This month’s articles aren’t really on a theme, as some of the past months have been. It’s Pride Month, which is incredibly important, while also not something I’m in ANY way qualified to speak on, so that’s all I’ll say on it. Which means I’m going to wander off into non-band territory, because why not?
One of those things I’m always curious about other people is what they do outside of the thing I know them from (work, music, acting, whatever). I think it’s a natural thing. We’re social creatures, we look for things to relate to (or to actively avoid, because there IS in fact a reason for the “Don’t meet your heroes” advice – some people SUCK). So this month we’re going to get a bit into that.
I am, above quite possibly anything else, a gamer. Board games, video games, tabletop RPGs, I play games. I often obsess over them. Mostly because I tend to be an “all-or-nothing” kind of person (apparently not uncommon in folks like me, if you read last month’s article). I’ll pick up a new video game and log 40+ hours in a week if I like it. But when I put it down it’s gone. For the most part anyway. If I get a new board game and like it, you can bet I’m going after every expansion ever made for it (that’s compatible with the current edition anyway). That’s how it’s always been (well, for video games, once upon a time I didn’t actually like board games).
My preferred board games are cooperative ones. Most days, I find it’s easier to enjoy a game at the table when everyone is working together (and if I’m being honest, I’m not always the greatest loser, though I’ve been working on that through the years). In my case, I prefer truly cooperative, not semi-cooperative (aka “you’re all working together, but you’re also trying to be better at whatever you’re doing than everyone else you’re working with”) or cooperative until the turncoat mechanic shows up. Sentinels of the Multiverse and Castle Panic tend to top my list (it’s pretty widely acknowledged within my friends group that if I EVER turn down a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse, immediately start checking for pods, because I’ve been replaced).
That said, I’m not opposed to some competitive play, even outright backstabbing. While I don’t really play Munchkin as much as I once did (though I do enjoy the humor and art on the cards), I do enjoy some Wiz-War (the 8th Edition version from Fantasy Flight), Red Dragon Inn, and others.
You may notice a theme amongst these board games if you recognize them – I like games with cards. I actually collect playing cards, and there’s something about cards in hand playing a board game that feels right. Some of that’s because such games tend to involve a bit more strategy than games relying solely on dice, and dice despise me. Some of it is that cards in hand help keep my head connected to the game, always scanning them and the table to see what’s changing (I’m not a big fan of games where you make your play and can then effectively ignore the board until your turn comes up again).
My video game preferences run all over. I do tend to lean towards single-player experiences, unless there’s online co-op. I’d love couch co-op, but I find most games with couch co-op don’t handle the split screens well. I tend to not play a lot of online competitive stuff – the other players out there tend to be MUCH better than I am, and I don’t find it enjoyable. Platform doesn’t really matter – console, PC, handheld, I don’t care much (though I don’t own an XBox – I’ll just play those games on my PC anyway). I’m particularly fond of open world RPGs.
Since May 12th, my gaming life has primarily been Tears of the Kingdom. I’ve been playing Zelda the majority of my life, and that’s unlikely to change. I’ve beaten nearly every game in the series, most of them multiple times. Very few series have anywhere near the same amount of playtime from me as Zelda. The short list I think is Pokemon, the Elder Scrolls series (and then only if you include the hours I spent modding into the total, which you should) and POSSIBLY Stardew Valley (Ok, not actually Stardew Valley, but if you consider the much shorter life span, Stardew Valley is up there on my list, especially with modding, like Elder Scrolls).
I have squeezed in a little bit of time for Lego 2K Drive. I still need to make more time for the Forsaken DLC (a world I’m very excited to return to), and the upcoming (or more likely recently happened) Diablo IV release. I did make a little time to burn through the new content for the Saints Row reboot (which I’ve completed and STILL couldn’t tell you if I’d recommend or not). I really need some kind of cloning device with a hivemind system between the clones to keep up, especially since I still haven’t completed the post-game content for God of War: Ragnarok (and please don’t mention my Steam Library).
And somewhere among all that, I also squeeze in tabletop gaming. I was introduced to D&D 20+ years ago, 6 months before 3.5 was released (which I’m aware makes me a newbie compared to some people reading this). I was introduced at the same time as I was introduced to the Pokémon TCG, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Magic the Gathering. However, I was a high-schooler, and funds said I had to make a decision about what I was sticking with. I decided on D&D. More expensive out the gate, but no randomness of hoping I got what I wanted when buying new packs. I have yet to regret the decision.
At the beginning, I’m not sure I could tell you if my hobby was playing D&D or making characters. I could tell you the page number and paragraph of any rule you wanted after 3.5 officially came out. More than one Friday or Saturday night was spent on the phone with my best friend discussing character concepts until one of us crashed, collapsing in an exhausted heap in bed, surrounded by open D&D books, character sheets, pencils, and dice. A few years down the line, I’d even write content for it, and help update other content (and create some more new stuff) from 3.5 to Pathfinder 1E. Even when I wasn’t in a group playing, I’ve never gone long without some kind of involvement in D&D or something adjacent (I skipped 4E and went with Pathfinder, hence the adjacent bit).
I shouldn’t love D&D the way I do. I am absolutely cursed when rolling dice (especially in combat situations). I’ve heard I should switch systems, but it’s not just d20s that hate me. And it’s hard enough to schedule a game when you play the most commonly played TTRPG systems – I don’t have the motivation necessary to go find players for less common but possibly better games (though a number of them grace my shelves that I do want to play, like 2nd Edition 7th Sea, Sentinels Comics RPG, and Coyote & Crow).
But when dice hate you, you shouldn’t love dice-based games. And I get frustrated with low rolls just like many other players. I just see more low rolls than others. And it’s not just my dice. Doesn’t matter if I borrow someone else’s dice or someone else rolls for me, dice are here to kill my character. I’m in a weekly game with Brian, and his dice consistently roll higher against me in combat than other players’ characters. Statistically, it doesn’t make sense, but it is somehow how it is.
But I enjoy making characters. Sometimes the mechanical nature (can I make a character that can do X?). Sometimes because it’s an excuse to write a 20-page backstory no one will ever read. And for a few hours at a time, I can escape into a fantastical world where I’m someone with enough power to make a difference (if I don’t get squished at level 1). And who among us couldn’t use that bit of escape once in a while?
So, how do you spend your time when you’re not listening to Open Beta?