This week has been a little eventful. Going back in reverse chronological order, Akiva and I (Jesse) went to see the Space Station movie at the Imax theater on Saturday while Haga took care of Kenaz. Akiva didnâ€™t want to wear the 3D glasses, so most of the movie was blurry to him. He had a good time though. The theater (the Suzhou Culture, Arts, and Science Center) was very pretty. (for local readers, this is the link to the center, in English, and showtimes ).
Earlier in the week I had a good training program on facilitation skills in Shanghai. Since lately I focus on business consulting and development, I do not do training often nowadays. So this training program was a great review course for me. However, I got sick on the first day of the training program and I’m still sick with a really runny nose. At the program, there were GMs of companies (my customers who I invited to take the training with me), Asia-Pac corporate HR Managers from companies like Pepsi, and some competitors (who we invited because we play nice with competitorsâ€¦sometimes). I know that while I was sick and dizzy and (literally) snotty, I also represented myself and my company very professionally.
While I was sick and in Shanghai I had a job interview for a $100K/year Product Management position with a company based in San Diego. I did not get the job. Email response: â€œWe decided to go in another direction for this position. Good luck in your endeavors.â€ I hate corporate speak. Anyway, I have said this to my family (in the US) several times alreadyâ€¦its difficult for me to get good corporate jobs because it has been a while since I worked in a corporate company. Iâ€™m disappointed I didnâ€™t get that job because it would have meant a lot of opportunity to see my family in the US. And it would have been a lot of money. And it may have been a fun job. I donâ€™t feel bad about being rejected though. I used to feel crappy after every time I got rejected from a job. Like being rejected by a girl. Not anymore. I know I would have been great at the job. But I also know that the interviewer had no interviewing skills and had already made up his mind before he met me. Now in interviews I present myself as being only myself; some will not like this style but others will be impressed. Some will be impressed, but not pick me because they are looking for very specific experience and interests and that is OK.
This brings me to the subject of this post…and this subject is not even 50% related to the subjects of the four paragraphs above. I would like to write an obituary of sorts for a man I never met. Gary Gygax, co-inventor of the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game, died last week.
The first time I saw people playing D&D; was at a â€œSurf Campâ€ just before the 6th grade.. My camp councilor was playing it on the beach on a cloudy day. I did not ask him if I could play with himâ€¦I just sat on the sand and watched him play. I somehow knew what they were doing within 30 seconds of observation. They were playing a game all kids play â€“ shared imagination game â€“ but with codified rules to help them better share their play experience (however, at the time I thought the idea of the game would be better applied to a Star Trek or Star Wars settingâ€¦I didnâ€™t think knights and sorcerers were so cool). Of course, I did not know the rules of the game. There are many many rules in D&D; and they did not let me see the rulebook. But I understood that they had a common framework of rules that governâ€ applied imaginationâ€.
I do not know where â€œIâ€ was when I first played D&D;, but I do know I had to have been with Chris Doss, Jeremy Riordan, and Brad Decker sometime in the 6th grade. I also know we were adventuring into a cave to exterminate some creatures called â€œKoboldsâ€, â€œBugbearsâ€, and a wizard or Ogre or two. The reason for this adventure was because a) the Kobolds had pillaged some farms, and b) Kobolds are Chaotic Evil alignment, therefore should be killed by those having a â€œGoodâ€ alignment. And at the end of the â€œDungeon Moduleâ€, we discovered some nick-nack or something on a corpse that was a sign of deeper evil (ie. monsters of a slightly higher level) which supported the Koboldsâ€¦we would face this new challenge in the next dungeon.
I have played countless hours in the shared virtual reality of role-playing games. I played an Elf Fighter-Magic User (name: Randolfâ€¦uggg) in â€œAD&D;â„¢â€; a mutant psychic cat in â€œGamaworldâ„¢â€; another Elf in â€œRunequestâ„¢â€; a psychic space captain in â€œTravelerâ„¢â€; alien superhero in â€œVillains and Vigilantesâ„¢â€; ditto in â€œChampionsâ„¢â€; soon-to-die-from-radiation-poisoning US Army soldier in â€œAftermath 2000â„¢â€; a soon-to-go-insane detective in â€œCall of Chathuluâ„¢â€; a space explorer in â€œRingworldâ„¢â€; another elf Fighter-Thief in â€œWarhammer: The RPGâ„¢â€; a time-bending knife-wielding mage in â€œMageâ„¢.â€ I have playedâ€¦myself I guessâ€¦ when Chris would call and say â€œOK. You wake up. You are wearing just your underwearâ€¦.â€ â€œBut Chris, I sleep in Pajamas!â€ â€œBut now you are just wearing underwear. Butt-hugger by the wayâ€¦not boxers. You are in a room with a bunk-bed and a door to the â€˜Southâ€™. There is a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. There are no sheets on the bed. There is nothing else in the room. What do you do?â€
I have created several role-playing games during my life based on books I have read or just based on day-dreams. I have also Game Mastered my friends in our virtual quests; in fact, I was more often the GM than the player. I created dungeons, worlds, conflicts, and dramas.
Unlike other self-reflections on the internet brought on by the death of Gary Gygax, I will not go into the whole â€œultra-nerdâ€ thing. The truth is that outwardly, I never did appear nerd-like; I was on the swim-team and had a great head of blond hair. But D&D; and roleplaying games led me to overly develop my â€œinner worldâ€ instead of developing my relationship with that other shared reality known as â€œReal Lifeâ„¢â€. Hence, RPGs contributed to me becoming more self-centered and always dreaming. I should have been focusing onâ€¦focusing. I can honestly say that my anti-social extraversion, in part, comes from too much RPGing. I didnâ€™t master the social skills necessary for dealing with lots of people I do not like. (The fact that I do not like many people I blame not on RPGs, but on other influences in my development). Focusing on the pretend made me less practical. Less detail oriented. It is the reason I have not gone into finance, accounting, or engineering.
On the whole though, I think that playing RPGs was a positive influence in my becom
ing what I am today. Role-playing taught me how to envision things from other viewpoints. It is the skill I use to prepare my business strategy. I use role-playing to prepare for training others and as a tool to learn new things which I have no experience with. Role-playing helps me expand my empathy and more foresight.
And of course, role-playing has taught me how to play roles. Playing roles means that I can show parts of me that ARE STILL ME, but not what I normally show to my friends and family. I have played countless hours in a shared virtual reality in which I played: an exchange student in a post-Totalitarian pre-commercial 1991 Beijing; a conservative newspaper call-center service operator; an MBA student; a sales man at a Taiwanese connector manufacturer, a Notebook Computer Product Manager in a Taiwanese computer manufacturer; a MBA night-school instructor; a Product Manager in a smartphone / PDA software development company; a Japanese restaurant waiter; a China-based Leadership Development Facilitator; and (my current role) Management Consultant / Senior Manager in a small consulting company.
In conclusionâ€¦ I know I owe many things to many people who I know, and many things to people who I have never met. Gary Gygax falls into that second category. I thank him for his wonderful legacy. My characters thank him too,