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I'm 38 and began playing RPGs at age eight; they led to my interest in fantasy literature and thus my career as a lecturer and literary critic. I was pleased to see the hobby being taken seriously and was enjoying your article until the final word.
To be very clear, RPGs do not turn people into social outcasts. Nerds are not as nerds do, they are as they are treated. The reputations of RPGs and their players stem from non-players who have heard that RPG players are nerds and thus spurn the games - generally with rather less understanding of what they are afraid of than you have demonstrated here - and unthinkingly perpetuate behaviour that would probably be described as abuse if they were prompted by any other personality trait. I have actual physical scars - small ones, I admit - inflicted by people subscribing to the idea that RPG players were nerds; it was thanks to other such people that I learned, aged eleven, what human semen smelled like. None of that was the fault of Gary Gygax. It was entirely the result of those carelessly subscribing to idea that my hobby disqualified me from civil treatment by society at large. This whole 'nerd' business is the root cause of that.
I stuck to my guns, and as I say, my interest in these games has led to a fantastic career. I still believe, however, that we as a society really have to get over the fun of using a sixty-year-old cultural slur. The ongoing currency of that word will, I assure you, have been making life difficult for someone in the last school year. That kid isn't a nerd. He's a roleplayer. He should be proud.
Thanks Susan. Really enjoyed the article and agree that RPGs are the best tonic for the fragmented society that we now live in thanks to social media. I have two different groups that I alternate week about and have recently started a weekend group for my sons and their friends and I'm staggered by the lack of general knowledge that the other kids show - everything I learnt at an early age through RPGs.2
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