Monday, December 30, 2019

Auld Lang Syne 2019

          Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
          and never thought upon;
          The flames of Love extinguished,
          and fully past and gone:
          Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
          that loving Breast of thine;
          That thou canst never once reflect
          On old long syne.

At this time of year we naturally look back on the past months and even the past years at what has occurred in our lives and the world, at our gains and losses. We particularly remember what no longer exists among us beyond memories, to enable the spirits of these things to live on by various acts of commemoration.

Humans forge their own significance to their individual lives, their families, their communities, and even larger entities. Our perceptions and meanings form our realities; this affects the scope of our commemorations of things past. For some their awareness reaches only a little beyond the mass media’s tedious reflections at this time of year, beginning even before the yuletide holidays with constant lists of those who passed in the last year or, worse yet, annoyingly ubiquitous “Top 10 of the Decade” lists for every subject imaginable. The flood of such easy content can overwhelm us, distracting us from more pressing news and dire action.

Those with passionate causes – and here I’m talking about fans, gamers, and others with a greater focus – acknowledge those in the mass media lists but make room in their hearts for those who personally brought joy, inspiration, wonder, happiness, and contentment into their lives. Foremost among these are our reminiscences of those influential people who have returned to the basic core elements of the universe from whence they originally sprang. These have been trying times for Star Wars fans, as many of the original cast members pass on: Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca, in April 2019; Kenny Baker, the man inside R2-D2 (August 2016); and, of course, Carrie Fisher in December 2016. We commemorate their contributions to our lives with every viewing of their films, every time we read a Star Wars novel, play a Star Wars Roleplaying Game scenario, launch our X-wing miniatures, or otherwise revel in their galaxy far, far away.

I recall several authors I admire and still read from time to time. Even though she passed away long ago in 2013, I still regret the loss of Barbara Mertz, better known as Elizabeth Peters, author of the popular Egyptian-themed Amelia Peabody mysteries that now occupy a place on my list of books I read again every few years. More recently, in February 2019, we lost William Edmund Butterworth III, known as WEB Griffin, the author of what I jokingly call the “trashy OSS novels” I also enjoy reading every few years, wonderful escapist literature set in World War II.

We honor the gaming luminaries who have passed in recent and even distant memory, from the triumvirate of Gygax, Arneson, and Barker, to Greg Stafford in October 2018 and Rick Loomis just this past year. I raise a glass to other friends and gamers who have left us over the years: Andrew Sewell, Aaron Allston, Leslie Luminati, James A. Smith, Jr., yes, even Lee Garvin, who no doubt carried at least a grudge against me to his final, unfortunate days. Their memories live on at our gaming tables, when we sit down to create new adventures and settings, and when we find enjoyment in our adventure gaming hobbies.

We don’t simply commemorate influential people we’ve lost, but important cornerstones of our lives at both the societal level and in our own more narrowly focused perspectives.

I mourn what I fear is a permanent loss of general civility in our society during the past few years. The interwebzes certainly haven’t helped, but other factors I dare not mention have also hastened this decline (I’d just as soon call out Hastur’s name three times than mention such things in a public, online venue such as this). This incivility even fractures our gaming communities. It’s not easy to cast aside our tribal affiliations and open our hearts to at least being tolerant of other views, let alone accepting of them...and even finding the courage to stand up to those who continue fueling the hatred fracturing our society.

For me one of the greatest losses of this past year occurred when Google Plus shut down, evicting many vibrant, engaging game communities, fragmenting them as their members sought refuge among dispersed, lesser-suited social media platforms. Was Google Plus the perfect social media platform? Of course not. But it came closest to a place where different gaming and geek communities could come together – certainly not without their share of drama – and test new ideas, share contacts, and, for the most part, and certainly mine, enrich our collective experience in the adventure gaming hobby. Nothing I’ve seen has come close to replacing this loss: not an expansion of the blogs I read; not my limited interaction on MeWe and even less on Facebook; not my own limited return to blogging. I’ve managed to find some positive and fulfilling interaction elsewhere online, but it pales in comparison to the satisfaction I used to find engaging with others on Google Plus.

Certainly we should give thanks for the many positive things 2019 brought us. They remain too many for me to list, though dominated by my wonderful family, economic stability, and the ability to remain as minimally active in the adventure gaming hobby as I am able. Star Wars fans can celebrate not only the conclusion of the Skywalker saga with the ninth installment of the core-canon films, but new offerings such as The Mandalorian continuing to fuel our enthusiasm for that universe far, far away. We’ve seen the release of some excellent games across the many genres within the adventure gaming hobby, with the promise of more on the way in the near future. The coming year holds opportunities for us to expand and reinforce our gaming connections, whether at the gaming table, at conventions and game stores, or even in online engagement over the interwebzes.

Let us all take a moment to reflect on what is now past, both in 2019 and in the years before. Raise a cup in a toast, speak their names in honor, and tell their stories that their spirits might live on in our memories. Let the inspiration of their time here in our lives drive us to greater, kinder deeds in the new year and the years ahead.

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