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my favorite olympic sport is, without a doubt, card games on ice
My earliest memories are promises of God’s judgement. Depictions in books of ruined cities. Dead people in what I was told were millions. Lightning. Crumbling cities. I was assured that I would survive. I was special, because I had heard the word of Jehovah, and listened. They would need strong Brothers like me in the New System to build the houses for all the newly resurrected bible characters and lost loved ones, and for all the houses that were destroyed in the apocalypse. This would be a privilege. I’d be the lucky survivor.
Now I want to talk about the weekend I survived the apocalypse.
I first heard about Dystopia Rising not long after I joined Darkon. Once I got a taste for boffer LARPing, I started checking out what other kinds of games there were. I was looking for sci-fi games. Cyberpunk LARPs, mostly. I found Dystopia Rising. Now, I’m a fan of Fallout, Mad Max, A Boy and his Dog, all that stuff, but it’s always occupied a strange headspace for me. I can appreciate the works based on their own merits, but they put me in a headspace that I really don’t want to be in for very long. Why, then, did I so eagerly round up my friends and go to Dystopia Rising: PA when I heard about it?
I really couldn’t tell you. But here’s what I found out about people and myself.
1. I take civilization for granted. While I was aware consciously that we were playing a game, the game marshalls are very good about keeping you on edge as much as possible. I could hardly get an uninterrupted meal or sleep, and while I wasn’t in any kind of danger, there is an animal need to know you have a safe place to sleep and eat. I was deprived that for a weekend, and spent the next couple of days afterward being thankful that I had it. In a way, civilization is a promise of safety from the elements and the wolves.
2. Part of me wants it to happen. It’s been drilled into me that my life’s purpose would be to work with others to rebuild our own civilization. In Dystopia Rising, that is exactly what I wanted to do. Though but a lowly Guard, just a shield and a stick, I took it upon myself to defend the largest structure in the camp. It felt good. Like I was fulfilling a purpose. Halfway through Saturday I realized why. In daily life, I often feel confused and directionless. I by no means think I am unique in this, in fact I realize a lot of people feel this way. But living for the end gave my life meaning. It’s made me feel like my life had a true purpose. And just like Dystopia Rising, it was just pretend. Everything I had been told from birth was from people who felt the same way, and desperately needed it to be real.
3. People are much kinder than I had been led to believe. There was a sense of true community in the camp. I found that hospitality seemed to be rewarded. This was in-character and out. In character, you were expected to pull your own weight, and as long as you tried, you were given the help you needed. Out of Character, the same applies, except people were 1,000% nicer. Contrast that to how I was told, and sometimes still am, that no “worldly” person would ever truly accept me. Of course, I know that isn’t true, but I’m still at times amazed by the kindness of strangers. I met some fantastic people, playing interesting characters. To think I was raised to be suspicious and weary of “worldly” folks. To treat them like one would wild animals.
4. For all that was bad about my upbringing, it taught me how to function through fear. When things get bad, I learned that I can step forward and make my own contribution. I can’t really tell if any of the positive things I gained from my upbringing are because of them or in spite of them. All I know is that DR put me in some gut-check situations, and I am satisfied with how I did.
5. Satisfaction comes from the simple things.. The cool breeze on a warm day, a quick bite of good food before a zombie bursts through the door, the satisfaction of a job well done. It’s so easy to get lost in your own plans and schemes, but having next to nothing like I did that weekend, made me appreciate what I did have. It was surprisingly liberating, and yet by the end of the weekend I was happy to get back to my boring 9-5 job with all of the things that normally bum me out about it. It was exciting to life the life of a post-apocalyptic hobo ( not a murderhobo ), but there were so many good, simple things I missed about my daily life. The things that really make every day worth living. My wife’s kiss, the taste of coffee, the laughter of friends. Going to DR helped me realize that.
Though my doomsday cult past makes my relationship with the game a little awkward, I’m looking forward to going again. I can’t make it to Deathcon this month, but I’m looking into my plans for November, and hope I’m in good enough health to attend. I could learn a thing or two from my character, Ramone Ramen the Retrograde Guard. I think he has a good outlook on life. Keep your shield close, your family closer, and make sure you killing blow every god damn thing.
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