anyway, need to pay attention to this part. It's not and never was 'just a game'; get your head out of your rectum.

So your brain feels like you really went on an adventure with your friends. So what?

Danger as a Bonding Agent

When you're in danger, you get adrenaline and all these other chemicals that make your brain remember it. That is why people are more likely to pick out images of spiders and snakes in a flashing image cluster than an umbrella or a puppy dog. Fear makes you remember shit for your own safety later. It makes you imprint on things.

That is your primitive monkey brain going "oh shit this is dangerous, don't forget it, we might need it for posterity". It photographs the moment. The people around you in it. You just fought an asston of massive, axe-swinging, pillaging orcs? You're not gonna forget the people that were with you when it happened. And the higher the stakes, the tighter that bond will be.

And as we just discussed, my odd little darlings, facing down that dragon feels pretty god damn real in the moment. So you imprint on your comrades. You face a dragon with a bitch? You trust her to have your back in a dungeon? You'll trust her to have your back anywhere else.

After all, you already know how to plan for the worst case scenario together. You've been there, and seen it.

Sisters in Arms

There are some bad ass bitches I have never met in real life that I consider to be real friends of mine. Jen from Pixelscapes, Gina, Elyunn, Sam and Vex are people that I still regularly think about and talk to even now that Scarlet Sisterhood has ended, because we weathered a long campaign together and all of those memories are good ones. Even the stressful ones.

They've had my back in the dungeon. I know I can trust them out of it, too. And I have a metric fuckton of other examples like them. When you have a good Dungeon Master, and high stakes, and a long enough campaign to really gel with the people you're working with, it transcends hanging out at the bar.

Hell, that's how I met my spouse. At the gaming table.

I cannot endorse gaming with your friends enough. You want to get closer to someone? Find out who they are in the dungeon.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

P.S. I'm an author and I need to eat so I'm going to try to sell you stuff now. Have you checked out Torchlighters, yet? It's about a crime family in 1920's Mistriev, a world in which everything is powered by summoning demons or siphoning from them. If you're looking for a fun adventure with crime and drama and an imp that extorts people for caramel candies, this is the book for you and you should totally check it out, nerds.

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