One of my gaming heroes (there are a few: Sean K. Reynolds for inspiring me to get back into the fold, Clinton Boomer for being way, way more crazy-old-man than me, and Ryan Macklin, for being a boss and basically doing what I intend to emulate) celebrated his birthday the other day.
I don’t care for birthdays, but he made a very excellent request that I’d like to answer the call for.
Ryan wants to hear everyone’s positive stories about how gaming has changed their lives for the better, moments you cherish or that had a profound effect on you. Hashtag them #36GamingMoments.
So I thought for a while, and struggled: there’s no shortage of great tabletop gaming sessions in my illustrious time at the board, but did any single one inspire me to truly change or improve?
Throughout my youth I was equally lauded for being clever and pulverized for being egotistical; by the time I rolled out into the world as an adult, my sense of self-worth ended up being destroyed, a bravado facade being the thing most people knew me for.
Not horribly tenable.
When I started college the repairs began, largely because of one of the most embarrassing moments of my life: shooting Robo-Hitler in the face.
This would be, for reasons you probably don’t suspect, the single most humiliating moment of my life.
That is really saying something, and only because I want to be hired at real companies at some point in my lifetime do I not expound upon it here.
I’m getting ahead of myself though, so some context is due.
Back in the days before World of Warcraft and the like (Everquest was getting underway), to have an MMO experience you were playing only through text and ASCII art and all that. Eventually I stumbled upon this ridiculously awesome server hosting a MUX (multiple user interface) based off of 1st Edition Mutants and Masterminds: Crucible City.
Imagine it’s a really big table and everyone has to write things out and read other folks’ writings to communicate, doing all of this simultaneously and in real time, and you’re near the mark.
One of the ways to gain experience for your character on Crucible City was running games, which is something I did all the time. The administrators were pretty friendly about that, and before long I had become one of the most powerful players on the server. There were several notable characters (Splits has seen play since), but my primary PC was a mishmash of Hawkeye/Green Arrow/Batman, this ridiculous archer named Sniper (and later, Mercury?).
Nazis on the Moons of Jupiter
While all these minor scenes were going on (being run by whomever), a larger global plot thread was always being handled by the administrators. One of these (the best one) was an invasion of interdimensional-nazis. I can’t remember if Sniper or Splits fought any on Earth, but I did get into the big, climactic final scene of the entire story arc.
You know, the one that everybody on the server, playing or not, was around to watch—live—as it went down.
The nazis set up a huge space cannon on one of the moons of Jupiter, so Sniper took his SUPAR STAELTH JAT (which is what I always called it, because while I loved the PC having one it is a silly concept to me) up there and when the scenes started going, was the first superhero to run into Robo-Hitler.
The really humiliating part
There was something like 300 people on the server watching as I beat Robo-Hitler on initiative. We rolled out the attacks (which, of course, hit, because Sniper was built with the fervor of power-gaming youth) and then, in a flourish of writing genius, I produced what I thought was a brilliant, dramatic action scene dripping with justice!
It was not.
The admin-GM asked me, “are you sure this is what you want to post?”
I was very sure.
I’m not going to try to recreate it here, but it amounts to Sniper yelling in a gravely voice at Robo-Hitler, alerting him just as he lets the first arrow fly, “atchung juden!”
If you speak German, you are already aware of what a god awful battlecry that was.
The translation for “atchung juden” is “attention jew”.
Sit on that for a second.
300 people (pretty much the entire server), everyone watching, literally the end of a months-long story arc that dozens of people have actively participated in, and I f#%(&*@ yell, “attention jew!” at Robo-Hitler right before hitting him with the arrow.
The house erupted. Eventually the admins had to start asking people to stop trolling me so we could get on with the game, but that is almost certainly what I’m remembered for most by the folks who played in Crucible City.
If you’re wondering, I thought that was the phrase above Auschwitz (“arbeit macht frei”), which would have been far more appropriate and I think, the kind of thing a dark superhero would scream at Robo-Hitler before firing off weapons at him.
Well, maybe Deadpool would do that, but yeah—it was horrifically embarrassing, extremely humiliating, and a fresh slap in the god damn face to let me know that I’m very, very ignorant.
Or I was.
Now I like to think I’ve grown to just very ignorant, and I have plenty of time to rise up to just mostly ignorant and, fate willing, become only moderately ignorant before I die.
It also taught me to laugh at my mistakes.
Looking back I can see why everyone thought it was so funny, and at this point when I think about it, I end up chuckling: that would have to be really surprising to Robo-Hitler. Last thing in the world he would expect to hear kind of surprising.
So do your research, spend time accruing data, be culturally sensitive and informed. Oh, and it’s okay to be wrong: that shit happens.
That’s my bit for #36GamingMoments.