Many a digital word on this site has proclaimed how comics helped me read as a wee lad; there is no need to rehash those early adventures. However, it would be less than truthful to say comics were my primary gate into the wonderful world of books and reading. Comics were but the door, it was another “hobby” that allowed me to delve deeper and deeper into my imagination. That hobby was Role Playing Games. That’s right, sitting around a table with my friends and pretending to be an Elf with arcane powers (and a true shot) made me want to explore more worlds, worlds filled with epic adventures, intriguing heroes (and villains), and my earliest introduction to the power of myth. While most adults thought RPGs were “kids stuff” (when they weren’t claiming the books were vessels for all manner of Demon and Devil), I knew the truth. Sure, most of the people I knew playing the games were under 18, but the people writing these games were not talking down to anyone.
They made me step up…Comics helped with my early years. There were all those nice pictures that helped define a word if I didn’t understand. RPGs didn’t. Sure, all game books have art, but they were just for the overall “feel” of the game; they rarely connected with the text. These RPGs made me open up the dictionary and thesaurus, how was I gonna’ make the rules work toward my characters favor if I didn’t have a clue what the words meant? People the came of age during the Clinton Administration often joke about just was the meaning of “is” is. Not me, RPGs had me walking that fine syntax line years before Bill and Monica played hide the sword. (Think I’m kidding, ask your gaming buddies about the dread “rules lawyer”).
RPGs did more beyond expanding my vocabulary.
Comics had me reading books like Fudge, Dear Mr. Henshaw, and The Chronicles of Narnia. RPGs again turned up the literary heat. The themes that run within all good RPGs (regardless of genre) are that of struggle and heroism. Humanity versus Monster. Humanity versus Nature. Humanity versus Self. I found myself drawn to the classics of literature. The Red Badge of Courage. Last of the Mohicans. Moby Dick. The Old Man and the Sea And yes, The Lord of the Rings. All before some teacher told me I had to read them. There I was, barely in my teens and actively seeking these books out. Can I say I would have if RPGs never entered my life? I don’t honestly know, although I doubt it. Maybe years later, after the annoyance at forced exposure had long since waned. Yes, RPGs are all about having fun, trash talking your fellow PC and GM, and pretending to be something you aren’t. However, my parents were right about one thing. RPGs did have a very sneaky and underhanded effect on me… It turned me into a voracious reader.
Let it do that same for your kids.
You have the chance on December 13. Oregon Role-player’s for Charity to benefit S.T.A.R.T. (Start Making A Reader Today) will be running several tables of roleplaying games down at Guardian Games in Portland. Donations will be required to sit in at a game session (suggested $5 minimum donation). All donations to benefit S.M.A.R.T… Please join them on December 13 at Guardian Games, 303 SE 3rd Ave, Portland, OR. Doors open at 10am for registration and donations. They will be running games from 10:30am until 10pm and collecting donations for SMART. The schedule for games can be found online at http://files.meetup.com/286103/schedule2008.pdf