Thursday, August 6, 2015

Reminiscing about Family, Gaming, and Indiana

This post is not my GenCon 2015 trip report. With luck, I'll get that written to post on Friday.

Instead, this is background. History, reminiscing.

On gaming...

My family has played games my entire life. Card games like solitaire, double solitaire, canasta, and later Euchre. Board games, sometimes conventional games like Life, Monopoly. Often educational games: Bible Trivia, Quizmo (Bingo with math), word games like Boggle & Scrabble.

My aunt gave us an annual subscription to National Geographic, and sometimes we'd get Geography games as well. There was a travel game, with airplanes, where we had to figure out flight routes. Another with pentagonal cards that could form a dodecahedron.

Then there was the year my dad got us a game that was like Risk-on-steroids: with a armies, territories, nuclear weapons & Star Wars anti-missile defense systems, a market index... we played it at least a handful of times, but that was one that often ended in big arguments.

My parents subscribed us to a Christian magazine called "Bread for Children," full of morally edifying stories. I don't know if they realized that I read it from cover to cover, including the letters to/from parents. Which meant that I read a lot of anti-Star Wars and anti-D&D (Satanic panic) material early in the 1980s.

I picked up a Star Trek Role-Playing game at a neighbor's garage sale later in the '80s. I read through the material and tried to use it some, but I didn't understand what the d6, d8, d100s meant. Or if the book explained them, we only had d6's and a d12. (Plus, it was not D&D.) So we didn't actually play, but I had them.

Summer, 1994, a friend's cousin was in town, and we played a round of Battletech. He had polyhedral dice, so I finally understood what those d#'s meant. We rolled up mecha's and played one battle. Later that summer, I stopped by the Griffon Bookstore, and bought my first set of polyhedrals.

When I got to campus, my now-husband talked about playing D&D with his cousins. I talked about my concerns, and we talked each other into checking out a gaming group on campus. The Purdue Fantasy Club was founded about 1976, originally as a D&D group. Daniel Lawrence is said to have been credited in some of the early TSR books with contributing to the system. He and the club went on to develop their own "Homebrewed" gaming system called AdventureQuest: Jaern. (Again, not D&D.) So in Autumn of 1994, the two of us began learning to play AQ.

While on campus, we also branched out into other systems: GURPS, Rolemaster, D&D, AD&D 2e, ShadowRun, one of the White Wolf games (probably Werewolf), maybe more. Also, Magic: the Gathering became popular, and we played some of that. I was paying my way through college, and on a limited budget from my work-study, so I didn't invest heavily in cards. My now-husband got into it more.

It was through the Fantasy Club that we first began to hear about GenCon. Many of the gamers in the group were "townies," locals who lived & worked in the Greater Lafayette (Indiana) area, who could afford to make the trip up to Wisconsin. The two summers I spent on campus, there were always light numbers at the campus meeting, the weekend of GenCon.

My graduating senior year, we knew that GenCon would be moving to Indianapolis soon. Had I taken the job offer in Dayton, Ohio, I probably would have been a regular attendee... but I followed my bliss to Houston, instead.

As my siblings grew up, they got into gaming too. My Dad had a pretty big collection of MtG cards, I remember playing against his Sliver-deck.

It took us a while to find a gaming group in Houston, but eventually we did. In that group, we rotated systems each week, including: BESM, Star Wars, Hackmaster, Warhammer Fantasy RPG, D&D 3.5, Red Dwarf...

On being a geek...

I loved Star Wars from the beginning.

I hated Star Trek from 1982 - 1986, the earworm things in STII: The Wrath of Khan scared me. I only really became a Trekker with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, but that was that.

At one point, I had an autographed photo of Wil Wheaton, and an invitation to join his fan club. I don't know where that ended up. With about 20 or more moves over the past 25+ years... it could be anywhere.

In 1990, I took my sister to our first Star Trek convention. Jimmy Doohan's autographs were included in our admission, and we got him to sign a half-dozen or so Star Trek novels. I'm afraid most of them ended up on my sister's bookshelf, the ones that weren't library books - none of them are in my collection anymore.

After we moved back to Indiana, I lost interest in Star Trek for a few years. Then, at Uni, I just got too busy either studying or spending time with real people, to watch TV.

On GenCons past, family, and Indy...

I think this was my second visit to GenCon. It was my first four-day pass.

It feels like more. Since we moved to Alabama in 2008, we've been up to Indianapolis most summers. Sometimes to visit my family, sometimes to visit my in-laws. My grandparents were all born & raised in Indiana. My mother's side were on the northeast side of Indianapolis. She grew up on a farm outside Fishers. Most years of my life, when we didn't live in Indiana, we'd drive to visit Grandpa's farm. Usually for the week around Memorial Day, so somebody would have 500 coverage on TV.

My parents moved back to Indiana in 1992. Over the following years, two other aunt & uncle pairs moved to Indiana, and eventually my grandparents moved in with one family.

Ever since GenCon moved to Indianapolis, it has been part of the rhythm of family life. Whether it be my siblings, my brothers-in-law, our Indiana friends from college, or our own travel, there's usually somebody we know at the Convention.

My husband and I have often been to Indiana in August, visiting family. When our son was in preschool, the preschool would close for a week during August, as the teachers prepared for the new year, so we would often visit then.

Two years ago, I wasn't able to go due to work, but my husband went. He offered to get me autographs from the special guests, but between the cost and wanting to talk with them myself, we decided against it.