The Elfish Gene - Dungeons, Dragons, and Growing Up Strange, a Memoir - by Mark Barrowcliffe
Commentary by Hawke while reading this book:
The overall negative tone is concerning. I have to say my experience was significantly different in a number of areas, and I will point some of those out. It is a shame this book at least initially seems to be trying to reinforce the negative stereotypes about role-playing gamers. Will see if this continues throughout the book. Some of the significant differences between the book author's experiences and my own may be attributable to significant cultural differences between the (Coventry) U.K. and USA (mostly western states in my experiences).
Page 2, regarding girls and gaming. He claims a complete dirth, my experience is that most of groups I gamed with, much of the time had 1 or 2 girls. Usually this was a girlfriend of one of the players, but there were plenty of other times this was not the case. I also knew of a number of all-girl gaming groups, and their explanation was that guys played the game in a way that was less interesting to the girls (we are talking teenagers mostly in the 1970's and 1980s that I knew, though some adult women), not that the game itself was alienating, just the boys' behavior and style of play was off-putting.
As for "only nerds" play the game regularly, though I agree that may now be a majority, and probably so in the 1970's, before the stigma of the later 80's, in the early 80's I knew all kinds who played and enjoyed role-playing gaming regularly, jocks, preppies, etc. It was only with the increasing negative press that these groups began to create the separation that the game was only for "nerds".
From the opening pages it is clear the author of the book does have serious issues, but it sounds like they were already very ingrained prior to gaming, and he has decided to blame gaming for his traits. This once again comes down to correlation versus causality. The author appears to blame D&D for all his flaws (again, just in the initial pages of the book), rather than accepting that they may have already been there and gaming was just one of many possible crucibles that may have shown him his worst traits distilled.
Heh, his final line of the intro page claiming that gaming makes you a "wanker" clearly sets the tone of this book. Is it just going to be one long anti-gaming rant that somehow found a publisher? Will he take any responsibility for his self-proclaimed being a "wanker" as his own responsibility, or will he lay it all on the game, gamers, the culture around gaming and not accept any personal responsibility? Well, we'll see in the coming chapters....
Further chapters are increasingly whiny in tone "I might have been saved." "maybe I'd", "I could have" (several times in one paragraph alone), and statements as ridiculous as "..everything would become as bright images receding into a void as I slipped into a shadow world from which I have never truly emerged. I would discover Dungeons and Dragons."(11)
The writing is vulgar and crass in the following chapter.
One statement seems to hold true about the author "I had a black-and-white view of the world" (12), no kidding, that doesn't see to have changed based on the introduction and early chapters so far. Heh.
Other very telling statements:
"...given my appalling ability at sport, I felt I deserved to be marked for greatness intellectually by way of compensation." (13)
"There was something vaguely Masonic about my approach to gaming." (14)
Interesting to note: Ursula K. Le Guin's "A Wizard of Earthsea" was one of his early fantasy novel introductions he enjoyed.
"I thought it very likely I might have this sort [wizard's abilities of magical power]... kind of logical - no good at sport, alrightish ... studies... must have beens ome field in which I excelled. Magic had to be it". "I really did believe I had latent magical powers..." (15)
"When i first saw the images of prisoner abuse from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the first thing I thought was that it was just like school. This is not hyperbole." (16). "..these things seem normal to us, though - slightly comic but certainly not disturbing." (17). "...Perhaps that is why there seemed to be so many weirdos about at my school." (17) Well that speaks volumes, about the author prior to his involvement with D&D.
"They call games like this RPGs, role-playing games, but it didn't feel like I was playing a role; it felt like me in those mines." (22)
"It's said that taking heroin is like a million screaming orgasms. opening the package that contained D&D wasn't quite like that - more like a million screaming Christmases, all at once." (26)