I can't say I've done any gaming, real gaming, in a long time. However, I enjoyed this story.
Get in the game: Tri-Citians escape reality in role-playing games
By Michelle Dupler, Herald staff writer
RICHLAND -- Here's a secret. For a few hours every Saturday night, I shed my mild-mannered, professional exterior and zip off across the galaxy on a rip-roaring adventure with a rag-tag band of spacefarers.
I'm the tough-talking female mechanic who grew up on the mean streets of planet Coruscant, who takes joy in heckling the overprivileged "rich boy" whose parents paid for our spaceship and hired me to make sure their pride and joy doesn't get into too much trouble. Since we attract trouble like bees to honey, I rarely succeed.
As alter ego Gin Caranthyr, I'm lithe, acrobatic and have mad skills with a wrench, spanner and a roll of space-age duct tape -- things that elude me in my real life.
That's what role-playing gaming offers -- a chance to shake off the mundane and pretend to be anyone or anything, whether it's my tough-as-nails space mechanic in the Star Wars game I play with a group in Richland every Saturday, or an orc-fighting elf in Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy-based granddaddy of all role-playing games first released back in 1974.
Here's another secret.
While some might picture role-playing gamers as basement-dwelling dorks who never made the leap from adolescence to adulthood, many gamers hold jobs, own houses and have spouses and kids.
"Of the people I know who game, they're from every profession," said Carrie Varley of Richland. "They run the gamut."
Even tough-guy action movie star Vin Diesel has played Dungeons & Dragons for more than 20 years, according to Wikipedia.
"I love hearing about people who made it good as gamers, because growing up it was miserable," she joked. "Gaming folks were generally not the football players or cheerleaders."
While Varley often found herself ostracized while gaming as a teen in late 1970s Oklahoma, gaming has become a popular activity for adults, teens and families. Just ask Logan Kaufman, co-owner of Adventures Underground bookstore in Richland's Uptown Shopping Center.
Games in their many forms -- board games, collectible card games, role-playing games and accessories -- make up about 30 percent to 40 percent of the independent bookstore's sales, he said.
The store stocks about 1,000 varieties of games, including about 50 role-playing game systems, which typically are made up of a basic rules manual and supplements for specific kinds of equipment or adventures, known as campaigns.
Star Wars, for example, has a core book, then books on spaceships, robots and droids, and different campaigns so players can choose to play in the Knights of the Old Republic era, made popular in the video game of the same name, or the Clone Wars, subject of recent animated features, among other pieces of the Star Wars universe and its history. At $40 each, gaming can become an expensive hobby.
"Some have one book, whereas D&D takes up three shelves," Kaufman said. "It just depends on how deep you want to bury yourself in that world."
Many role-playing games are based in science fiction and fantasy worlds -- many based on television series or movies. There are role-playing games based on TV shows Stargate: SG1, Firefly and its movie Serenity, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Kaufman said many games are based on the same sets of rules, making it easier to jump from one to the other.
"You can move from Stargate to Buffy without having to relearn," he said.
Adventures Underground has become a destination for Tri-City gamers, not only because of its selection, but because Kaufman and his wife and co-owner, Amanda Divine, have created a space where anyone can come, set up a game and play.
They sometimes offer themed game nights, but most of the time tables are open to whoever shows up. Kaufman said on Sundays, there often are people waiting to use a table.
And that has shown gamers there are more of them than they might have thought.
"If you're just playing with friends, you don't know a whole city is out there doing the same thing," he said.
For Varley, the appeal of role-playing games is the ability to stretch her imagination by exploring other worlds and other personalities. She also enjoys the challenge of developing her own scenarios for other players.
"I like running games more than playing because I like to put together almost a cinematic experience for players," she said.
That means layering the experience with well-drawn characters, props, maybe even setting the mood with music. But since gaming is all about storytelling, it's also about the words she uses to set a scene.
"If you do it well, you can write a flavor text so if they're on a spaceship or go into a cavern to look for a werewolf, they can feel the dirt under their feet or the coldness of space, or feel the anger of the wizard about to blow their socks off," she said.
* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org