One of my colleagues at GWJ posted this awesome article today, and I wanted to crow about it a bit. Sometimes it feels like I am the only one who ever thought of these things, and it's great to see when others have similar thoughts.
It was a little different for me. I don't know if it's because I'm a mom and we were in it on our own, or if it's just that I'm a pushy meddler. ;)
When they were very little, I was a very demanding GM. I designed the game, down to the last details every day. When they'd leveled a bit I helped them move onto the next realm, School, but I still kept close tabs on things.
Once they were in jr high/high school, I felt more like they were the lead in the game, and I was one of the other members of the party. The Sir Auron-type older and supposedly wiser person. I tried to stay in their adventures but let them have their quest. I tried to make sure it was a learning experience rather than actual damage, but I kept the healing potions handy. I tried to minimize the times I had step in and make it clear to anything that so much as mussed their hair that it would be very very sorry if it did that again. They have to learn, even when it's heartbreaking to let it happen.
When they were grown, that's when I truly became an NPC. I remember when my eldest son first left for the Army, and I realized I was pacing the same senseless pattern around the living room over and over, waiting for a phone call. Those first few years when they all tried their own wings and fought their own dragons were hard.
Now they're marrying and launching their own games. I still get called in for a cameo now and then, but we'll see where they all fly.
The work-a-day world seemed very weird. The streets have been taken back by people in dress shirts. Even my comrades have doffed their blue shirts and donned regular clothes. I slid into a seat in the coffee shop at the bottom of the Washington State Trade and Convention Center musing. Sunday I had a 5' tall cardboard cutout of some character reading over my shoulder. Monday, it's a scraggly ficus benjamina trailing it's leaves across the back of my neck with the breeze from the door's opening and closing. Yesterday, this was PAX. Today, it's back to real life.
The contrast makes the dislocation seem more acute. I'd finished my part of tear-down, and come here to get coffee and WiFi so I could begin to divine exactly which precinct of R'lyeh my Inbox had descended to in the past five days. It's just like I do every day back home. Watching my iPad try vainly to download the madness into my mail client, I feel weird. Thin. Like butter scraped over too much bread. It's perfectly natural if you think about it.
I just spent five days or so with 60,000+ or so of my own kind. I was most emphatically not alone. Geeking-out is not only okay, it's encouraged. Even a cursory look around shows that you're not even close to the weirdest guy in the room. You and your buddies stumble from panel to Expo Hall to Freeplay room in a haze of camaraderie and caffeine.
As a volunteer, it can be even more intense. On top of the geeking-out and the challenges to overcome, I had 500+ buddies who have my back and are working tirelessly by my side. Great deeds are done, songs are sung. Even with all the hassle and headaches the whole experience can have a ringing transcendence.
But like all good things, it must come to an end. Over the course of teardown you have to watch as this wonderful little world is disassembled and packed away for another year. Your buddies trickle away in dribs and drab, with a few tears and promises to stay in touch. And then, with hugs and waves, it's time for me to go, too.
I gather my stuff and schlep the bag of games I lent to CFP down to my car, and emerge from the parking lot to face the rest of the world. I'm back to normal life. Even here in Nerdvana, I'm kind of a geek-island; you can't just fly your own flag free in the breeze without getting looked at or worse. Everyone doesn't smile at you when you pass by. It's back to grumbling bosses and teachers and all the rest of the regular round. No great deeds here; you face your usual job/classes/etc with all the stress and skull-sweat they imply. Your buddies are suddenly far away in both miles and flips of the calendar page.
The hardest thing to let go of is the feeling that you can fix things. One of the hallmarks of working for PAX is the empowerment. Within those walls I am uniquely able to look at things that are wrong and gather my troops and fix them. In the real world, that's far from the case. Going back onto my usual trawl and hearing about bad things happening to people and not being able to do anything brings and doubled and re-doubled frustration at my own impotence. I read about a woman who was assaulted at a party put on by a game company and the red haze of rage that spread across my vision when I read the response of security guard she reported it to still hasn't completely faded. I did what I could - sent the info off to someone higher up the food chain than I and he in turn is doing what he can. It's not enough, but there really isn't anything else either.
Home isn't the refuge I was hoping it would be. Instead of facing the crowds, I have to deal with Mt. Washmore, the Zerg creep of dishes and stuff my younger son left in the living room, the prospect of moving, and putting back together what taking the time off did to my schedule at work. This project was already wound tight as a miser's fist when I left. I would have been hosed even if things had gone perfectly while I was gone (and of course they didn't). Some of this nonsense should be forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. No amount of coffee in the world is going to wash this away.
I've had these Post-PAX blues like ten times now, and I have some strategies in place. I know that if I get sick it means two weeks before I can get my head above water. But even if I did manage to avoid any sort of ConSARS, previous experience has taught me it's going to take me a week or so to know it all out. There aren't any easy, on-size-fits-all answers -- each person needs to find their own. For me, it mostly involves finding a way to carve out just a little bit of that same feeling into my regular life.
It doesn't have to be something big. In the past I have tried all sorts of things. Take a half an hour to beat my son's scores on some songs in The Beatles: Rock Band again. Wear my Enforcer shirt to church Youth Group. Go puddle-stomping while waiting for the bus and be a terrible example for any kids nearby. Last year I made spaghetti for dinner while wearing my pajamas and dancing around the kitchen to Ask DNA on my headphones.
I don't know for certain what I'm going to do this year. Tonight I know it will involve someone else doing the dishes and me grinding the Forge Lands like I'm going to use their bones to make my bread. After that, we'll have to see. Anyone have any good ideas?
Yes, I mean you. The foul mouthed heathen who skews the typographical hierarchy of the English language due to the high incidence of usage of the letter "F".
I know you got a sniper round right where the sun don't shine. That doesn't mean you need to discuss the procreative habits of several sorts of small mammals that loudly for the rest of the game.
If you don't want her to do that again, next time you're driving the Warthog please remember that "clearance" isn't just for secret agents. Yes it's an ATV but it's still captive to the laws of physics. That way when you drive up the hill you might actually avoid the 4' high boulders strewn about by the game to make that more interesting and not get yourself high-centered like that. Once you do that, you're sniper-bait.
If you decide for whatever reason to do this again, I recommend that you LEAVE THE WARTHOG. You might be able to flip it off the rock. If you sit there with your thumb in your ear like you did this time you're liable to get caught in the crossfire between two Ghosts who are merrily trying to knock each other out of the sky. This is also unhealthy. When you get hit, your discussion about the sexual habits and probable skin color of the pilots is not going to help you respawn any faster.
The Nazi B$&@() Driving the Ghost Who Turned off Voice Chat and Gave You That Negative Feedback
P.S. We're playing in the Recreation Zone. That means we're all supposed to keep it clean and not get quite so up tight about it. If you want heavy competition hit the Professional Zone, you window-licking smacktard. Of course, that would also mean you should have some skills. So either zip your filthy howling screamer or learn to hit the broad side of a barn from the inside. Your choice.
I'm stuck here at work (duh duh duh duh duh)
And I can't play my game (duh duh duh duh duh)
My servers are screamin' (duh duh duh duh duh)
My kids are a pain (duh duh duh duh duh)
But I'll get to play soon! (duh duh duh duh duh)
One more day to go! (duh duh duh duh duh)
'Cause it's Friday all day here (duh duh duh duh duh)
And tomorrow's my show! (duh duh duh duh duh)
(with apologies to BBKing)