This past weekend I attended Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH, because a) it’s been years since I’ve gone to a game convention, and b) it’s just 2 hours away from my new home in Cincinnati! I tagged along with friends and roomies Mick Bradley and Chris Heim (with roomie Wayne Humfleet meeting us in Columbus) and off we went for four days of gaming fun.

By the title of this post I’m sure you can tell something’s up, so let me be upfront: the weekend confirmed to me that who I was in regards to gaming is not who I am now, that my life has changed, and that this is a good thing.

My last time at Gen Con, 2010, was not a good one. Mom had just died a year prior, and my personal life was not in a good place. Whatever enjoyment I got out of the con was in spite of myself, and due greatly to good friends who made a point to help me get through things. After this, I went into nursing school, and that took over my entire life. I barely had time for whatever was in front of me, let alone imaginary worlds. Cons came and went, months came and went, and I simply stopped gaming altogether. I missed it, but I made the conscious choice of putting it on the shelf in favor of dealing with nursing school, and my personal life. It’s not a choice I regret at all.

Cut to 2014: It’s been a year since I graduated, became an RN, separated then divorced, moved to Orlando and then to Cincinnati, started a new job, experienced my first winter (and a harsh one it was). I’m living a new life, finally standing on my own two feet again, so why not give gaming another shot? And seriously, living in Cincinnati puts me within driving distance of so much gaming goodness; I gotta take advantage of that!

Long story short, I had fun at Origins, but things are not the same. I wandered the halls of the convention center not knowing what was going on in the gaming world, looking at games and putting them back because they held no interest to me, feeling little of the excitement I once would feel in this environment. I would see old friends from this world and be genuinely happy to see them, but feel like we had little in common anymore. Frankly, at one point it was all just depressing and I wanted to go home.

I’m glad I didn’t because I DID have fun. I played three roleplaying game sessions that were fun and stimulating, with good game masters that draw us players into the story, and fellow players that brought their best so we could all have a great four hours of play. I also demoed a few miniatures battles games, which I really like except for the collecting expensive armies part. And when I finally decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, I had a nice evening of conversation and drinks.

I used to be up at the butt-crack of dawn to play, spend as much time in the hall as possible seeking to learn all I could about games, seek out opportunities for pick-up games, enjoy talking about games and design until passing out. This isn’t me anymore. I chose to sleep-in late, to take mid-day rests or naps, to pass on a slot of roleplaying because nothing held my interest at the moment from what was being offered, to have meals with friends instead of playing a game I was only tangentially interested in. I likened it to going back home and seeing all the buildings still standing, but the people and situations be all different. I missed home as it used to be, and some point I had to make a choice of living in the past, unfulfilled, or living in the now, accepting the new paradigm, for however long I was visiting. Which is what I did.

Don’t ask me about game design, about upcoming games, about political or sociological ideas being explored through games, about who’s working where and on what, about what I’m working on; don’t ask me because I either don’t know, or have no opinion on the subject. Ask me about my character in the games I played and I’ll tell you how awesome it was to roll dice and tell a story; about other games that called my attention and I’ll tell you about the minis I moved across a cardboard battlefield and how pretty the pre-painted figures were; about myself and I’ll tell you about how exhausting being a nurse is, how draining it is to deal with life and death daily, and how fulfilling it is to help people live (or die) better.

So yeah, Origins showed me that you can’t go back home again, but that’s fine because home is not in the past. Home is where I decide to make it, and just like I made Cincinnati home after 18 years in Miami, I can make this new relationship with games home for me from here on. I can look forward to having a new relationship with games, enjoying them for what they bring to my life now: entertainment.

In Part 2 I’ll talk about the games I played, because they were cool and deserve to be talked about!

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