Halloween is upon us! The time of year, where no one looks twice at a horror movie psycho or a cute human sized piece of candy corn passing by. Ok, so maybe they take a double-take, but it's just to check out the costume and not because it's weird. FINE, not because it is THAT weird! Flesh eating zombie or delectable sweet treat, the holiday festivities give us a chance to express ourselves and often outlandishly.
Halloween gives us a chance to escape the everyday grind. Just don a mask and be someone else for a time. An opportunity to be creative or share your likes in the form of a costume. Something to spice up hanging out with friends. The kids love it too! Though, I'm hard pressed to figure out if it's truly the candy or the costumes with them.
Why do we do it though? Halloween, that is. Why do we rack our brains over what to be. Explore endless costume racks or thrift stores. Spend an obscene amount of money, if only, to compensate for the short amount of thought or time we invested.
Tradition, right! It's what we always do. How about because it's fun? I mean, it only comes once a year, right? When else am I going to get to dress up?
Then how about theater, Comic Con, or Historical reenactments?
Theater: We pay big money to watch, or maybe, experience theater. We audition for the opportunity to play a part. Skits are used on big time shows like Dancing with the Stars to amplify dancing competitions, they preempt Christmas choir performances, and are used in comedy all the time. Ever watched SNL? We prize actors of the silver screen, paying our favorites absurd amounts of money. People pay for the privilege to observe, to experience, to be entertained.
Comic Con: Maybe you've heard of them? They attract thousands, the biggest break over a hundred thousand attendees per convention. Thanks to the internet and our obsession with images, we are inundated with pictures of extravagant costumes. Super heroines, Anime, cartoon characters and everything in between! There are even shows, contests, and prizes dedicated to creating costumes.
Historical reenactments: There is something to be said about retelling history. Reenactments help us get in the mindset of other times, other places. Reenactments are a long held tradition and often held in a different purview. Is time what gives these activities their general acceptance? Is it the value of passing on history?
So, I ask you, what's your costume? What's your mask?
Let's broaden the topic even further and see just how far the rabbit hole goes. Maybe you like yourself better after a beer buzz. Is that suit you wear to work, for show? Maybe you feel empowered by it. Do you feel different with the jersey of your favorite team on? What if you were a player on the Chicago Cubs, a police officer, or a doctor? What's the difference between a uniform and a costume? Aren't these just more masks?
Shakespeare famously said, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players".
This has me thinking that many of us are too quick to write ourselves off. You think you're weird? We are all weird! Can you even imagine what some alien would think of Broadway? It isn't weird that you like to be someone or something else sometimes. It isn't weird or wrong that you feel different in different clothes. Identity is powerful and we identify with how we look, how others look.
Many role players who grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are shy to speak their interests. Not unlike drama club or band camp, Dungeons & Dragons was polarizing and often regarded as a nerd hobby. Any game that resembled it, was often attributed the same stigma. The funny thing is, people are playing role playing games all around us. They always have. When you were young, maybe you had tea parties with your imaginary friends. You played Cops & Robbers or Cowboys & Indians. Maybe, you just sat on the sofa imitating British accents or cartoon voices. Who has ever been to a themed dance or a masquerade ball? If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, whatever nerd stigma came of the past is no longer so divisive, so ostracizing. Given how widely we imitate others or mask ourselves, it never should have been in the first place.
Take a minute to consider how you hide your hobbies. Ask yourself, does it matter anymore? Worse, am I not including someone else in what makes me happy?
Don't hide your games from the public. Don't make excuses. Times haven't changed, we are just starting to see them differently. Thank yooou, Internet!
The next time you need another player for your game. Don't just think about who plays the games you do. Consider the kid practicing the British accent. Consider Dad who is reenacting Pickett's charge this weekend. Ask anyone who ever auditioned for theater, or ever wanted too.
Your next player is right in front of you, quit looking past them.