Almost everything I know about fandoms and hobbies that are not my own, I learned from Fandom Wank (and its several spinoffs), Stupid Free (and its much more frequently updated offshoot, SF Drama), and the community famous for completely breaking Livejournal, Oh No They Didn’t. What can I say, I love watching wankfests and flamewars.
The D&D Edition wars were barely a blip on the radar of the many wank communities I followed. So it was a surprise to see how acrimonious people could get when defending their favourite edition of D&D, or crapping on whatever edition they didn’t like.
Unfortunately, these flamewars didn’t have the entertainment value of some of my favourite kerfuffles. (Examples:  WTF, People Will Wank About Anything: bread, icing vs. frosting, cheeseburgers, knitting- beware of angry people wielding long pointy objects;  Wow Batshit Insane Is Not a Strong Enough Term- astral plane marriages, otakukin/otherkin/soulbonders;  This Wank is the Definition of “Ignorance Is Bliss”- google “His wife? A horse!”, Care Bears BDSM and other appalling examples of Rule 34;  I Hate How Canon Sank My Ship) But edition wars? I haven’t found any funny comebacks, or jaw-droppingly insane assertions that amuse as much as astonish. Just a lot of pissing contests (aside: I like the Tagalog wording of this phrase much better- pataasan ng ihi– it’s so much more expressive and crude) and general incivility. After the initial shallow gratification one gets out of watching a trainwreck, I backed out of those corners of the internet quickly and sought out other more supportive, constructive places to learn more about this new hobby.
I especially didn’t enjoy edition wars because they remind me too much of something misguided people have employed in an effort to make me feel better: Oppression Olympics. Edition wars and Oppression Olympics: no one wins, and almost everyone involved looks like a dick.
See, upon learning about my accident, most people assumed that I temporarily joined the ranks of persons with disabilities (PWDs). Nope, sorry, recurrently dislocating patellae made me a PWD, whether or not the accident happened. They were limitations that I had to work around. They were certainly not as visible a disability as they were post-accident, but they were still there.
And that served as a jumping off point for some well-meaning people to cheer me up. Here are some phrases that people tossed out in order to make me “look at the bright side of things”:
– It’s not like you’re paralyzed
-It’s not like you’re an amputee
-It’s not like you have cancer
-It’s not like you’ll never walk again
-It’s not like your condition is incurable
-If x, y, or z circumstance was different, your accident would have killed you, so at least you aren’t dead
-At least you have some form of insurance
And at the end of those statements, there was always the tack on of “other people have it worse. At least you’re not like them.”
I can’t speak for all PWDs, or people who have suffered illnesses or accidents, but let me say this for myself: those statements do not make me feel optimistic. They do not make me feel better about my condition. They do not inspire positive thinking.
In fact, they make me feel crummier. Pointing out other people who have it worse does not do anything toward healing me, whether physically or emotionally. It just makes me feel like an asshole. Perhaps I’m being too sensitive about this, but really, comfort should not come from thinking about how much better you have it than other people who deserve understanding and compassion.
Once the last suture has been knotted, once the last stitch has been absorbed, a lot of the healing (with regard to my injury) depends on willpower and a positive outlook. Strong muscles are what will get me walking properly again, but the drive to overcome the pain and do the exercises to strengthen my muscles are needed to get there. The things that have been really helpful in building that mindset have been:
– Not pitying myself
-Looking forward and planning what I’ll do once my doctor has cleared me for regular activities
-Counting my blessings (by thinking “it’s cool that I have this” and not “it’s cool that I don’t have this, unlike other people”)
-Finding the right balance between slowly gaining independence and asking for help when I really need it
The last has been the hardest. I admit, I’m a proud person. It was downright humiliating for me, at first, to admit that I needed assistance with the simplest of tasks. This would sometimes reach the point where my pride would overcome my needs, and things would either (1) not get done or (2) tax me to the point that I overextended myself.
I’m not going to be hyperbolic and say “playing tabletop RPGs saved my life” but I will say that the mindset needed to make and play a character who will be an effective and fun member of a party is the same one I needed to learn how to slowly and sensibly get back into the groove of doing things. I’m a type A personality, a textbook Scorpio. I need to win, I need to be the best (or at least within the upper ranks) at whatever I choose to do, I need to be capable all the fucking time. I was long overdue for learning how to accept failure gracefully. That attitude doesn’t work when healing from an injury such as mine, and it certainly doesn’t work at the gaming table.
In building a character (D&D and Shadowrun 4e, have yet to try other RPG systems), I had to learn that there was no such thing as “master of all trades.” On the other end of the character building spectrum, there was only so much minmaxing that I could do, a limit to the negative qualities I could take. And taking flaw upon flaw or completely hamstringing my character in all but one aspect didn’t give me an uber awesome supreme one-trick pony, either.
These in-game points were nice real-life reminders that (1) watchu gonna do, I’m not completely independently mobile right now so I’ll just have to work with what I’ve got and (2) there’s no room for pitying myself and thinking I’m entitled to some other awesome thing because this incredibly sucky thing happened to me.
When it came to actually playing, my party situation mirrored my life: there are people who have my back and I should trust that we’re going to help each other. Never mind if we were playing in a setting as unforgiving and brutal as Dark Sun, never mind if my group had to go from one end of Metro Manila to the other (and beyond) just to play with me: at the table and away from it, I had people willing to assist me in becoming a better player, people helping me with stuff until I could do it for myself.
With everything that’s happened, it’s easy for me to sink into self-pity, thinking poor me as I watch everyone leading busy lives whilst my own is stalled. Some could argue that seeking refuge in RPGs is retreating into a fantasy world. But having a gaming group composed of the most supportive friends one could ever have is actually helping me face reality better. All that we do -rolling dice, fighting stuff, completing missions, having adventures, simply just hanging out- puts me in a better frame of mind to accomplish things in real life. And if I can’t do it right away? No biggie. There’s always someone to help, someone to guide until I can stand on my own, literally and figuratively.
When it comes to giving me a more positive outlook to deal with everything? RPGs beat Oppression Olympics, hands down, every time.