In my keynote to PAX East last year, I said that gaming is the foundation of, and the mortar that holds together, the strongest and longest lasting friendships in my life. I've been playing with the same guys since high school, and even though we all live in different states (and some of us live in different countries), a few times a year we all gather at someone's house (usually our friend Cal's house) for a day of gaming, eating, drinking, and more drinking.
Over the years, girlfriends and boyfriends have come and gone, members have been added to our group, and our family has grown. We've introduced our gamer-adjacent partners to the hobby that we love so much, using infection vectors like Wits & Wagers, Pandemic, Frank's Zoo, and Shadows Over Camelot. We've had children (Yay! Future gamers!), divorces (Boo! Now it's awkward!), and a D&D campaign that lasted for a decade. Without gaming, we'd still see each other, but I know we wouldn't see each other nearly as often as we do.
About a month ago, we got together for our annual holiday gathering. Cal told me that he wanted to run a D&D one-shot, and that he wanted me to set the date, so I wouldn't be able to back out for some series of reasons that were defined as "bullshit."
I pulled out my phone, and looked at my calendar. "How about January 29?"
Cal called our friend Steve over to the kitchen. Steve lives in Northern California, and getting down to Cal's for game day is about as complicated as flying to LAX from SFO.
"Wil says he can play on the 29th. Can you come down?"
Steve didn't hesitate. "I can do that." He looked at me, pointedly. "...but can you?"
"I just said I could. That's why Cal called you over."
They looked at each other. We've been planning a one-shot for a few years, and it always falls apart because of me, and some series of reasons that are always defined a "bullshit." They looked back at me. Nothing needed to be said.
"I promise that I will play on the 29th," I said. I typed it into my calendar. "See? I'm typing it into my calendar right now. That makes it official."
Cal set his wine glass on the counter, and pointed at me. "Okay, we'll play on the 29th, but if you don't show up, I am coming to your house, and I will punch you in the dick."
Steve said, "I will also fly down from San Francisco and I will also punch you in the dick."
I said, "Well, I don't want to get punched in the dick, and I really want to play D&D with my friends, so I don't think it will be a problem."
We made celebratory noises, and opened another bottle of wine to mark the occasion.
While I was in Portland last week, Anne called me. "Are you still playing D&D with Cal and everyone on Saturday?"
"I don't want to get punched in the dick," I said.
"Yes. Yes, I'm playing D&D on Saturday. Why?"
"All the wives are getting together for an anti-D&D-girly-spa day while you guys play, and then everyone is getting together for dinner after. I wanted to make sure you were playing before I told them I'd go."
"Woah! That's awesome," I said. Then, I had a million dollar idea. "Someone should open up some kind of non-gamer spa or something right next to a game shop, so nerds can drop their Muggle partners off while they play."
"Yeah, if you don't know what a Muggle is, you're a Muggle. That's just science, Anne."
In the silence that followed, I could feel The Look coming through the phone at me.
"Anyway. Yes, I'm playing, and yes, you should go, because that will be awesome for both of us."
"Mmmmkay," she said.
Our undying love was declared, and we hung up the phone.
Over the next couple of days, Anne texted me frequently about the spa day, and how much she was looking forward to getting together with her friends while I played with my friends. This morning I e-mailed Cal with some questions about the game. In his reply, he told me to make sure Anne was connected with the girls for their spa thing.
"Oh, she knows all about it," I wrote back. "In fact, I've never seen her this excited for me to go play D&D."
When I told PAX that gaming was so important to my friends and me, I didn't even consider that all of our wives, who only know each other because of us, have formed their own friendships that are independent of their nerdy husbands. So, in a way, gaming didn't just bring my group of friend together (and keep us together), it brought our wives together, too. The next time some idiot says that gaming and gamers are antisocial, I think I'll mention this ... and then punch them in the dick.