A Reflection on Games Past - on gaming as a boy, in the '80s

Just reading about other folks, adults like myself with lives and families and responsibilities, putting together games that can maybe run every other week if we're lucky, I'm forced into nostalgia.

Did we have any inkling of how good we had it when we were kids?

Even during the school year, it wasn't unusual to have arranged a big sleep over at my place that would last all weekend long. The troupe would arrive on Friday night in ascending order of parental involvement, some walking to my house direct from school not even pausing to interact with their own families, while others would go home, do chores, perhaps practice the piano, have dinner, and be dropped off with the admonition to behave themselves and that Mom or Dad would be back the following afternoon to pick them up for swim practice. Oh the schemes we'd come up with to keep that kid as long as we could, begging and pleading and wheedling on his behalf. Sometimes it would even work.

Because our plans didn't involve just a single night. They didn't involve just Saturday - no, we intended to game all weekend long.

Boys with their sleeping bags in tow having arrived, snacks arranged and kitchen tables besieged, we'd roll up improbable characters with entirely too many 18's and whose hit dice never rolled a single 1. Someone would take us on spectacular adventures through poorly read, and even more poorly run, modules where every encounter was a fight and every treasure disbursed without prejudice. Rules were ignored with impunity, sacrificed on the altar of keeping things going and trusting to our own faulty memories of books we'd read and re-read so many times that we could recite the important parts in our sleep - "important" varying from experience point tables for our favored class to the exact cost of a sword, +5 holy avenger.

We'd play until 2am, my parents being the sort not to interfere in harmless fun (and often allowing us more than our fair share of harmful fun to boot), until everyone started to crash from the sugar and the Doritos and the fancifully named sausage-wrapped-cheese-in-the-microwave dish we dubbed the Purple Worm. We'd turn in at last and sleep 'til ten, when, our protestations having fallen on deaf ears, at least one of our number would leave us. The remainder of the party would break their fast on sugary cereals and then - right back to the table!

A repeat performance, only punctuated by those other few kids who only had leave to stay a single night being called back to their homes. The hardened core of us stuck it out and played on through to the night. Sometimes, we'd get a fellow back, his parents finally worn down with enough whining to allow him to return for a second engagement. The night was usually even later, often up until 4am rolling the bones and playing the games.

Sunday morning would see an attack of zombies - us kids, not the in-game variety. Some of our crew were summoned home early for church, others just because of homework or some last latent shred of parental responsibility coming to the fore in their overworked moms and dads. And I'd be left towards the end of the morning, coming on noon, with maybe just me and one other guy, poring over magic item tables, reading out loud from the Monster Manual, or slyly checking out the boobs on the pictures in Deities and Demigods.

We'd get more gaming in in a single weekend than most convention goers get in a whole Gen Con. During the summer the hours would be extended and we'd have sessions that ran every day for a week, at least for a few hours at a time.

And we had no idea just how good we had it.


  1. Sir, my life just flashed before my eyes. ;)

    Many a weekend with friends real and imagined.

  2. My sophomore year of high school, posted above.

  3. We only did this as sleepovers once or twice - and then only a single night. Still, we'd have week with game M-F at lunch and after school, then play all day Saturday, and then do it again.

    1. We played at school as well - and I wondered why none of us ever went on a single date in high school! - every day at lunch. Kids today complain about how heavy their school books were, and we were toting around an extra twenty pounds of DMGs and PHBs on top of it all.

    2. By Junior High School we only played at home - we had staggered lunch periods, unlike the "everyone has lunch at once" model of Elementary School. So it was just impossible.

      Some of us dated - actually, maybe most of us. In High School we had a strong burnout/metalhead/gamer/punk overlap, so while gaming might not have been cool it didn't push us into our own group. I don't blame gaming for my lack of dates, either. I blame my inability to take "Let's go out on a date!" as a strong enough hint that someone liked me. ;)

    3. That may be an artifact of the '80s - the metal/punk elements mixing with the gamer elements. Later, I'm told, especially with the arrival of Vampire: the Masquerade, the drama kids started to interact with the gamers as well.

      And I don't blame gaming for our lack of dates - not really. I blame us being unattractive, shy and generally oblivious to the girls that did like us.

  4. And you tell the young people of today that and they'll never believe you!

    1. In no small part because they live lives of such regimentation that they would even envy the freedom that my boy Rob had, even when he was the one that arrived last and had to depart first, being the kid with the piano lessons, the swim team duties and the church on Sunday. It would seem like luxury to them, I'm sure.


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