As I write this letter to you, my computer beeps and boops constantly from messages from your uncle Luke, his best friend Danny, and my best friend, your “uncle” Michael. I’ve been hearing from them non-stop as we are planning one of our favorite activities together, a role-playing game campaign.
When I was the age that I expect you will be when I give these letters to you, I was teased and bullied a lot for loving games, be they card, board, video, or table-top role-playing games. When I was growing up, boys who kept playing games when they hit their teen years were considered juvenile and unmanly. They thought Games were for kids, and they were in a real rush to grow up.
I honestly didn’t care what they thought. I loved games, and peer pressure is no reason to give up anything, especially not something you love.
Things are different now than they were being a teenager in the 1990s, and much for the better. With computers being so powerful, and being everywhere, just about everyone plays at least the odd casual video game. In Canada, when we saw that people were losing the knack for talking to one another face to face, many cafés opened that let people play board games, especially ones that were very popular in the 1970s and 80s, when I was growing up. Trading card games have become a phenomenon that almost every little boy plays – they were a brand new idea when I was in high school. Our culture has learned to love games again. And I think geeky boys like me who refused to give them up were not so much weird as ahead of our time – Western culture just had to catch up!
And it is a good thing that they came around, too! Games are more important than people realize. Games, especially unstructured ones, give us a chance to play out our thoughts and feelings in our head. They let us process. They can let us play out fantasies, or let us fulfill wishes that we cannot otherwise fulfill.
This is something I hope to teach you early on: when you are disappointed or frustrated by the things going on in your life, sometimes a few minutes of a good game can let you let go of the disappointment, or let you have what you want in – your mind at least – so that you are ready and balanced to take the world as it comes.
Fantasy role-playing games like Shadowrun (the game that has the lads buzzing my computer) and Dungeons & Dragons in particular can be very powerful tools to help you think and imagine your way through problems. I hope that you will learn to enjoy them the way I did. I have made, and kept alive, some very close friendships through those games. TTRPGs are intimate in a way, because ypu are sharing and helping each other process feelings and wishes. When they are played well, especially among adults, they can create a lot of closeness.
Good games can feed an enrich your imagination, and cultivate your creativity. They will help you develop skills that will make you invaluable to employers, friends, and loved ones alike. They are a chance to both grow and explore your inner world.
Become a life-long player of games, my son, and you will find greater balance, greater creativity, closer friends, and many hours of enjoyment as well.