The Death of Gaming, or, The Loss of Wonder

If you read this blog you already have a sense of my inability to stay focused and how I blame this on a sort of “Gamer ADD’ that causes me to jump from one neatO idea to another in the flash of a moment (the so called ‘Bright Light!’ effect). I have been battling this for nearly twenty years, and finally today I think I may have come across the real reason for this.

First I need to back up a bit though and go back to why I play games. I have always played game because I have a high level of creative juices in me that always cause me to see a spot of inspiration and a moment later make me wonder “What if?” I have always considered this a boon, enabling me to run epic and great games with little effort that always seemed natural. I remember hours spent going through Dragon & Dungeon magazines, various modules, supplements, etc all for inspiration. In those days, that inspiration drove the game.

Today I believe I came across what changed.

Simply put, the answer, is me. I changed. I grew up, got a career (a serious one at that), a wife, children, and a host of other things that occupy my time. At one time I was among the crowd that claimed my gaming had changed, or had to rather, because of this, this lack of time. So powerful was this feeling that is directed me to other games, smaller and faster games. Instead of focusing my energies on having fun, I wasted myself on a search for the perfect system that enabled me to have fun with little or no investment of time or energy. Lord, I wasted too much time on this. I do not think that is the real answer. I have to accept the truth that I changed.

I no longer see the world the same way. I have lost my spark in the darkness, that little drop of divinity that causes me to believe in the possible, believe in the truth that if I believe it can happen, it can. Now, I am not speaking from a religious stand point, but more a philosophical one. This is more of viewing the world from a certain perspective.

As a younger me, I would see a painting, piece of art, a map of an amazing place, or a cool character portrait and think to myself “Yeah! I want to be him!” or “I want to go there!” I believed that I could go there, be that person, take part in the amazing feats of derring-do that he will perform. Sure, it was merely in my head, but it was a spark of creative imagination that literally DROVE my world. It caused me to believe there was more, there was an expanse out there left to be seen, left to explore.

So what made me come to this realization?

A website with some amazing art.

It used to be that I would look at artwork such as this and dream up crazy people and events to go along with the images, how the heroes (yes, I said heroes, we always played heroes, never bad guys with a murderous streak or guys with mental problems and daddy issues) would have to fight their way through the horde to get to the forces of darkness at the heart of the Black Chasm of Doom™ and destroy the black god’s heart that powers all the oppressive empire they sought to bring to its knees.

Or see a massive sky-reaching fortress that today lies in ruins and hints at a wealth of treasure for the group strong enough to brave its passageways and forgotten myths.. It has crushed many a man’s soul in the millennium it has stood as a testament of the resolve of its ancient masters, and as a symbol of man’s failure to right the wrongs of days of old.

See the crowded streets of a gigantic city filled with merchants from around the kingdom selling their wares to travelers from far off lands, the banners of the local lord flying high, and wondering what amazing sites lie just through those arches? A man strikes a formidable pose in the street, does he recognize the characters in the story?

She stands in the swamp, the creature before her, filled with an anguished love for the man he used to be, before the dark magics took him from man to monster ages ago. A young love lost to the marshes and to youth-filled misadventures gone wrong. Can the heroes turn her from evil and bring her love back to her before it rips their still-beating hearts from their chest?

The unholy army risen from the depths by the twisted mind of the magi, unyieldingly bent on the destruction of the innocent townspeople. Can the heroes be able to stand the onslaught of the hordes of hell? Only through their bravery and sacrifice will anyone see the morning sun.

The frozen city, once settled on the coast and then broken free in the massive battles of old, it now wanders about the sea, driven by the sailmasters and searching for warmer lands where the people can thrive.

How can one look at these images, or similar images and not be inspired? These are the things that used to drive me to a passion and push me to be creative.

Now, I see these and for a moment, I do see horizons that stretch on to great mountains filled with unexplored passages, creatures waiting in the shadows to strike down the faithful and true….

…and then it is all gone. The spark fades as quickly as it came and I am back to the real world. Why? Why can I not keep this fleeting inspiration and turn it into a driving force?

How do I get that back?

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6 thoughts on “The Death of Gaming, or, The Loss of Wonder

  1. I’m not sure you can. I think our brain only has so much capacity, and with work to do, a home to take care of, a wife and kids to tend to, and a huge array of other responsibilities in life, you know deep down inside that spending time and energy on thinking about something that doesn’t amount to much more than a game of make-believe could be better spent elsewhere on something more important.

    It’s the choices we made as grown ups. We chose to get married, to have family, to own a home, to have a steady job, etc. and we knew that choice meant sacrifices. It’s easy for us to forget why we made that choice to sacrifice some of those luxuries, but when something threatens to take away our jobs, our families, and our homes, we quickly remember how important they are to us with different reasons for each.

    It’s not a bad thing to have happened in one’s life. I simply think of it as having found a new hobby, and like any new stage in life, I do miss some of those things I used to enjoy, but that doesn’t mean not being able to enjoy them now is a bad thing.

  2. By the way, artwork like this is one aspect of WotC’s D&D v3.5 books that I miss. They did a great job with acquiring stellar artists who really sparked the imagination.

  3. I’m not sure it’s gone for good. But it has to be nurtured. I know for a fact that my sense of wonder is a bit stronger now than it was a few years ago (when both my kids weren’t sleeping through the night yet). Even now, I find that need to work on making quiet time for peaceful imagining. It’s sort of like keeping a regular fitness routine. It still hasn’t become habit, but it is starting to.

    *Sigh* I do remember when I didn’t have to work at it… I hate getting old and jaded.

    Thanks for the art link. Those are great images that now reside on my hard drive.

  4. I will say this: I am reading the book based on this game world called “Ghost of Ascalon” and I have to say that it really is getting my juices flowing. The world of this game (and novel) are very interesting and unique (it drops most of the elf/dwarf/hobbit conventions of most high fantasy literature and games). It, along with this awesome art, has very much gotten my mental juices flowing again and gotten me excited about gaming. That said, now I have to jump upon this…or I could lose the momentum again….

  5. Gaming is, was, and always will be a hobby I share with my friends. It’s great to relive old stories and make new ones. Gaming gave me a gift or curse, depending on how you look at it. Thanks to it, I have voices in my head and words that demand to be written. I can do all that outside of gaming but gaming made all of that possible.

    So I game now much the way others play cards. It’s a time to have fun and fellowship with my friends. It still feels like I’m stealing from my family when I game but I allow myself that sin. It helps keep me sane.

    Writing, on the other hand, is hard to stop. I can’t imagine not creating universes, characters, plots, and drama. Gaming just becomes the way that stuff spilled out. I’m a feeble writer but a good story teller so gaming is still my vehicle of choice for my creations.

    Keep the faith, Matt. It’s OK for the spark to dim and even mutate into something new but never let it go out.

    Cheers,
    Keith

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