Wednesday, 18 July 2012

General Ramblings: Why Do I Care?

Just a bit of fair warning: this is one of my Wall O'Text posts. I can't be bothered with finding actual relevant pictures, and won't settle for less for this one.

You've been warned.

I did a post a few days back about offending people.

It's kinda crap, really. I made the mistake of getting sidetracked and riled up...

Which has me thinking. Why do I care if people spew brimstone about how gender-biased the Hobby is? Why do I care about shitstorms and whinefests? Why do I get all annoyed when games are taken to a level they're not made for?

And the answer is: I have a lot invested in this thing we call 'the Hobby'.

I don't really think I'm alone. The Hobby is more than just a hobby. It's the Hobby. As I'm sure others are to other people. We spend uncounted hours modelling, painting, planning, counting, discussing, playing.

In many ways, the Hobby is the productive, social branch of the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres (oh, I'm going to be in so much trouble if the wrong people read this...). It's what lets people take these brilliant concepts and make them tangible and accessible. While a well-told story brings you into its world, it is always as a mere spectator, with no influence or power over the outcome of the story.

The Hobby is the cure for this.

But I'll get back to that. Let's talk a little about the Genres, instead.

And yes, the Genres are Fantasy and Science Fiction. Alternate Worlds. Call it what you will. We could probably discuss definitions 'til Judgment Day, if that's your cuppa tea. Suffice it to say that the Genres are complex, sometimes overlapping, and more than a little fuzzy around the edges, and let's go from there.

When I was ten, I found David Eddings' The Ruby Knight (the second book of The Elenium) in a dusty school library. It was much too difficult for me at that time, but at the same time it was an immensely gripping experience, realizing that there was a whole genre about knights, and monsters, and magic, that I had, up until that day, been unaware of.

That discovery set me on a path that would lead through the Wheel of Time, the Deverry series, Dracula, through Gothic modern horror and Pratchett, all the way up to where I am today. I can't honestly say how many works of Genre literature I've read, but I can tell you there are a whole lot of them. It's fair to say it's the vast majority of what I read.

It's had an immense amount of influence on me.

And this is due to a couple of things.

First, the Genres have always been a little weird. It's not really what's expected, now is it? Not only isn't it cool to read (when you're ten and a boy). It's also very difficult to answer the question 'So, what's that book about?' when you're reading Martin or Abnett, and the inquirer is a non-Genre reader. Fantasy, in particular, has often been met with that what's-the-point look. And Science Fiction, while in many ways more established, does carry a significant nerd factor.

Which means that if you're into the Genres, you're going to be a bit weird. Its got a little better, but still.

Secondly, my interest in history has been fed near obesity by all those almost-historical texts. I could go further into this, but I think you'll get the gist.

Thirdly, the Genres led me into the Hobby.

And we're back where we started. While reading (and watching movies ad series) is among the most engrossing activities one can dig oneself into, it is by its very nature a one-sided endeavour. You will never be able to convince Frodo not to run away from the Fellowship. And you will never be accepted into Hogwarts. Sorry to burst your bubble. If you want to command the Trollocs and overrun humanity, you'll have to do it in your imagination or in the recent realm of (shudder) fanfiction.

But then there's Warhammer, and all of its younger cousins (and, to others than me, the realm of roleplaying). And suddenly, the Hordes of Darkness are yours to command. You can lead a band of plucky adventurers into legend, save the world as we know it, or create something truly unique. And you get to share the experience with others.

Without Warhammer, and a chance encounter with Games Workshop at the age of eleven, I feel I may well have ended up a rather shutaway kind of nerd. Books are not a social media. Instead, I spend quite a few evenings a week socializing with like-minded (well, sort of) individuals. I create, and I produce what is, if perhaps not art, at least examples of a craft.

And I have done for the last ten years (give or take).

The Hobby is a refuge. It is a place to meet others that are also a little bit weird. Its a place that has always been very welcoming, even to those who might not fit in. At least that's how it's always seemed to me. So what if you're a little bit awkward? We're sort of used to it. So, you're a bit weird? Aren't we all? Welcome to the fold.

And for this reason, I'm saddened by tales of being met poorly. I wish everyone could feel welcome.

But - and I think this is the reason I got all twisted into knots about some of the response to that infamous SinSynn article - I'm more than a little annoyed by the fact that many don't seem to realize this very simple fact about hobbyists: we're a little bit weird. Yes, this may manifest as being a bit insensitive, just as it has manifested in the creation of Slaanesh. Just saying.

Also, and I realize that this may be offensive in and of itself, those 'sexist' models may well be the closest some of us will ever get to actually holding a girl. I'm sorry there's not really equivalent models for girls to ogle. That would make it better.

So, what I'm saying is this.

The reason I care so much is the fact that I am so invested into this Hobby of ours. It has helped shape me, it gives me a refuge from what is occasionally a cold hard world. It is, in fact, a large part of what defines me. There are other things that are as important or more so, but without the Hobby, I would not have been the guy I am today.

And before you judge, maybe you need to consider the fact that we of the Hobby are not (usually) the social ones. We're the nerds and the geeks. We're the ones who read stuff voluntarily. (And yes, I generalize. I'm sure some of you were quarterbacks, or whatever. I'm fairly certain many of us are just nerds).

We're the weird ones. And no matter how much things have improved, being a nerd is still not easy. And maybe this shows. Maybe we're insensitive at times. I'd like to think it's mostly unintentional. We're usually not idiots. Usually.

In the end, we're a minority. One among many, and not marginalized in anywhere near as systematic a way as some, but a minority nonetheless. While we're not persecuted like the Jews have been, discriminated against like the blacks, or in the economic underdog position most women find themselves in, on a personal level, I think many of us have suffered for being weird.

Do you really think those high school movie nerds are entirely fictional? Really?

And on that note, it's Incarias out.


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