It’s 2 in the morning so I’m going to ramble for a little bit about this fun little game called Dungeons & Dragons and why it matters so dearly to me. You might have already heard this from me before (especially if you follow me on twitter) but bear with me.

I’ve been playing DnD for a over decade now, though I’ve been familiar with it since I was kid growing up outside Lake Geneva, WI (it’s hard to avoid when that’s where the whole thing originated from). I had cousins who loved it but most of them were older boys who didn’t really care for a whiny girl to join (I can’t really argue against that – I was a pretty whiny brat).

When I was in college, I had a pretty rough time. Depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, rehab, the works – I was a mess. I was 20 years old when I was invited to join my first game (I’m 31 now for those counting). I didn’t care so much for the other players, nor did I really understand the rules, but I definitely understood the element of escapism. It was exactly what I needed at the time in my life. I loved being someone else. Someone stronger. Faster. Taller. Magical. Someone with much higher charisma than the awkward and insecure woman-child I felt like in real life. My relationship with DnD has changed a lot, but that feeling hasn’t. It’s still true.

I’ve grown a lot over the past ten years. My play style has definitely evolved. I try to push myself to be different types of people that I wouldn’t normally be: sexy, shy, ill-mannered, confident, nervous, loud, anything. It’s hard but I love that part of the challenge. (I had never played a barbarian until my husband suggested it to me a few years ago and now I’ve found it’s by far my favorite class – and the one most requested for me to play by friends.)

After playing this game for so long I’ve come to understand the technical aspects of it pretty well, but it’s the emotional elements of the game – the journey of the storytelling – that keep me at the table. The emotions from me, my characters, my friends – it brings us closer together. More real. The people I play DnD with have become the people I trust the most in my life. There’s something about RPGs that enable people to leave their walls behind and open up to each other. I find myself to be the most real version of me when I’m playing my fictional character.

January will mark 2 years since I became sick and have had to watch my own body begin to deteriorate around me. I lost my job, I lost some friends, I’ve lost most of my ability to walk. My day to day life has drastically changed from what it used to be. It has been the most trying time of my life. But every week I play this silly game with those I love and it keeps me going. I get to be someone who can run and jump and save people and hunt and protect and I get to be myself – silly and hopeful and relaxed – with my traveling companions in a made-up world all our own. This game has helped motivate me. Has kept me from giving up on my worst days.

I never expected 10 years ago to be so indebted to a tabletop game. But Dungeons & Dragons has saved my life on more than one account and I will forever be grateful. I play in 2-3 campaigns a week now and between doctor appointments and hospital visits, it’s what keeps me sane. Escapism isn’t always the healthiest coping mechanism but let me tell you, my therapist very much approves of it because it gets me to socialize, have fun, and reminds me of my own inner strength. She’s so into it that she’s even started doing her own research about the game and how it helps in psychology, especially with kids. One of the first things she always asks me in our sessions is “So how did DnD go this week?” She knows that’s the best way to get me to start talking. It’s a whole other world to her but she recognizes the mental care it gives me and encourages it.

Sometimes, like now, I just get really really emotional over DnD especially seeing how incredibly popular it’s gotten in the last few years. It’s wonderful. I’m thankful Jake got me back into Critical Role too because I’ve met so many new friends through it. This community has grown so much in the past decade it’s overwhelming but in a good sense. Almost all of my friends have at least heard of or seen a DnD campaign in progress or tried their hand at an RPG game, and it blows me away how inclusive and welcoming the world has become since I first began my DnD journey.

All of this is really just to say, thank you to all my friends and to the good folks at Wizards of the Coast for working so hard to make this little tabletop game the best thing in my life. I wouldn’t be the same person without it. Hell, I might not even be here at all. So thank you.

Women in Tech: R. Williams.

Hey, something to blog about (thanks Amanda). It’s March 24th, Ada Lovelace Day! What does this mean? It means that today is a day to celebrate all women in technology!

Who was Ada?
Born Augusta Ada Byron, but now known simply as Ada Lovelace, she wrote the world’s first computer programmes for the Analytical Engine, a general-purpose machine that Charles Babbage had invented. she translated Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, appending notes that included a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the machine – the first computer programme. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.

Roberta Williams: Graphic Adventure Queen

Some people, over the years, thought that I only achieved what I had achieved because of my husband, but, I always countered those people that the company was started because of a game that I wrote…not something my husband wrote. Therefore, it could be argued that he was there because of ME, not vice versa.

My Tech Heroine: Roberta Williams (quoted above)

Roberta WilliamsTo those of you who know Roberta Williams, it should be of no surprise to you that I chose her as my tech heroine. I am a gamer. I have loved playing computer games, and Roberta Williams was the only woman to be included in PC Gamer’s Game God Exclusive. She is the genius behind one of the first huge computer adventures games: King’s Quest. She also created the much lesser known Dark Crystal computer game (a game I always wanted). She and her husband were the original masterminds behind Sierra On-line, one of the first computer game companies, and her company was the first to include a female as a main character in a game (which not only did NOT ruin the game, but brought in even more gamers – girls!).

Known as “Queen of the Graphic Adventure,” Williams made a significant impact in the world of computer gaming. She laid down the foundations of generations of adventure games. In a world dominated by men, Williams became the first successful female game designer, paving the way for the many females who have followed her footsteps. Adventure Classic Gaming even called her “the single most successful adventure game designer ever lived.” Between 1984 and 1998, eight different games came out in the series King’s Quest.

If you’ve ever had the chance to play these games, you’ll understand right away why I say that Roberta Williams is a worldbuilder. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I love adventure games. Not only does the games have their own histories and worlds, but I also just love games that challenge my mind – I love having to think about things and figure out how to do something to get to the next step. I prefer it over the brute-strength and waging battles of other games (even though I love WoW). King’s Quest is a great game because you have to take things you find earlier in the game and use them to solve something later on. One of the reasons I’m such a hoarder in Warcraft is because in King’s Quest, every single item might have meaning later on in the game (even a rotten apple core!) and you shouldn’t throw away anything. You never know what might be useful.

Roberta Williams created a new way to play adventure games. You could say that she’s the reason we have such deep layers of history in even the most heavily played MMORPGs. When it comes to computers, gaming, and technology, Roberta Williams has cemented her place in history. She is the number one female gamer ever.

Who’s your female tech heroine?