It is hard for me to make new friends. I find large social gatherings and big crowds to be overwhelming, and walking into a room with strangers flies in the face of everything I have ever been taught. You know about Stranger-Danger, right? Well, sometimes I feel like those lessons that were taught through television and school have somehow broken off my ability to engage my life properly.
However, despite my anxiety, I want more friends. It isn’t that the ones I have are not enough – it’s that many of them are busy taking care of houses and children, and I would like to have more opportunities to do things that I love, such as playing board games. So, I looked over my options, and was saddened by what was before me.
“I could make friends at work,” I said to myself. I was never a fan of being friends with co-workers. As someone who doesn’t define himself by his day job, inviting people from my day job into my real life is not a shiny proposition. I feel like most of the folks that I work with are overly negative and nobody wants that in their real life.
“I could make friends by attending a gamer meet-up,” I suggested, recoiling at the thought. Confronting large crowds of strangers on my own, even if they share my interests, is daunting. I went to one such event in the past, and the first hour was so uncomfortable as I sat there doing nothing while waiting for the currently running games to finish up. I managed to enjoy a game or two by the end of the night, but I really felt like an outsider. They all knew each other, and I was the other guy.
“Well, you do enjoy playing solo games,” I consoled myself. While I love solo games like the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game or Elder Sign, I would like to play with some other folks once in a while. I’d like to try other games that other people like. I’d like the joy of a shared experience. Sometimes, I’d just like to get out of the house.
While I could just be satisfied with my monthly RPG game and leave it at that, I decided to make friends with some folks from my day job. It turned out to be a good idea. The last time we got together was at a local game store, where we played a few games and shared a few laughs. It was great, because I was able to get out of the house, play some games, and enjoy myself.
Because we were at a local game store, we were surrounded by other gamers playing other games. It was kind of awesome, because I was able to be in an excited crowd environment and still feel comfortable. Everyone was playing games and enjoying their time without interacting with other groups very much. I immediately thought, “This is how most people feel like at a party!”
I was having a good time.
It is remarkable how difficult it is for an adult to find additional friends, especially when the adult happens to be an introverted gamer that is often uncomfortable around strangers. Usually, when I meet new people, I worry about ludicrous things, and sensible things. At social functions, my mind usually runs a mile a minute, whirling with such things as:
What if they dislike my beliefs? Should I talk about anything? What if they don’t like ME? Is there going to be conflict? I hate conflict. What should I say? Should I talk about my writing? I don’t want to seem self-absorbed. What should I say about them? I only know what I see, and I missed something about what they said because I’m thinking. I need to answer them about that thing. Maybe nod noncommittally? Ask them to repeat themselves? OH! CRAP! They weren’t even talking to me. Why isn’t anyone talking to me? I’m a horribly uninteresting person. That’s why. If I left, they wouldn’t even notice. Does any of this matter? Does anything really matter? I mean in the long run, this is all small talk anyway. I could be home working on something productive. I need to be more productive. Maybe I could write about being uncomfortable at a party. No, I did that before. But did anyone read it? Does anyone read my stuff? Do any of my friends read my stuff? Why doesn’t anyone ask me about my work? Is it because it’s horrible? Crap. I really am self-absorbed. I need to hug my Paddington.
So, maybe one of these days, I will go and try going to a gamer meet-up again. If gaming amongst gamer-strangers went so well, gaming WITH gamer-strangers should go well. If only because no one really cares about talking about much more than the game at hand, which really seems to be my ideal social lubricant.
Friendships can grow from gaming. Most of my friendships have grown from gaming. When I ask you to game with me, it is actually me asking if you want to really really for real be my friend. I think I just need to work on doing the math backwards.
An Ode to Gamer Friends—————————
Rich and poor, tried and untried,
The world is filled with many men
Though none of them stands quite so true
as the loyal gamer friend
They have seen you at your worst
Cursing, cussing, and hating the dice
They have seen the depths of your depravities
and they know your every vice
They have seen you at your best
Compassionate, loving, and filled with honor
They have seen your greatest virtues
And consoled you when your character was a goner
Most have stood by me since my youth
And stood by me still through love and loss
And by them I have stood, and ever shall stand
Even when we face life’s final boss.
Though we turn older,
and our crowning glories fade away
we still gather together around a table
and we play, play, play.
We live as youths once again,
as wizards and as kings
As vampires, investigators, and madmen
and of these times I sing.
Of the time we fought the werewolves,
And smote them with a horse for fun
Or when we found that the story’s last monster
was a lost boy armed with a gun.
To these nights of adventure!
May they never end!
And here is to you, one and all
My loyal gamer friends.