My Weekend as a True Booter, Part 3

Fear The Con 8. The Octocon.
The Afterword.

Why did I use the phrase "True Booter" when sitting down to write this series of entries? Well, it goes back to when I was in college.

I dropped out of college while attending on scholarships that took care of all of my tuition and room & board. Why in the world would I squander what had been given to me? It's simple, really. I craved a different line of work than what I was studying to pursue -- I simply didn't realize that at the time. But what sealed it was that what seemed like every night of the week, I would get together with a rotating group of friends -- usually consisting of Joel, Hilary, Dawn, and Jennifer -- and play Spades.

We could make a game of Spades go for 3 hours. We'd get some kind of snacks and drinks from one of the campus convenience stores. We'd throw Bryan Adams, Billy Joel, Harry Connick, Jr., Pet Shop Boys, or greatest hits of the '80s compilations in the CD player. We'd joke and laugh and chastise each other for table talk. We would play until midnight, 1 a.m., 2 a.m., even later. I would skip classes because I didn't get enough sleep.

It was my first official gaming group.

We were gamers. Or at least I was. And this carried over into several areas of my life.

I performed with ComedySportz St. Louis. I attended rehearsals once a week and showed up at every show we scheduled, even if I wasn't on the schedule that night. I lived and breathed performance and improvisation. I was drawn in not by the theatrics, not by the method of improv, but by the games. Blind Line. Good Advice, Bad Advice, Worst Advice. Shakespeare. Madrigal. Dance Craze. John Malkovich. I got paid, but barely. It wasn't a job -- it was a chance to flex my creative muscle, and I wanted to practice with others even after we'd performed two shows on a weekend. Occasionally, I got some money out of it, which I considered a bonus.

I was a gamer.

When I bought Guitar Hero III, I stayed up until 5 a.m. trying to conquer the game, and eventually plunking my way through the medium level of "Through the Fire and Flames" at the end, knowing that I would have a severe challenge in front of me with the next 2 more difficult levels.

I was a gamer.

The first time my wife and I played a party game with her family, they found out how competitive I was. I wasn't bad, but I was out to win. Since that first time, stories have been told and legends passed down regarding the Great Uno Attack Throwdown of Brighton, Illinois.

I was a gamer.

When I attended Fear The Con 7 in 2014, I found out that there were others just like me who had this same obsession with The Game. It wasn't that we all listened to Fear The Boot and bonded over shared ideas. It wasn't that we needed a vacation or an excuse to travel. And it wasn't that the goal was to play another roleplaying game (or in my case, my first). It was that we craved community.

We ached for the familiarity of people who shared a common, yet unique, hobby. We rejoiced when we found it in the people around us. We supported those who had questions or couldn't figure out how to play the game well. We laughed when things went horribly wrong, and cringed when the tension called for it. We tensed up, then relaxed, only to tense up again. And we did it together.

We were gamers.

One of the many gateway drugs (not actual drugs).
Today, I'm struggling to find those people like me, the ones who gather not just for the sake of The Game, but for the sake of connection, to find The Tribe into which I belong, and to find others to bring into that Tribe. I have been able to make connection with a few, and I believe I've found a couple kindred spirits, but at our age, finding a consistent time to hold a Tribal Council can be daunting. Life is busy. We have families, priorities, responsibilities to our spouses and employers, our kids and our cousins, our friends and our foes, our creditors and charities. Such things are too important to be distractions.

I work in two industries where I am in high profile, and a lot of people know who I am. So I'm constantly surrounded by people, but that also means I'm often very alone. I need that Tribe. I need that community, be it large or small, to dine with every once in a while. To break bread and tell stories of heroic deeds and vanquished foes, of problematic relationships and absurd realities. To speak of action-heavy combat, deep character development, and horrible, horrible puns.

I need my Tribe.
I need other Gamers.
WE need other Gamers.

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So why the phrase True Booter?

To me, a True Booter is one who, as a Gamer, recognizes the importance of fitting in with your Tribe, who looks for ways in which to make The Tribe better, and who is constantly on the search for other brave souls to bring into The Tribe.

So don't be surprised if, one day, you open up your email, receive a small envelope, or find a scroll with a wax seal on your doorstep with the following message inside:
Listen . . . 
This may be just a dungeon to you, but this dungeon is more fun than you could ever possibly imagine. This world offers you more than you can merely see with your eyes. These people around you will make that world better, bolder, bigger, and brighter than ever before.
We'll explore everything you've always wanted to see, and reveal new things you never knew existed. We'll discover mysteries complex and wonderful, and we'll debate over what to do with them. We'll whisper excited tales of the brave and heroic, the dark and deranged, the beautiful and grotesque. We'll shout in victory when evil is defeated, and we'll breathe a sigh of relief once reunited with our loved ones.
We'll cry for the ones we lose in battle, welcome the ones who join us on the way, and support those who need help on their journey.
If you accept this invitation, I will stand by you as you navigate this land, and you will have nothing to fear. I will answer when you call, and I will always seek the best for you. I will show you what being part of The Tribe can do for you, and how we can be greater with you among our ranks.
If you would just take my hand, hold on tight, and trust me . . .
. . . you could be a Gamer.

There Is No Box.