Friday, 16 September 2011

Speak Out 3: The Power of Geek

I am the Warden and I am a geek!!

There's a healthy combination of events going on in today's post, one I had not planned on until just a few moments ago. It's the final day for Speak Out With Your Geek Out and it's the one year anniversary of a rather traumatic event. How do they both come together? Better than chocolate and peanut butter, as it turns out.

On September 17th of 2010, I was the victim of a terrifying car accident. Seeing as my lawyer will bust a nut when he finds out I'm posting about it online during the ongoing negotiations, I will keep the details to a minimum yet express the consequences of that fateful day as concisely and dramatically as I can. These are the facts. As I drove straight through an intersection on a busy highway nearly 20 minutes from home at 100 km/h, I was struck by an oncoming car attempting to make a left turn. The impact sent my car into an adjacent ditch, causing a calcaneus fracture to my right foot and a severe concussion. Once settled in the ditch, the car quickly caught fire. I got out of the car and dragged myself away before it become completely engulfed in flames. How exactly that happened is uncertain because I have no memory of the event.

But that's not what we're here to talk about today. We're going to talk about the other 364 days since playing Hollywood stuntman and how my passion for roleplaying games has helped pull me through these trying times.

At the time of the accident, I was the Head Honcho for Emerald Press PDF Publishing, a third-party publisher for D&D material. Nothing more than a hobby publisher, Emerald Press was my creative release and made enough money to keep itself afloat and self-sustaining. This blog didn't exist. Like everyone else, it was a part-time labour of love. When I finally came out of a mini-coma two days after the accident and was told the nature of my injuries, my very first statement was "Well, guess I'll have lots of time to work on Emerald Press." My darling girlfriend - who became my fiancee later that night - has already brought in my laptop, the 4e PHB, and some dice. I spent the rest of that week working on final layout for Combat Advantage #18 from my hospital bed.

Little did I know just how important roleplaying was going to be once I was released from the hospital. Due to the nature of my foot fracture, I could not put ANY weight on it for at least three months, keeping me in a wheelchair. I could not return to work as a press operator anymore as it involved operating heavy machinery while standing for 8 consecutive hours. Those were trivial details compared to the next part. Because of the concussion (which is actually my third), my brain had trouble with short-term executive memory functions, organization, and concentration. I needed cognitive therapy and the recommended treatment was surprising. Startling is a better word. Shocking? Nah, too much.

To help counter the effects of the concussion, healing the damage caused to my memory and concentration portions of the brain, and maintain a social connection with friends, I was told to roleplay as often as possible. At least twice a week. Oh, yeah. By two neuropsychologists, three occupational therapists, and a psychological therapist, each of them whole-heartedly agreeing after learning about the particulars of roleplaying. It's like having a nutritionist prescribe chocolate cake for breakfast to help you lose weight and lecturing you if you eat a bagel instead.

Since that day, I have been roleplaying my ass off. I haven't gamed this much since high school, though I have to admit it's not the same playing through Skype as it is at the same table as everyone else, but I've learned to adapt and accept those weaknesses. Not only has it rocked like KISS at a kid's birthday party, it has become a crucial element on my ongoing recovery and it's taught me a lot about myself. More than I would have ever expected, but it has not been a walk in the park. (Actually, that phrase doesn't really work anymore as a walk in the park does lead to intense pain. However, we'll keep it and move on.) I've had games where I blanked out and didn't "return" until 15 minutes later, losing track on everything that happened in that time and forgetting how to play. I've actually broken down after playing a game online, gone into fits of anger or depression, and cancelled games at the last minute due to emotional issues.

It's a sobering experience to play your favourite RPG online, surrounded by no one, watching everyone else at the table through a camera lens. Playing online, to me, takes the social interaction out of the equation and leaves you with only the game itself to keep you company. It's similar to playing a multiplayer game. When your friends are over, the game rocks, because you never have to restart a level when you die. On your own, it's boring and more difficult than you remember, so you just wait until your friends come over again. Those long moments sitting alone at my desk has taught me about what it is about roleplaying I truly enjoy and where I feel most games are lacking. Without this past year, the Optional System would not exist. Without roleplaying games, I truly feel I would have gone mad. Without roleplaying games, I might never have sat behind the wheel of a car again and made a point to drive to a friend's house for a game.

I am a roleplayer and will be until I finally die. They'll have to cremate me with a d20 in my hand or break my fingers to remove it. You may break my body, but you'll never break my love for these games for it has done more to redeem myself than anything else I've ever experienced. It defines me as a person and teaches me that the only wrong course of action is not acting at all. It has taught me the elegance of improvisation and thinking outside the box always pays off. It has taught me that anything is possible, regardless of your limitations. And it has taught me the value of passion and experience.

To everyone I have rolled dice with over the past year, thank you for standing beside me, not behind me. Just try and stop me from making it to the next game.