Telling someone that you're a gamer says a lot about you, but are you sure it says what you think it does? I've said it when people ask me why I'm going to something like GenCon or PAX East, but if they don't know what those cons are then you still haven't explained anything. More than a few times when I've said I like gaming people have thought I have a fondness for slot machines and roulette. They'd be wrong because my game is craps and I'm terrible at it and only bet the smallest chips possible, but that's how I roll. Really, when I say I'm a gamer I'm talking about things like computer games, boardgames, and card games. People understand those things, but if you add in miniature wargaming, they may look at you funny. And if you say RPGs they may also take a step backward and hold up their fingers in the sign of The Cross. RPGs are the Third Rail of Gaming.
Although most everyone plays games like Candyland, Monopoly and Sorry as a kid, at some point games become something just for kids. We all go through that phase when we want to be seen as adults, even though we aren't, and the best way to do that is to cast off things from our childhood. That usually means getting rid of GI Joe and Barbie, ditching the coloring books and giving away the little kid games that fill our closets. Often things swing back in the other direction once we realize that games are still fun, and although you may never want to play Candyland again, you might play Scrabble and the occasional card game. This is about as far as most people go when it comes to reviving their childhood love of games, but for many the appreciation goes deeper. They start playing games that most people have never heard of like Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan. Pull these games out of the closet and most people are likely going to give them a try, but not so with RPGs.
Just mention that you play RPGs to your average adult and they're probably going to make some assumptions. You're a nerd. You're antisocial. You don't have a lot of friends and you live in your parent's basement. Oh, and you possibly worship Satan and may be a serial killer. I know, you think I'm joking but as someone who's played an RPG or two, I can tell you the reaction is not that far off. Dungeons and Dragons has been around for over 30 years and people still have ridiculous preconceptions about how you play. Players are pigeon-holed into a certain image and despite the fact that millions of people play, it's still seen as an anti-social anomaly by those that aren't familiar with the game. As a result, a lot of gamers don't like to say that they play RPGs and have become closet players. It's a dirty little secret.
A couple of good friends that I've known for years recently admitted that their co-workers don't know they play RPGs. They keep their Dungeons and Dragons games a secret because they don't want to be put in the "social outcast" box. Sadly, I think by hiding what they enjoy, they put themselves in that box all on their own. Here's my challenge to all of you. If you play RPGs, then tell people. If they look at you funny, then explain to them why they are wrong. RPGs are the third rail of gaming. That's where all the power is and it's about time players embraced that power instead of hiding it in a tattered box in the back of a closet.
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