“She never felt like she belonged anywhere, except for when she was lying on her bed, pretending to be somewhere else.” ― Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor and Park.

I stumbled upon this quote while looking for something frightfully literate to start off this post. Something that would make me look smart and erudite. This quote, however, struck to the heart of why role playing games have been the center of my creative and social life, and why I had such a love of movies — and by that I mean bicycling to the theater and seeing a film on the big screen — as a kid: I never really felt like me, never felt like I belonged anywhere, in real life.

When I was in my friends’ basements sharing a communal daydream of being spies, or superheroes, or heroes on an epic quest to kill monsters and nick their stuff, or roaming the galaxy I was me. But me was never really me. Working, going to school, serving in the military, all that stuff — I was an imposter. The real me was waiting to explore and survive dangers in a host of settings. I could let out my inner Walter Mitty, my Baron Munchausen, between the time the game session started and ended.

Even today, much older, well traveled, and remarkably — still alive and mostly sane — I sometimes feel like a fraud because the real me is waiting for Nerd Night…when I get to be all the real mes hidden inside.

“A great book is an hallucinated IMAX film for one.” — Derek Thompson, Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. And a good roleplaying session is the same thing. It’s a communal daydream. You all dream the same story, you all get to see the same movie, but it’s made by different directors, and while the basics of the play are the same for all, the minutiae, the special effects, the details — these are all personal.

“There is such a place as fairyland—but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.”  ― Lucy Maud Montgomery

That’s gaming.

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