Just before the Christmas holidays, I received an e-mail from an old college bud, Dave Bennett, of whom I’d lost track. Totally my fault, and I’m glad he took the time to track me down again. Dave and I whiled away a lot of hours in my misspent youth, gaming. He and I were known as “The Listerine Brothers”, because when we co-dungeon mastered, people tended to die. We did not reward stupidity.
What’s that? Oh, yes, I used to play Dungeons & Dragons. Quite a bit. I’m one of those wheezing old derelicts who mutters that when he played the game, there were only three little books of rules, stapled together with brown cardstock covers. And that was the way we liked it, by cracky!
Yeah, I got out of the D&D habit the year before I left college, probably – not coincidentally – the year Dave left town. It just wasn’t fun anymore, the panoply of new hardbound rules were squeezing much of the spontaneity out of the game. But that’s neither here nor there. What matters was an offhand remark by Dave that he was in a movie about gamers called Uber Goober. I ordered it that very night.
Uber Goober is a video documentary by Austinite Steve Metze which does a damn good job of examining gaming culture via interviews and footage of gaming-in-process. Dave represents the old school contingent, the guys who painstakingly paint armies of miniature soldiers from all eras and then arrange them on massive tabletops to re-enact (and improve upon) historic battles, and create some battlefield scenarios of their own. The picture then spends a lot of time with the pen-and-paper RPGs like D&D, before moving on to the LARPers. That’s Live Action Role Players, for the acronym-impaired. Or as Dave puts it, “the people who don’t think the Society for Creative Anachronism goes far enough.”
I don’t know if it’s odd or perfectly reasonable that the Vampire: The Masquerade LARPers come off as more civilized and reasonable in their pursuit than the D&Ders, and frankly, I can use my brain cells on better things right now. What I find all-too-typical is on display in Metze’s connective structure, which consists of him interviewing people at random on Austin’s main drag one night, the major question being, “What do you think of people who play Dungeons & Dragons?” The responses are predictably extreme, and rarely good.
But the single most disturbing thing is a section devoted to fundamentalist Christian groups that oppose games like D&D (including frames from the infamous Jack Chick tract Dark Dungeons). Now, I’m used to a lot of the rhetoric in this section (and one of them seems to have his J.R.R. Tolkien mixed up with his C.S. Lewis), but one guy – who rather proudly professes himself to be a former gamer, until he saw the light – is incredibly hung-up on rape in a game milieu. He brings it up twice in one interview. I gamed for many years, and though I joked with my live-in lover and fellow player several times, rape never entered into the game, any game, no matter who the DM was, and my experience includes several major tournaments, conventions, and cities.
I may just be an old geezer, but I don’t want my kid anywhere near that guy. Or his church group.
So, anyway – Uber Goober. I didn’t learn anything particularly new from it, but then, it’s a documentary about stuff I’ve spent large amounts of my life doing. I direct those wondering what the hell I blither about on occasion to the movie; it’s a very good examination of the culture, and you want to know what your kid or significant other is getting into, you could do a whole lot worse than this entertaining primer.