Enter the world of the gamer
Picture this scene: Four guys sit in a basement, some dressed in strange, medieval-looking outfits (one even has armor on). They're swilling coffee and ranting endlessly about dice rolls, numbers, spells, skills, dexterity, armor class, hit points -- the specialized jargon we all know belongs exclusively to the world of that ever-so-unusual class of hobbyist, the gamer.
In your vision, you probably imagine these four guys as pale, either too skinny or way too fat, some might even have long hair dyed black. The basement they play in may even be home to one of them -- he's in his mid-30s, and his parents live upstairs. The house is not his.
Yes, these are the stereotypes many of us non-gamers hold close to our hearts when we think of those people who spent their teen years playing the infamous "Dungeons and Dragons."
Ask a gamer, though, and he or she will tell you their hobby is much different than you think. He or she will tell you they're not all nerdy slackers with no future, living in their parents' homes and working at Taco Bell.
That gamer will tell you there are all kinds of people who play -- doctors, lawyers, insurance adjusters, factory workers.
Now you may be saying, "yeah, right." Well, I'm here to tell you, always verify. You'll get your chance Nov. 4 and 5. The local gaming community is opening up its doors and welcoming the public to come check out their culture at a two-day event, called Brewfest, at Buckner Brewing Co.
Despite the name, Brewfest is not about beer, though there will be plenty of Buckner microbrews available. Larry Snodgrass, gaming convention organizer (he works for a mortgage company and he's married, by the way), talked to me earlier this week about the event.
Snodgrass said the point of Brewfest is primarily to bring gaming hobbyists together, but also to open up the world of the gamer for the common man, like you or me, to see.
Over two days, dozens of gamers will flood Buckner's third floor, immersing themselves in role-playing games like the D&D franchise. But there also will be board games. Snodgrass says this event is about games, games, games, more games and their ability to bring people together.
"It's a social hobby, and some people really don't see that," he said.
Snodgrass used to play at Plainswalker Games in the mall -- where game sessions would go for hours, some of them with people in costumes portraying their characters. If you saw this sight, you may have been freaked out.
But there's no need to fear gamers who are just into it.
"We're not creepy people," Snodgrass said. "I've met people from all walks of life in this hobby. Lawyers, doctors, factory workers, pizza delivery guys -- it's not a class specific hobby."
This is the third year for the convention and the second time it's being held at Buckner's. Last year the event was held in conjunction with a comic book convention organized by Marvels and Legends owner Ken Murphy. But this year, the gamers are on their own.
More time to focus on keeping that Paladin alive (yes, I played a little D&D when I was in high school).
Brewfest is part of World Wide Game Day -- a holiday for gamers to celebrate the hobby they love. They're really no different than any hobbyist. You can't tell me hard-core car enthusiasts don't freak you out sometimes. Or what about golf nuts. Man, they're crazy.
As Snodgrass says, it's better than videogames. At least you get some human interaction.
So you can bet the gamers at Brewfest will be having a great time, and they'll be more than eager to tell you about their world. Consider it a cultural learning experience.
Best of all, if you just want to check things out, it's free. The gamers want you there, you see.
And remember, gamers are the same as you and I, they just know how many hit points a level three wizard has.
Matt Sanders is the Arts & Lesiure editor for the Southeast Missourian and the editor of OFF Magazine.