Friday, October 15, 2010

Nostalgia In Cardboard

With the release of the D&D Essentials Red Box/Starter Set, I've been noticing quite a bit of nostalgia mentioned on blogs, forums, Youtube videos, at my local gaming store, etc. A lot of "I remember back when I was ___ years old or in college.......etc...etc". And then in many cases after that, go on to mention their disappointment in the contents of the new red box. But honestly though, until you got to the point where you realized that it was a big marketing thing on WOTC part and the that you might've find the product to be kind of "meh", wasn't it a great feeling as all of those memories came back to you when you first got into D&D? Maybe it was a simpler or happier time that you wanted to reach back for. Who knows but the feeling whenever people talk about seeing that red box and the memories associated with it usually had smiles attached to them.

I didn't have the luxury of growing up playing D&D. I did play the Dragon Strike board game and buy a Dungeons & Dragons set from a toy store but never played with the contents in it. It was the one with the black box and a red dragon on it. I seem to recall a name like Zamzer Tam in the adventure. In fact, aside from Dragon Strike, my real D&D exposure would come in the form of 4E last year. So it'll probably be awhile before I get to really go nostalgic on the subject of D&D.

But I do have a nostalgic story of my own that just took place recently. About a month ago, I went into the Antique Mall here in Edmonton and stumbled across some sealed packs of 1992 X-Men trading cards. Yep, I bought them all...19 packs I believe and a bunch of the '93 set too. That Sunday afternoon as I was ripping open packs, I honestly felt like I was 10 years old again. Except now as an adult, I had a whole whack of packs to open at once whereas as a child I was rarely opening more than 2 packs at a time. From there I later on went onto Ebay, bought the rest of the set along with four other Marvel & X-Men trading card sets.

Well my package arrived yesterday and after I had put all of my cards into those protective 9 card binder page sleeves, I went back to flip through my newly filled binders to admire my new old treasures.

When I rifled through the the '92 X-Men set I got a bit misty eyed. Why? I remembered seeing a base set for sale in a comic book store in Malaysia a week before my family moved to Canada and not be allowed to get it because my mom felt it was a big waste of money. In retrospect I completely see her perspective now because they were specially imported there (at least at the time as you couldn't buy trading cards in 7-Eleven and comic book stores really were a specialty store) and quite expensive in relation to other things locally.

When we first moved to Canada, me and my dad would walk almost everyday to a convenience store near the house we were guests in for our first three weeks in Edmonton before my folks bought our home. There he would always give me some cash and I would always split it up so that I could play some Street Fighter II and try to get two packs of trading cards. I'd usually buy a pack of Marvel Universe Series 3 because there were 10 cards to a pack and one pack of X-Men (the set that I liked better but kinda felt ripped off that there were only six cards in there). These cards along with Street Fighter II would be part of my experience in the move to Canada. Where everything else had changed around me, I still had my mom, dad and sister and I guess the X-Men were there to tag along.

My dad would end up passing away when I was in high school. But yeah, I really realized that with the purchase of that one particular set of cards, I was finally able to see it all together after 18 years and it would be my memory capsule of the summer of '92 when there were still the four of us. I really think that as my dad was watching me play Street Fighter II or walking with me back to the house as I expressed my excitement of pulling out a Wolverine, Psylocke or Gambit card, etc, the back of his head was playing the checklist of things that he had to do while in this transtion.

I was in a sombre mood but they were still great memories to revisit. The scary part for me however is; I do not remember the sound of his voice anymore.

Now to make it relevant to gaming. I think what I love so much about good gaming sessions when it comes to playing at the table, is that a lot of memories are made. Sure if you play a lot of RPGs, it might become a big blur but you cannot deny the experience. One of my best friends played RPGs in after-school care and I recall him on multiple occassions talking about the amazing game of the Heavy Gear RPG that they had in the back of the bus during a band trip. While I was never there, the enthusiasm in his voice made me happy as I tried to picture a 5th grade version of him sitting in a circle on the floor playing Marvel Superheroes or whatever. Even in my one year of playing D&D that I have under my belt, I've got quite a lot of strong memories as fragments of various sessions come together. Cool plot hooks, stupid jokes, drunken DMing (that I remember) or the genuine fear that your character might die and you're already planning in the back of your head what new character you're going to make next and then come out on top and the table errupts into cheering. They're thoughts that I cherish. I don't know what it is, but I find that you bond with people a bit differently when it comes to roleplaying games and I am so glad that I never gave into the BS that one shouldn't be "playing games" as an adult and that having an imagination is a bad thing.

I look forward to the day when I might be sorting through boxes, or be at a used book and find a Players Handbook or something and just be flooded with all the good times I've had playing 4E or whatever system and the people I've met along the way. Hopefully I'd still be in touch with a good chunk of them.

What're some of your fondest memories from gaming?


  1. Man, that's a great story about you and your dad. It's awesome that you have all those cards once again. Perhaps you can share them with your own son or daughter some time.

  2. My husband and I were given a box of random stuff from a woman in our family- her now deceased husband was a gamer and she had his collection of gaming stuff all together. We went through it and found some absolute treasures- and it was right then that we both decided who our gaming stuff would go to when we die. We wanted it to go to someone we knew would treasure it, and not handed down to a random person vaguely related by marriage or happenstance.

    My favorite memory is pretty recent, with 20 of my closest friends (all gamers) showing up en mass to act as movers- on GenCon weekend. It really said a lot to me about the community and bonds of friendship I'm forging.

  3. That is a great story about your dad.

    I would say one of my favorite memories would be in high school, I was a total nerd and did not go to prom, instead me friends and I planned a overnight massive game of storming castle Ravenloft. We played all night, stayed up until dawn and then slept all day and went for pizza when everyone woke up that afternoon. Was a great time and probably the last time my old high school group got together for a really long session before we all went our separate ways in college.

  4. Nice posts and Christian for making an actual post on this haha. Pre game cooking for the gang! Having good friends show up to help you move on GenCon and the last stand all nighter before going your separate ways in life. Definitely things to put a notch for.

    Could you still do all-nighters?