TableTop Adventures

I admit I wasn’t always a fan of Wil Wheaton.  But I was a kid when he was a kid, and didn’t know how to separate his character from his real life.  He and I are so close in age, yet I have had a hard time realizing this.

Years later, after reading his blog about his “dungeon master’s dice,” and his son wanting to use them to build his character (NOOOOOO! THESE ARE DM DICE!  THEY CANNOT BE SULLIED!) and knowing I felt the same, I re-examined my thoughts about him, and found out just how wrong I was.  (There’s a lot of soul-searching, logistics, and general dickery I had to go through to realize this, which I won’t get into much other than what is below.  Suffice to say, I was a dick to Mr. Wheaton, and didn’t appreciate his talent like I should have).

He was not Wesley Crusher.  The only thing they had in common was that W at the beginning of their names.  The writers for Star Trek didn’t do him justice, this very young actor who starred in one of my favorite movies, Stand By Me, in which he excelled as Gordie LaChance, and I’m embarrassed that I, who is savvy about a great number of subjects, failed to recognize this at an early age, despite my love of one of his breakout roles.  But I was young, naive, and innocent.  And I hated Wesley Crusher (probably because he was too much like me).  It would be years later, in my 30s and 40s, that I began to truly appreciate the character, and the actor behind him.  My favorite episode now is that final one, where the Traveler forced him to see beyond his limitations … something that became apropos for me, years after the original air-date.  (You did remember to wear something warm, right?  Like your mother said!  Like all mothers say, regardless of how old we are?)

The Traveler:  How much I hated to love him.  How much he made me realize just how wrong I was to vilify an actor, for something out of his control.  And how much he taught me, about my own misperceptions.  A flawed being, unable to take that leap into the next evolutionary cycle.

Wheaton is a genius, in no uncertain terms, and has, as George Takei has, captured the minds of thousands of internet-savvy gurus (which comprises probably the majority of us in the last 10 years, so much so that the term internet-savvy guru has very little meaning anymore).  He’s taken the medium beyond the extreme, into the realm of a viable outlet and in a way that very few others have.  He did so naturally, not riding on the waves of others, nor standing on their shoulders.  He did so because, like me, he’s a geek, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  He enjoyed the digital 1s and 0s.  It was a medium he was born to.  And he made it his own, and brought to many of us geeks a deeper understanding of playing games, of what it means to play with family, and what being a family really is all about.

It’s always been a part of my life, having received the old red-book Dungeons and Dragons when I was 6 years old, the age of my son now (if you’re a D&D player, you know the one I’m talking about … the one just after the original, the basic set, that begat all other sets and editions).  At that time, board games became something of a religious experience for me beyond my ordinary life.  It became an outlet, and as I delved deeper into Dungeon Mastering, it became an outlet for my own creativity and storytelling.  It made me want to write, to develop my own games, my own ideas.  It made me spend two years on the second floor of the Irving Public Library in Texas, reading every book I could lay my paws on.  I read Philosophy; I read Plato to Socrates.  I read the Apocrypha.  I read Humanist manifestos.  I read mythology, religion, and fundamentalist ideologies.  In short, I read everything on that second floor of the library, so much so that the librarian would ask me what I would be reading that day, when I scaled the stairs.  She called me the Renaissance Man (seriously!) because I would read anything and everything that sat on those shelves.  In two years, maybe three, I read almost every single book in the Irving TX public library, spending hours out of each day in a little private cubicle, because Dungeons and Dragons taught me to question — and understand –where we, humanity, came from, and why.

But back to Wil Wheaton:

My son, who is six years old, eventually discovered Mr. Wheaton’s TableTop videos on YouTube, and became enamored with them.  Though there are some that I forbid him to watch, Wheaton and the TableTop team has provided a show that is mostly accessible to all ages, for which I’m grateful.  Those few occasions when accidental words or phrases become inappropriate, my son and I have a little talk, and all is right with the world again.  I don’t hold this against Mr. Wheaton or the producers.  To evolve in this world, my son needs to learn that words and phrases, though inappropriate, sometimes have their time and place.  Plus, in the end, what matters the occasional F-word?  Not at all.  He’s heard Daddy say worse things, and chides him about it.  “That’s a bad word, Daddy.  You shouldn’t say that.”  And 100% of the time, he is correct.  He is my rock, my foundation, and keeps me in check.

Of Wil Wheaton, he once said to me, at about four or five years old, “He’s a smart guy.”  He also quoted Wheaton’s famous catch phrase, but I didn’t scold him for it (only told him that, though correct, it wasn’t appropriate for him to say, other than in private with me).

I had the good fortune to be advised by Mr. Wheaton and his fans as to age-appropriate TableTop games last year, just before Christmas, and the advice I received was so spectacularly awesome, my son and I have enjoyed a year of battling orcs and goblins, capturing pirate treasures, and building train lines from one end of the country to another.  I can never thank Mr. Wheaton nor his fans enough (I can’t stress the latter part enough … and I think Mr. Wheaton would likewise say just how awesome his fans are) for that advice.  There is a basic, primitive joy that I discovered when my son and I sat down, for the first time, and played Castle Panic, and then later, eschewing all the rules, Ticket to Ride (we’ve since moved on to using the rules, and our enjoyment has only improved.  In fact, it is because of these board games that my son now can spell with confidence such things as Goblins, Orcs, Swordsman, Archer, and other things, without me having to have taught him any of it … and what six-year-old can actually compete with that?

Lesson learned: Board games can augment a child’s reading comprehension.

So thank you, Wil Wheaton, the guru of Family Time, He Who Loses More Often Than Not At Tabletop (my son giggles every time you lose, but in a good way).  Thank you for being the man that you are, and for restoring both my faith in humanity and the sanctity of those sometimes brief family board games.  When I teach my son the ins and outs of D&D, there will be an NPC with your name on him.

If I had a desire, I would like to see Wil Wheaton dedicate one game to family, in some future episode of TableTop.  To mothers and fathers and their very young children.  To watch a family play Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, or the ilk, and allow my son to watch such a video and realize that he’s not alone in his geekdom.  Mothers and fathers my age, with sons and daughters eight years old or under.

The Denver Comic Con brings this home more than anything else.  Mr. Wheaton’s response to that young lady at the Con applies to everyone equally, most especially to that young lady, but also to every geeky kid who feels out of the norm of society, and TableTop is the perfect venue for such a demonstration in geekdom … that it is our very geekiness that truly makes ours and our children the greatest generation in this age:

Mr Wheaton, just one episode.  Because you and I both know just how spontaneous, honest, and sincere our children, at that age, can be.  Yeah, maybe it would take multiple sessions, perhaps even break your budget (yikes!).  But it is a dream I have that I hope one day you can fulfill.  Because if anyone can do it, if anyone can make Friday TableTop Game Days like I have with my son a celebration of what makes us human, what makes us family, and what makes us special, you can.

Because you’re awesome like that.

No pressure, right?


Wil Wheaton’s Blog
(because he’s awesome, and not a dick)

Anne Wheatons’ Blog (because she’s awesome too, and a wonderful and compassionate human being)

TableTop (the raison d’etre for this post)

(And because I used to be an Animal Control Officer, and know what kind of BS pits have to go through, please support the PASADENA HUMANE SOCIETY as well as other humane societies in your neck of the woods.  The Wheatons have some very awesome animals  family members that prove that pits are not the vicious animal you’re *not* looking for.  There is a reason why pits, more than any other breed of dog, are adopted by ACOs around the nation.

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