I've read a lot of tributes to Gary Gygax, the late Dungeons & Dragons cocreator who inspired me to spend my teen years with 20-sided dice, graph paper and painted metal half-orc prestidigitators. Although I mock myself as a former dungeon master -- and not the cool kind -- I disliked Wired editor Adam Rogers' tribute to Gygax in today's New York Times.
Decades after his own adolescence, Rogers still feels defensive about playing D&D:
Even in the heyday of Dungeons & Dragons, when his company was selling millions of copies and parents feared that the game was somehow related to Satan worship, Mr. Gygax's creation seemed like a niche product. Kids played it in basements instead of socializing. (To be fair, you needed at least three people to play -- two adventurers and one Dungeon Master to guide the game -- so Dungeons & Dragons was social. Demented and sad, but social.) Nevertheless, the game taught the right lessons to the right people.
My sons are approaching the years where peer pressure is huge, and one of the things I try to teach them is that you don't have to apologize for liking something because other people think it's uncool. The safest posture as a teen is to rag on everything. When I raised the possibility that liking [insert hobby here] didn't make you a nerd, and in point of fact the people who mock it are themselves the true nerds, the near-teens in the car retreated into their happy place. And one of them called me a nerd. I suspect this is one of the things you have to learn for yourself.
Rogers needs to attach a high-minded purpose to playing a game he liked, as if sending your ninth level elven fighter thief through the Fortress of Badabaskor wasn't an accomplishment unless it was a learning experience. When he suggests that "the realization that everyone else was engaged in role-playing all the time gave my universe rules and order," it reminds me of journalists like Bob Costas who wax poetic on the deeper meaning of baseball, lest they be taken for rubes who just like to see grown men play with their balls.