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It's been a long time since I picked up my dice as well. And I miss it.
I tried doing an online tabletop game via Skype and some "tabletop simulators" and it was hard to get the feel right. All you hear is the voice, and all you roll is a text command. No sense of comraderie, and no real sense of purpose. At least, when you are all there at a table at someone's house, or a game store, you are there to game. Online, there are so many distractions just from not being in the same room; girlfriends, pets, the uncertainty of how long someone will be AFK...
Nothing will replace gaming with good friends at someone's kitchen table or living room. No technology can replace that.
In response to "Weekend Warrior" from The Escapist Forum: I think the lure of activities like LARP, re-enactment and paintball and sports like rugby are all based on the same experience. They all attempt to create the atmosphere of a battleground. Because we react to this type of situations according to primitive, tribal instincts, the surge of adrenaline and the feeling of being an integral part of a group, can be an almost euphoric experience.
Although LARP never interested me, since it always seemed too safe and too far removed from the real thing, I used to play paintball with some friends when we were younger. I never liked to do it as a sport. Instead, we tried to maximise the feeling of dread by wearing only light clothing and playing in cramped, complex interiors, like in an abandoned woodmill. Sometimes we used assault tactics and sometimes stealth. Crawling in sawdust, in the dim, claustrophopic ruin of a building, even your own breathing sounds too loud, every shadow is a threat and every creak makes the hair on the back of your neck rise. When a paintball hit, it was almost always painful and often broke the skin, but it was also a relief, because the tension finally broke.
In response to "Aggro Management" from The Escapist Forum: Hey, when people get into shouting matches and fistfights over which sports team they support, it's hardly surprising that people with some actual time and effort invested into a game faction might feel that way, or worse.
However, hating someone for being a different game faction is as ridiculous as hating someone for liking your favorite team's rival, and it belies some pretty serious insecurity. I have to wonder what sort of fragile ego a married professional has to have for him to throw his job and spouse around to make him feel better over a 20 year old college dropout that insults his game guild. That's not 'ganking someone in real life', that's being a defensive, insecure jerk.
That pretty much goes for most of your examples. To dismiss someone out of hand because of what amounts to a recreational preference is rude and bizarre.
I've played WoW since day one (and EQ and DAOC before that) and have many friends and family members ranging in age from 14 to 55 who play. No one I know would behave like the people in that article. It's ridiculous that people would snub someone in real life because they play the other faction. In my experience, people are pleased to meet another WoW player because it's fun to share experiences. Maybe some people have trouble separating cartoonish, completely fantastic games from real life, but no one I know does! It's a game with orcs and gnomes and magic spells: if you can't separate that from real life, you're kind of delusional. I think the article gave a very biased and unrealistic view of most MMORPG players.
In response to "Cosplay and Effect" from The Escapist Forum: Considering the traditions of Halloween and the dressing-up that goes on there, the idea of cosplay doesn't seem that strange to me. What does confuse me, though, is the decided lack of representations of Western science-fiction characters. OK, you'll probably get a certain number of Master Chiefs, et cetera, but what I'm really looking for is a suit of vintage-2076 T-51b Powered Infantry Armour.
I mean, if some people are spending 100 hours and lots of money on emulating characters from anime or Eastern RPG settings, I don't see the stretch to making a suit of armour. OK, it would be impractical to carry around 50 pounds of metal and plastic all day long, but it can't be any more impractical than some of the weaponry found in the typical cosplayer's simulated arsenal. I wouldn't mind lugging a decent T-51b replica around all day!