I’ve been a comic book lover for nearly 30 years. I’ve never accumulated a good collection, but I do have some stashed in the attic. Every once in a while I pull them out of their bags and get lost in them. I tell myself that I keep them for my son to read one day. All boys go through a comic book phase, though it lasts longer for some of us.
In many ways, those comics are a link with my childhood that I can’t bear to sever. The larger-than-life characters were better than real to me. They were idealists, iconoclasts, but mostly they were heroes in an age that needed them desperately. It’s my desire to be heroic that attracts me to these stories again and again. Of course, longing to accomplish heroic deeds and actually performing them are very different things. I’m afraid of bees, for crying out loud. Leaping from rooftops, dodging bullets, and wearing tights all seem like feats best not attempted.
Video games are the perfect arena for me to practice heroics. I can dispense metric tons of butt whuppin’, save the innocent, thwart hordes of alien invaders, and all without worrying about injuries or even leaving my living room. Tabletop role-playing games provide me with similar opportunities and an infinite number of twists and turns along the way. As a bonus, many of these sessions, spent with friends and dice, have spawned ideas for stories I’ve written. The very nature of these games lends to storytelling on an epic scale, with multiple people contributing to the end result.
Skeptics might argue against the value of all the time spent imagining rather than engaging in something more tangible. At the end of the day, they could say, no matter how many monsters I’ve kill or what level my Half-Elven Ranger has attained, nothing has been accomplished. I disagree. I’ve always craved the feeling of having saved the world. Now that I’m “grown up” and know how unlikely it is I will ever actually do that, these outlets are even more important to me. Most of the time, I have to take solace in small victories: helping my son finish his math homework, returning my shopping cart before it dings somebody’s car, helping my mom with her computer, or keeping my cool when the bumble bee lands on my leg. Maybe I am a hero to the kid who needs to understand geometry, or the lady who doesn’t have to pay the body shop, or my mom who is much more comfortable using a typewriter. (I can’t speak for the bee.) I guess these small acts can be enough if I can save the pixelated Princess every once in a while.