Monday, 18 January 2016

Random Shots From The Tower

It may have come to your attention that I quite often become somewhat maudlin if not actually melancholy, as I guess we almost all must do when reflecting on where we are and what we have, by reason of age, left behind.

For me, the main cause is reflecting on my life as a gamer, my teenage years when it was free to be carefree, money was short but still we seemed to always have some new figure or game.

We played games as often as we could and those were good times, maybe the best days of our youthful lives, when friendships seemed forever, and friends and indeed ourselves, immortal.

Oh the times we had...

In the mid 80s, I was banned from well known game store in my home town for something I did not do. Not much, you may think, but it shaped a new, bitter, darker, me, and 3 decades later I am still trying valiantly to shake off those effects.

Don't misunderstand, I think that the darker side of me has been useful at times in my life and it's certainly kept a few otherwise unwanted individuals away. However it also drove a wedge between me and people who, whether they knew it or not had an everlasting, never to be forgotten impact on me to this day.

Oddly some of those people were also responsible for a sense of communal silence when it came to standing up and supporting me after I was banned from that shop, in some cases knowingly participating in a subterfuge designed to send a warning shot to kids who like me may have been simply too into their hobby and thereby an annoyance. These people were probably themselves insecure, immature and probably every bit as annoying but what a relief it must have been to have been bullied but able to bully another.

After all, why stand up and be counted when it is easier to sell out someone who would always support you, if it meant that you yourself remained 'one of the 'pack'?

Over the years I had recurring nightmares reliving that ban, that exile, that destruction of the carefree me of my youth.

Like it or not, if you participated in that episode in my life, you damaged me, mentally and physically. Think about it - would you like your child treated in that way?

But also over those years, I built up a picture, jigsaw fashion of just what had happened, until, in 2011, I was able to fit the last pice and prove that I was used as an example to others in a callous and frankly abusive manner by my friends and peers.

I do however, wonder if I would have met my wife, the absolute light of my life, raised a daughter and in recent years, re-forged some of my old friendships anew if things had been different?

Given the circumstances and the new, relatively game-free existence I led for 5 years or more after the ban, probably not.

I also sometimes wonder who from those many acquaintances, was like me, bullied, uncertain, timid and a dreamer out of place with other kids around them? How many craved to be part of a group of adventurers of the mind, sharing imaginary adventures, bonding friendships along the way, escaping from the mundanity of everyday life back then?

I suspect that the majority of them were just like me, hiding their true selves behind a mask of adolescent attitude.

I often wish that I could go back to those times, relive those days and be with those who caused me so much pain of heart and soul.

But not as you may think. Not to somehow avenge myself upon them... That would be pointless.

No, rather to look them straight in the eye and tell them the above and then, just how much I respected them and was shaped by them. How much I just wanted to be like them.

But that time has passed, and although now a man of middle years I can tell those very same people exactly that, it perhaps lacks the passion with which I felt it as a boy. It lacks - for no reason other than the passing of years and calming of the fire of youth - a vital spark that cannot be reignited, no matter what I may believe.

If by chance, any of those people read this, perhaps they may understand me in a way they hitherto did not, and perhaps they may reach out to see if bridges can be built, bonds reformed and a new golden age come forth. But whilst I am wishing I may as well ask for a pony and a new bike.

I have spent the first half of my life learning how to live. Maybe the second can be spent living it and inspiring others to indulge in the hobby (or is it a lifestyle) that has brought me such pleasure.

And after that somewhat introspective outpouring, and whilst the bath water still has some warmth, I will recount for you a small yet joyous event.

Back in 1984 I was heavily into Warhammer... Proper, old style Warhammer where fantasy was the name of the game and crushing your friends beneath your boots was the order of the day.
Back then, whilst we all wanted to paint like Pete Armstrong or Andy Ritson, we also played games every week and as a result were churning out regiment after regiment of tiny men and monsters in a toy cupboard arms race of sorts.

Back then I was heavily into Lizardman miniatures and built a sizeable force from the wonderful sculpts done by Tom Meier and the not-so wonderful sculpts of Aly Morrison whose only saving grace when it came to bipedal reptiles was that they were for the most part depicted as armed with bows, and bows allowed you to rain dice-laden death on your foes.

I wanted a range of figures known as Reptiliads produced in Canada by RAFM Inc, but on £3 or so pocket money each week it was a pipe dream.

After many games and the ban from the store around which my life centred, I finally sold the army at the Sheffield Triples Wargames show for £50, a meagre sum even then for an army of that size, and one which contained small Lizardmen riding on giant tortoises, gather from the family Xmas crackers to serve as somewhat plodding but oh so resilient cavalry.

My regular opponent in our group of many was Darren Ashmore (now a respected and learned professor of anthropology in the land of the rising sun, no less but back then a spotty geek like the rest of us!) and week after week we tried to best each other on the green wooden table which serves at the field of battle in our imaginary conflicts.

Well, imagine my delight when I found that those self same figures were still available from RAFM and that now that I have a little more pocket money than I did back then, I could finally build that army as the gaming gods intended. An order was placed and now I have a frisson of the excitement I experienced as a kid, as I wait for the long delivery from Canada by sea, of my new toys.

In the meantime, I am busying meals in tracking down the models of the type that I did manage to buy in my youth and although they are costing me ten time s what they did in the 80s, I am doing quite well so far.

I am looking forward to maybe trying my luck against Darren again after 30 years and giving my old friend another good dusting when he visits the country of his birth.

And in closing, we were Discussing attitudes in the gaming hobby the other day, and I was asked to sum up my own feelings.

Upon consideration, and based on my own experience, gaming generates in some, a desire to be top dog in a pack of real bitches.

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