I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy fiction and will own up to a bit of a Lord of the Rings obsession. Unwrapped LoR playing cards anyone? After all, who wouldn’t want be Legolas? Life just seem so much better….and blonder in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
While perusing my favourite online journal Salon, I happened to read Ethan Gilsdorf’s article, “How Dungeons and Dragons change my life”, which then led me to his book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks.
Fantasy Freaks is a journalistic adventure into the world of Dungeons and Dragon, LARP (live action role play) and MMORPG (massive multi-player online role playing game). Tell you what, I learnt a lot acronyms after reading the book! Gilsdorf also visits Dragon*Con, which sounds like a real blast, and goes on multiple Lord of the Ring tours.
As well as a being a great introduction to these cultures, the most interesting part was Gilsdorf’s interviews of these ‘freaks’ and ‘geeks’. These were people who were passionately devoted to and immersed in these fantasy worlds. Most of his interviewees were quite grounded, funny and intelligent people who were not only self-aware about their little obsessions, but also able to clearly articulate the actual value they got from them.
This was the key theme running throughout the book: the value of fantasy and gaming culture. Gilsdorf provides his own moving account of how fantasy, in particular D&D helped him survive a difficult childhood and actually grow as a person. I did lose a bit of interest in the book three quarters through it and was often frustrated as Gilsdorf brought the story back to his relationship problems. His complaint that his girlfriend didn't understand or respect his fascination with fantasy was a bit yawn inducing.
Interestingly, Lev Grossman recently wrote a passionate and funny article: "Wanted:Respect for Wizards, Orc which really resonated with me. I am currently deeply immersed in the fantasy world of Georg RR Martin. I realised that you can't just dip your toe in Martin, you need to go the whole hog and embrace/ invest in the the immense world he has created.
I feel at times that it has slowly taken over my life. It’s not often that TV show makes you reconsider book, but the recent HBO production of Game of Thrones drove me back to reading Book 2: Clash of Kings because I simply HAD to find out what happened to all these characters.
Scary thing is that there are three more books to go!