Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Hobby of Gifts

As we near Thanksgiving my thoughts turn to the numerous aspects of my life for which I’m grateful: a supportive family and comfy home, the ability to pursue my work in the adventure gaming hobby, supportive online communities, my privileged place in the world as a white male American citizen. Throughout my life I’ve received many gifts, among them presents that started me off on and further inspired me on my journey through the adventure gaming hobby.

I wouldn’t have this level of involvement in gaming if it hadn’t been for one key gift which started it all. Back in junior high school I’d seen some neighborhood kids playing Basic Dungeons & Dragons and, lacking the game materials myself, went ahead and created my own very simple dungeon-delving game (Creatures & Caverns, the latest, refined iteration of which remains freely available on the internet). My parents – who always seemed to encourage their children’s varied and sometimes fleeting interests – bought me the Basic D&D boxed set (Moldvay edition) as an Easter gift that year...ironic considering the anti-D&D sentiments and accusations Satanism ran high in the early and mid 1980s. This one gift encouraged me down the adventure gaming path, not only as a player but as someone who spent the subsequent summer creating his own gaming materials for B/X D&D. Soon I was immersing myself in and drafting material for other roleplaying games and even designing my own admittedly rudimentary board and card games. My family continued fueling my gaming interests with occasional gifts: a copy of Avalon Hill’s Kingmaker, some D&D miniatures, paints, and adventure modules come to mind among the other numerous gifts that encouraged me throughout my youth.

My life experiences have shaped me personally and professionally, hopefully, I’d like to believe, into someone who has grown and continues to grow in positive ways. The encouragement from my family continued through my job at West End Games and subsequent other jobs while I freelanced and self-published; yet it’s part of a greater debt I owe to many teachers, professors, family, colleagues, friends, professional mentors, and gamers who have and continue to inspire me. Positive support means a lot to one’s self-esteem, especially when times seem tough, ideas don’t develop, or other real life distractions sap one’s creative abilities. Sure, sales of my game books or “tips” left for pay-what-you-want games help on a purely practical level, but I also find a great deal of encouragement from every fulfilling interaction I have with those who appreciate my work.

I’m thankful for the generosity of game-industry colleagues during my five-year tenure at West End Games and particularly in the time after that when I didn’t always seem to have a stash of popular roleplaying game product to offer in return. I managed to acquire many game books I wanted through trades at major gaming conventions: generous folks at R. Talsorian helped fill out my collection of Cyberpunk and Castle Falkenstein books; editors sent copies of reference material for freelance jobs, some of which I’ve kept because they engaged my interests; occasionally past colleagues remember me and send along some of their latest game materials; a friendly sales manager at Iron Crown Enterprises traded me a copy of the company’s boxed Lord of the Rings Adventure Game which inspired me in some of my approaches in designing the Star Wars Introductory Adventure Game. I’m always particularly flattered to receive gifts from people I heard from (and whose submissions I rejected) while I was editing at West End Games, creators who’ve gone on to produce excellent gaming material of their own, including Tim Callahan and his wonderful Crawljammer zine and James Spahn of White Star fame. I’m also incredibly thankful for the generosity of gaming friends I’ve known in real life and across the internet.

I’m grateful to see a more positive, gracious spirit among gamers on the internet. Sure, the internet still teems with those who gleefully infect interactions with their hateful opinions and feed off that malicious turmoil; but I’ve tried to focus my perspective on gamers with more positive attitudes and tried to remain more positive myself. I see a spirit of generosity – and have benefited from it myself – in the numerous giveaway raffles I’ve seen online. I’ve occasionally benefited from these (and some charity raffles at conventions), adding interesting bits to my collections and exposing me to games I otherwise would not have explored on my own.

I’m thankful for gifts that aren’t personally meant for me yet from which I still benefit...the vast sea of free game materials available across the internet. Yes, the quality varies and the usefulness depends on one’s personal gaming tastes; but enough free gaming supplements, settings, rules, and even print-and-play board games exist to keep a gamer busy for years without spending a dime (though I also advocate supporting other games and creators with your purchases). Gracious creators take the time and effort to make materials to enhance people’s game experiences and give it away. I’m thankful to see this kind of celebration of gamer community and creator talent.

I have over the years tried to cultivate a more generous spirit of game giving, though it never quite seems enough considering the great number and quality of gifts I’ve received over the years. As we approach the Thanksgiving season I encourage readers to find ways to express their gratefulness for the gifts in their own lives, manifesting their thanks in positive actions to enhance the lives of others, especially those who are not so fortunate.


Want to share your opinion? Start a civilized discussion? Share a link to this blog entry on Google+ and tag me (+Peter Schweighofer) to comment.