I don’t take issue with a great deal while I’m teaching. I’m accepting of the broad span of opinions and preconceptions. I rarely feel the need to lecture people in or out of lessons, and I would never tell you your opinion is flat-out wrong. But when someone laughs at someone for not knowing something, that’s when I dust off the soapbox.
I seemed to start playing Dungeons & Dragons as it began its surge in popularity. I can hardly say that I was “playing D&D before it was cool”; the game has been around for longer than I have. Nevertheless, when I was first introduced by a fellow teacher in 2015, the current edition of the game was only a year old, the massively popular Critical Role was just rolling out episode number 6 of campaign 1, and the vast majority of people I spoke to had barely even heard of D&D.
Four years later, D&D has evolved from a minor interest to a major hobby. Up until a few months ago, I was playing several times a month, most of which I was hosting. As the Dungeon Master of these games, I was either pouring over official campaign books or tinkering with my own, far-too-detailed homemade story. I enjoyed creating and playing D&D so much that it even took over the time that I usually reserved for playing video games or watching a good movie. I play other ‘Table Top Role Playing Games’ from time to time, but Dungeons & Dragons has its claws in me.
That was until six months ago, when I began to close the book on all my adventures in preparation for the arrival of my baby daughter. By Christmas, all of my groups knew that once we got to a satisfying place in the story I would bow out. My little lady was on her way and rather than string each game along until we ran out of time, I wanted to choose where the line in the sand was drawn. It was tough, because we all really wanted to play, but there’s nothing worse than a campaign that just fizzles out.
The games I was a player/character in would continue without me, but the games I ‘DMed’ would be gone for a long, long time… or so I thought.
There’s a strange phenomenon that occurs when I mark books: there is always one that goes unmarked. I’ve been teaching for 9 years, and each year I have at least half a dozen different sets of workbooks that I mark regularly throughout the year. Every single time, without fail, I hand the books out and one student raises there hand:
“Err, sir? You’ve not marked mine.”
“Can you remember what life was like before?” That’s the curious question I have heard so many times since becoming a dad four months ago. The notion that life would become so unrecognisable because of a baby is not without its merits. I’ve certainly never in my life had this many conversations about sleep patterns or bowel movements. I do however find some fault in the query. Life has changed and is changing, but I don’t believe it will change so much that I cannot enjoy the things I did before, or that I can’t be the same gamer-teacher-geek I’ve always been.
Admittedly, it’s early days. I think part of the reason I’m writing this is so that I can look back at the ‘father of four months’ version of me further down the line. He’s probably going to seem so naïve (and less grey haired). For now, I am that hopeful sole that sees his fatherhood as a life equally nerdy as what came before. How, when and why I enjoy my geekiness – my video games, Dungeons & Dragons, history and teaching – will change, but the last few weeks have taught me that the Geek is a Dad, and the Dad is always going to be a Geek.
At last, the table is set. The drinks cabinet is stocked, and the starter is ready to go. The first of my five fictional characters are on their way to my home. There is just one final video game guest to invite to the dinner party.
If you want to see who else I picked, look right here:
- Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number One
- Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number Two
- Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Numbers Three & Four
- Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number Five
It would be presumptuous for me to state that I have ‘saved the best for last’. This sixth and last dinner guest is, however, my first and favourite choice for a video game guest.
I’m not inviting this character because of their personality; compared to the other five guests I know very little about them as a person. I’m also not asking them to join the party because of their legacy. Whilst the other five characters reside in iconic gaming franchises, I’ve only ever played one game which featured this last guest. I only have one, very significant reason to invite this individual: she is from the most integral game of my video gaming life.
Teaching is a profession which can blend into your personal time. In my life, video gaming has become something that is scheduled; pencilled in amongst lesson plans and marking. I’ve not given up on gaming though. Not only because I enjoy it, but because gaming has actually been a benefit to my career. This is why I think being a gamer can have a very positive impact on any teacher: