So how did it all start out?
I’m a child of the 60’s, so I came along when things just started to get going. As the grandson of the man you managed a major toy and hobby business in the 70’s I had a very unique upbringing. One of the perks was I got a lot of damaged stuff given to me. My interest then was everything World War One onwards. I could built model kits without instructions, create novel uses for missing parts, I was a man like my grandfather, a creator of something from nothing, a skill that has lasted me down the years.
Rules back then were whatever we made up or were able to access from the public or school library (although I think our school lacked anything rule wise, we did boast a fairly decent history section). Australia was (and I could argue still is) the backwater of world distribution networks. We’d get whatever might be left over from European or US sales, usually the stuff that would not sell. Brisbane would be even worse off as Sydney and Melbourne were always catered for first. So to be a gamer in the early days in Brisbane was a nightmare.
It was not till the 70’s when my neighbour who owned the unit beneath us at Burleigh Heads had his grandchildren visit that my life changed. The grandson brought a copy of “Empire of the Petal Throne”, and it was the start of my obsession with games and gaming. To this day Empire of the Petal Throne holds a very special place in my heart as the catalyst of my gaming soul, the fact it was years ahead of anyone else when it came to world design in Role Playing Games was without question (in my opinion).
So there I was in the 70’s, the lads at school were only interested in girls, cars, sports and rock and roll. I was a geek. (My wife even described me as being one when she first met me). I found a company in Melbourne that did mail order, in those days the whole catalogue was one to two A4 pages! So I was able to indulge myself thanks to my Uncle who was the only one in the family who cared enough to see that I got something I wanted out of life. My family are very strict Roman Catholics; I was trained as an Alter Boy, served the Church for over 20 years before I found that while God exists, the lay people who dominate the Church have forgotten about God. (But I’ll leave that story for another blog, maybe) So my mother never understood my hobby, she saw it as a waste of time. She wanted her son to be a Priest, me I was more interested in girls and discovering the freedom that comes from employment and money.
So it was in the 80’s that my gaming life took off! Role Playing Games were my main focus, I still collected boardgames and miniatures but they were secondary to the imagination expanding worlds that RPG provided. I loved sci-fi-fantasy in its entire multitude. There was a second hand book shop at Burleigh Heads that I would visit every Saturday when my mother would drag us down to the beach to bake in the sun and germinate the wonderful cancers that now run rampant through my corpse of a body. So this second hand shop had really old authors from the pulp days, my favourite was Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E Howards, added to that Michael Moorcock a more modern author. My mind was filled with strange new worlds, and my mind would always be asking, why and how does this world work. What mysteries existed, if I was the creator what would I do to stamp my ideas into the worlds of creativity?
So I started with Empire of the Petal Throne, and progressed to Dungeons & Dragons which was the staple system for the majority of players. Runequest was another system that I particularly enjoyed. The 80’s saw a massive proliferation of RPGs, some good, some bad. My wife worked for a business that sold games and it was one of the meeting hubs for gamers of the day. There were others as well, all frequented by the many personalities of the day. They say old gamers never die, but they do seem to drop off the face of the earth!
So the 80’s started my association with many of the clubs in Brisbane at the time. A lot of them I worked on the committee, some with success, sometimes not. I was party to the creation of three clubs. Personalities within the gaming community can be fickle. You will find the ones who genuinely want to see the club take off and prosper, then there are those who just want their ego stoked. Perhaps I’ll write a blog about my experience with clubs in due course.
In the late 80’s I had my first mental collapse and paid dearly for it. Mental illness is generally not tolerated by the general populace who firstly can’t understand why you suffer so and secondly they think it’s just a con as it can’t be adequately quantified (like bad backs and RSI). So my large group of friends dropped to two. These two are still with me today, although due to the pressures of life I don’t always get to see them. My focus then changed to miniature games. My change to this was that I didn’t need to find four to six people to play an RPG, organise a mutual date and time to play, then find in the end only a few turn up. Sure organising one person can be easier but there is still that off chance it won’t happen. So miniatures became my passion and my obsession up to perhaps two years ago.
I’m like a magpie when it comes to miniatures and rules, I collect whatever I can when I can. This had led me to collect some obscure rules and miniatures. My focus was more on painting than on actually getting any gaming done. My illness made it difficult to connect with people and the fear to socialise in clubs or groups I was not familiar with was anxiety provoking. Painting was my relaxation, and I became very good at it so much so that I was able to make some pocket money painting for others. Let me tell you it may seem like a wonderful way to make cash, but in the end the passion left me wanting and I became extremely critical of the work I was doing for others. They of course (the client) were still happy with my work but it became a chore I no longer wanted to do.
The 90’s were no better than the 80’s with my life in constant turmoil. The one ray of sunshine was the births of my two children. I started to branch out in gaming again. Found some people who valued me for my ability and skills in my hobby. As I am on the whole a man of integrity I ran tournaments, I ran them the way I saw was best for the community. Trophies for the winners, prizes a random draw to all who participated. Growing the hobby was what I wanted, not just seeing a select few grand poobahs winning every time and walking away with all the goodies. Needless to say I was not overly popular with those types of people.
I collect a lot of GW armies during that period of time. I branched into the Lord of the Rings, which sadly didn’t get the following it should have.
At the start of the 2000’s my life started to turn to more modest projects. Money was tight, and my senior family members were all passing on to the next life. I lost my mother in 2003, my Uncle/Father in 2005 and finally my grandfather in 2007. All the elders had passed leaving me with the uncomfortable title of Sept Lord for my branch of the family. With a little bit of wealth I went mad and branched out in all areas of my hobby, gratifying what I wanted for so long. Gladiator, Pulp Fiction, WWI and my Napoleonics! Life was good while the cash remained. Like all things the good times came to an end and reality bit me on the arse.
So in the end my gaming life has returned to a more sedate level. I play at the Blind Pig club in Brisbane, where you don’t have to worry about annual elections for glorified wankers after the glory of being grand poobah of a gaming club. I can devote myself to running events the way I see fit and enjoying the company of those I cherish. Life is as good as it can get for an eccentric gamer who cherishes his eccentricity.