Of Dice and Men, David Ewalt
Rating: A natural 20
New book, yay! Consumed this one in all of twenty-four hours, including sleep, eating, and some other intelligent pursuits (and a couple games as Dez Bryant in NCAA 14). I was expecting an ethnography, much like Communities of Play or Coming of Age in Second Life, but alas, it was more and less than that.
Of Dice and Men recounts David Ewalt’s journey from D&D loving kid to lost adult, back into the fold. With each step, he tries to minimize the nerd in him, only to fully embrace it and go goo-goo over an ancient ping-pong table at the end.
The book is skillfully and humorously written with several giggle-worthy lines and competent fiction as a tale within a tale paralleling his own journey. A bit more history and a bit less ethnography, but this book is still high on the list of recommended titles for tabletop gamers. It’s even inspired me to start looking at building worlds once more, though without a group, I am unsure how to use it.
Some notes for my own use:
“A lack of social grace and argumentative behavior are not uncommon traits among my people. Jonathan seemed to suffer from a terminal case of what’s sometimes known as Arrogant Nerd syndrome, a disorder where smart people hide their insecurities and fear through intellectual bullying, and seek to preempt condemnation by judging other people first and finding them inferior.”
Huizinga’s magic circle, Geertz’ Balinese cock fights.
Perhaps the greatest description of why Mortal Voyage “comes for the challenge, stays for the people:”
“When a group of people play a game together, they enter a sort of alternate reality where friendships form at an accelerated rate. In part this is due to the structure of the game itself: The players have limited time, so things have to move quickly, and they’ve got a specific goal, so they focus on winning, not on the normal rules of social interaction. Then, as the game picks up, the players become engrossed in the experience; they stop being anxious scientists and become fighting birds of prey. Lost in the game, behavioral norms are forgotten, and emotional defenses weaken. Players begin to feel- and act upon- unusually strong impulses. Emotions run high, and they keep getting higher; joy, anger, excitement, fear, even the terror of (simulated) death. In this artificially accelerated and emotionally heightened social environment, bonds are forged quickly and forged strong.”