Saturday, June 8, 2013

Why I chose a game of D&D over William Shatner at Denver Comic Con


Everyone has their geeky side. It doesn't have to be comic books or a science fiction series. Your personal outlet of escapism and enjoyment could be american football. Maybe your outlet is through romance novels, or prime time television drama's. Either way, we all have things we "geek" out over.

For the 48,000 attendees of Denver's second annual Comic Con convention, our outlet was comic books, science fiction and fantasy series, and board games. For 3 days we celebrated the awesomeness that is being a geek.

I attended a couple of panels where the topic was essentially the growing worldwide acceptance of our obsessions with these alternate medias. It was refreshing to feel that connection with people. I'm not alone, and we are not alone.

The highlight of these panels I attended was Wil Wheaton's. Wil Wheaton is widely known for his role in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Wesley Crusher. What's not as well known is Wheaton's lifestyle as a geek, especially in tabletop board gaming. He's a player of such games as Dungeons & Dragons, and Fiasco. Today, Wheaton hosts a YouTube show called "Tabletop" where he and guests play and review board games.

During the panel, Wheaton told a personal story of why tabletop gaming was important to him. It involved a dark emotional time for his family, when the only peace they ever had together as a family was during board game night. During that time, when they were throwing dice and moving board pieces around, all the troubles of the outside world were put aside for just a few hours. All the drama was left at the door, and despite all the problems they were a family again for the duration of the game.

This was significant for me. It reminded me of how much I loved these games and how much I missed playing them. To me, there's nothing better than the creation and escapism of a good tabletop game with friends. Especially tabletop roleplaying games like D&D, Heavy Gear, and Vampire: The Masquerade. I left this panel determined to go to the gaming arena of the convention that night, and join in on a game.

That night I played Dungeons & Dragons with group of people I've never met before. I was nervous at first, but as the game went on that universal feeling of acceptance swept through the room and we had a blast. There were many laughs, some interesting roleplaying, and in the end we had a challenging battle against a Warforged. I left the convention that night with a huge smile on my face, and a determination to experience that again on Sunday. So that night, I went ahead and signed up to play another game the next afternoon.


Now you may be wondering, what does all this geek squabble have to do with William Shatner?

William Shatner was the guest of honor of the convention. Which meant that his panel, scheduled Sunday afternoon at the same time as my D&D game, was one of the few limited engagements of the convention. Only VIP badges were guaranteed admentince. For the rest of us, we had to be part of the first 500 or so to enter the convention floor that Sunday morning to receive a special wristband to gain entry.

To my surprise Sunday morning, I was one of those lucky few who received a wristband to Shatner's panel. Which meant I had to make a choice. Do I go to Shatner's panel, or do I go to the D&D game I had already signed up for?

It may not sound like a very tough decision, but for me it was like choosing between parents. Do I spend time with Dad, or with Mom? In the end, my conscience made the decision for me. I had already committed to play this game. The other emotion tied to this decision is one I struggle to explain. Simply put, I knew I would have more fun sitting around a table of strangers pretending to be warriors and priests searching to solve the mystery of disappearing villagers. I love shared storytelling. To me there's nothing as creative and exciting as that. This was a once in a lifetime experience, where as the Shatner Panel I can probably watch on YouTube later someday.

So as the line for William Shatner's panel started to form, I went out looking for someone to give my wristband away to. I found off to the side of the main line a smaller line of maybe twenty people. I asked the man at the lead of that smaller line what they were lining up for.

"Oh, we're just lining up hoping to fill any empty seats after they let all the wristbands in."

I pulled out my wristband, "Well, I have a wristband and it turns out I can't go. Would you like to have it?"

I'll never forget the look of glee in that man's face. At first it was a questioning look to see if I was serious, but once I handed him the wristband he thanked me excessively and practically skipped his way over to the other line. My heart swelled as I realized I had just made this man's day, if not his Con.

No offense to the awesomeness that is William Shatner, but I'm glad I sacrificed that wristband to give that fan a day he'll probably talk about for months. Plus, I'll always remember the fun I had playing Dungeons & Dragons that afternoon.

So thanks for reading, and as gift to you here's a video of Shatner at Denver Comic Con reading "Where The Wild Things Are" to the kids in the Comic Book Classroom.


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