Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Speak Out With Your Geek Out - RPGs

This week I have been challenged to share my geeky hobby with you all.  Wow, when I signed up to do this, I didn't think it would be a challenge.  I mean I'm a geek through and through, I even have the license plate!  I have a biology degree, but have spent more time doing cartography and programming than actual biology as a job.  I love science - all sciences,  I love debate especially with my husband (in a scholarly sense - that political/business nonsense can take a flying leap!),  I read all kinds of geeky literature (see here, here, here, for a few reviews posted previously), I enjoy writing here and on novels that never seem to get very far (although I keep making goals to change that my crazy schedule doesn't seem to cooperate), I like to make things, geeky things - things with just a bit of steampunk flair or a hint of geek, or my current foray into all out geek costumes for my kids (and possibly my husband and myself), I watch sci-fi and fantasy tv and movies and the occasional anime, but if I had to pick my biggest geek hobby, RPGs would win - every single time!

What is an RPG?  RPG stands for Role Playing Game.  How generic is that right?  I mean what isn't a role playing game (ok, maybe that's just my world)? RPGs are games where you play through a story, you take a role, you interact with the world.  Some RPGs have more story and less open characters, some have more open characters and less story.  Some RPGs come in a box, some come on a disk or a download, some come out of a book (or set of books) and some just pop out of someone's head.  RPGs can be a solo event, like my favorite series Final Fantasy, or they can be extremely social - think Dungeons and Dragons, although in my personal experience it was a White Wolf game called Exalted - I sooo miss our storyteller and circle!  But it doesn't have to be that fancy and fleshed out of a world, it can just be a great game of Harry Potter Clue.  -- Ok I love ALL Clue boards and grew up playing Clue Master Detective, which is by far the best clue ever, but Harry Potter Clue is a close second, it's just a great game!

From a very early age my children (who are my biggest, geekiest endeavor ever!) have known that a stressed out mommy needs a video game controller and to be told, firmly, but with love to go play video games.  What they mean is go play and RPG.  My daughters have been known to cheer me through dungeons (nothing like having a cheering squad for every single monster you send back to the ether!), and fetch books, beverages, and other means to aid in getting the most from the game.  Before kids my husband and I would lay around on weekends playing games all day long.  It was a wonderful time, so relaxed lost together in another world.  RPGs offer a wonderful escape from the crud of real life.  They also give you a chance to take out your violent side battling monsters through strategy, dice rolls, or controller commands.

Social or solo role playing games are a wondrous way to relax and rise above the strain of every day life.  In a role playing game you can save the world from itself, or watch it fall and a new better world arise, you can do things you would never be able to do in real life, with fantastical weapons that are a beautiful as they are deadly.  A good role playing story can pull at your heart and make you laugh just like the best of books.  With the few exceptions you can either play with great thought and strategy or just go on reflex relaxing into some easy combat, each game is different based on how you feel, and the feelings of the other players if there are any.

Like all wonderful distractions there are problems, aside from being distracted from "what's really important". It's easy to get sucked into hours and hours of play, in fact some games do not offer good stopping places at all.  When the kids are little, the cords make for a toddler minefield (although cordless controllers can still be blocked).  Some of the social games can be difficult to find others in your area, with your schedule who want to play too.  Or if you socialize online the timing of everything can get torturous as different players have different commitment levels and abilities to the game.  Therefore, I mostly end up playing with my husband.  We both wish we could add more people to the group, and he is currently working on a table top game our daughters (and eventually - like next year when he's 2 son) can play with us.

My first RPG was with my dad.  We'd just gotten a Commodore 128, and my Mom had been given copies of some games by a high school student whom she was teaching algebra to.  Among those games was a gem called Twin Kingdom Valley.  Being only 6 years old I wasn't allowed to play by myself, although I did mess around with it when I was older.  My dad and I would spend our time together mapping out the dungeons and trying to find items to figure out all the mysteries of Twin Kingdom Valley, dodging trolls and doing battle with witches.  I have real fond memories of him showing me how to make maps on graph paper where each move took a full square (and if the game developers had used the same technique it would have worked better as well!)  Later we started our board game collection, with Clue Master Detective being an instant favorite.

My children have already started creating monsters to battle with dice in their father's new game.  It's amazing to share the creative story time and the fun of defeating imaginary foes together.  For us it's a great geek hobby.

Looking for more Speak Out Participants?  Check the Master List and explore a variety of geeky hobbies!

About KtCallista:
I am a SheGeek, Mom of three aspiring geeklings.  I have a degree in biology, but spend most of my time programming and working odd jobs to balance kids, their school, and work.  I frequently have crazy ideas that get stuck in my head so I started writing this blog.  I tend to have the ability to see beyond the situation into a larger scope with more variables than the average person.  This became apparent while I was working at the local fish and wildlife agency and could balance more environmental factors than my peers and connected more research together than they themselves could follow or comprehend.  It made for an awkward work environment, but my coworkers simply felt I was in the wrong place and were grateful for my skills with computers and GIS.  Following that job I was forced to take the worlds most boring job and the ideas in my head compiled so much I was forced (for my own sanity) to start this job.  I currently assist my oldest daughter's school, work on the hydrology characterization tool (a web interface for wepp - it's this soils/hydrology tool written in fortran) and am super mom.  I am currently undergoing an employment crisis in that I would like to pursue a more permanent career, but am completely unsure what I should pursue having done a bit of this and that since college.  My husband who also guest writes for Paper Napkins, may be found at his blog.


  1. Yes, I hear there is a new Zelda game for the Wii coming out soon ;)

  2. Interesting. Personally found RPG's too complicated for my brain, but I do love Clue. Regular Clue, which my family doesn't even have. My parents have it, but since Jeremiah got Harry Potter Clue for Christmas a couple of years ago, I'm pretty sure my kids would be bored to tears with the original Clue. I found Harry Potter Clue a little too complex to be relaxing as a family game. I might eventually actually try playing it with my kids for real, someday, when I can put everything else aside and just focusing on playing with them, already knowing it isn't going to be a relaxing chatty Kathy type of game for me. I'm going to actually have to think a little more than that. Maybe during Christmas break, or at least in between sports seasons!

  3. I used to love Oregon Trail in elementary school (and beyond). Is that an RPG?
    I think I would enjoy RPG's, but my time for myself is too limited as it is. If I could add one thing, I would like more time to read a good book.
    SC Relative

  4. Dear SC Relative...

    It really depends on the game. Some new RPG's are designed to take you 300+ hours to get through. RPG can be applied to lots of things. The Sims would be one as you roleplay a character and gain resources and abilities. More classically it usually implies some kind of fantasy element and a quest, that's what a lot of the japanese ones are.

    However, there are shorter and smaller RPG's out there too. You can get the early Final Fantasy games for gameboy and DS and they are much shorter then stuff you see now days. The Iphone/ipad has some too. There are hundreds out there and not all are long. Some are designed to be played casually for a few minutes a day in your free time and some of the ones from small companies are just as fun as the big name ones. That's really what you are looking for, a casual RPG. Personally I prefer the ones that have good stories too.

    Zelda is always a good recommendation. I believe the one that came out with the Wii (Zelda: The Twilight Princess) just came down in price. It took us about 100 hours to finish, but we could have done it in about 40. The kids loved watching too. If you still have an original NES, load up the original Zelda for some good fun.

    If you send me an email and what game system you want to play on, I can recommend a few more casual, less known RPG's.



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