When Jackson and I started dating he “warned” me about his geeky tendencies and love of games. This was something I hadn't previously encountered in my romantic relationships and it left me feeling apprehensive (what if we had nothing in common?) and curious.
As our relationship progressed everything I thought I knew about geek culture and gaming began to unravel. It became clear to me that I had been allowing stereotypes about the “type” of people who play games like Magic the Gathering or Dungeons & Dragons to dictate my attitude towards them. I’m ashamed to admit that in my ignorance I had dismissed these to be games played by socially awkward individuals with bad style and an overwhelming attachment to their parents’ basements. It makes me cringe now to think about just how narrow-minded and shallow my view was.
It’s not that I held any particularly strong or overwhelmingly negative feelings towards gamers, it’s just that I had spent little to no time challenging my assumptions about them because, in truth, I was too busy thinking about myself. I had been so focused on cultivating this bullshit image as someone “in the know” in the alcohol industry that I hadn't stopped to consider that there were other ways to live or more constructive activities in life than drinking and gaining Twitter followers.
How fortunate am I, then, to have had a personal tour guide through all things geeky, wonderful, and fun?
It took a while for me to warm up to the idea of playing games. It wasn't until after I finally left the booze behind last year that I was able to really dig in and start learning and enjoying a handful of tabletop games (Smash Up, Arkham Horror, etc.). As I progressed in my learning I found myself changing for the better. First came the ability to focus for more than five minutes, which was huge (it’s tough to focus on anything when one is always worried about their next drink). Next came the willingness to admit that I didn't know what I was doing and to allow myself to be taught. And finally, eventually, I started to get excited about games that involved more strategy and to feel confident in my ability to not only play the games I had become familiar with, but to pick up new ones as well.
A few months ago Jackson convinced me to let him teach me to play Magic the Gathering. I was hesitant because despite having learned to enjoy other games, MtG struck me as being on a whole 'nother level. I wasn't sure that I was up for such an involved game, and there was (admittedly) a tiny part of me that worried what other people who held the same assumptions that I used to would think. Actually, that silly fear of what others might think sealed the deal for me, because it reminded me of how I faced the same fear when I quit drinking (and look how that turned out!). And so I learned, and it has been a blast.
Games have played a huge role in my learning to be social again in the absence of alcohol. They’ve helped to demonstrate that I not only have the ability to learn and pick up new skills, but that I can do so quickly and with relish. And, perhaps most importantly, they have opened my eyes to the stereotype-fueled assumptions I sometimes make about people without meaning to and have taught me to challenge those assumptions by educating myself and staying open-minded.
TLDR: Games good, assumptions bad, and sometimes personal growth stems from the most unexpected places.