a Christian podcast about tabletop RPGs and collaborative storytelling

Mellowing With Age

“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” – C.S. Lewis

I was really intense as a younger gamer. I collected gaming books at a dizzying speed – enough to fill two bookcases, and I read them voraciously. My characters tended to be hard-as-nails, steely-eyed crusading types, often slightly ruthless and utterly inflexible. I wouldn’t dream of playing any alignment except Lawful Good (or maybe Lawful Neutral if I really wanted to give the bad guys what-for). My systems of choice were extremely crunchy and had lots of room for optimization, and I hung out on RPG forums a lot – first the old Pyramid boards, then the D&D forums over at Wizards of the Coast. Gaming consumed my life and defined me a great deal. Similarly, I was also a very intense and sadly very self-righteous Christian despite the knowledge of the planks in my own eye. I was quick to condemn the actions of others without context and without sympathy. My young man’s eyes flicked around constantly for some evil to smite whether I was in a fictional world or the real one, and it seemed like I never had to look far. With pretty much the singular exception of geekiness, I lived almost entirely in the “Christian bubble” and it’s not hard to picture my younger self standing there, arms crossed, scowling out at the outside world.

I was a pharisee. Truth be told, I still struggle with that aspect of myself. There is a part of me that wants to pass judgment and dispense justice. And while I now know that the Christian life is a call to compassion and mercy, there is a little part of me that would have probably been a distressingly-zealous Templar if I’d been born a few centuries ago. God (and other Christians) continue to work on me and I continue to get better little by little, though I still have a long way to go before I get even close to catching up to my role models.

Gaming, on the other hand, has been a much easier transition. I’ve discovered that black-and-white morality and hack-and-slash game play, while fun in moderate amounts, can make a game stale if that’s all it is, and my involvement in the larger community of gamers has introduced me to a lot of new systems and concepts that I’ve really come to enjoy. Back in my youth, I think I’d have balked at a system like Savage Worlds, because it doesn’t have the granularity and detail that my system of choice at the time, GURPS, has. I still like GURPS as a resource, by the way – my old GURPS books are some of the most frequently-referenced volumes on my gaming bookshelves, but I’ve also come to realize that the system definitely has some limits to it in play. Some of those limitations are accentuated by my adult life – I have a full-time job, a wife, and an assortment of other responsibilities (including this blog post) to fulfill, and I also have a broader range of interests than I had when I was younger, so not having to dump quite so much time into the prep work of gaming is really nice. Similarly, faster, less-granular systems with fewer fiddly bits actually get out of the way creatively and allow for more interesting decisions at the table rather than just in character creation. Gaming with other adults is also wonderful, if less-frequent and shorter in session length. As I’ve gotten older it’s also become more apparent how gaming and faith compliment and inform each other.

I think it’s funny that sometimes there’s a pressure to “grow out of” hobbies like gaming, because I think tabletop RPGs, more than any other hobby I have, have previously had, or can imagine having, benefit from the mellowing that comes with age and the the relationships adults make with each other. If you’re just starting out on your journey – in faith or in gaming – know that you have a lot to look forward to on the road ahead. Some things really do get better with age.

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