Monday, January 19, 2015

Time vs. Money = Nostalgia

Me, Christmas, 1999

Caution: I plan on doing a full blog entry about Crimson Skies in the very near future.  But while I was getting ready to write that post, I had some notes that turned into a random spew of words.  

This happened completely by accident!  

Sorry!


*     *     *

Back in college I played a lot of miniatures games, but fell out of the hobby after the early 2000’s.  Now that I could probably afford the costs of boasting a respectable Warhammer 40K army (not that I would, I was always more of a FASA fan), I’m always tempted to purchase new paints and get back behind the pewter, but stop short when I consider my time constraints.  Wanting to scratch this “itch,” I arranged over the weekend to run a couple sessions of my favorite miniatures game: Crimson Skies.  

Typically, I run the role-playing games at our monthly Norwin Game Knights meetings, but since this was a special New Years celebratory session at our local public library, I wanted to bring a game that was both eye catching, as well as quick to play.   Since Crimson Skies has a few role-playing elements, I’d still attract some of my usual suspects, as well as draw in a few new faces.  I expected no less from a game that could always draw a small crowd of onlookers when it first came out.  This was back when I was a broke gamer in college, relishing weekly Tuesday night “dogfights” with squadrons of lovingly created miniatures, paid for by endless hours as a Sam’s Club cashier.  

My collection, now lovingly placed in a curio cabinet

The old boxed set containing the core rules was buried in my garage, so I went on a most difficult quest: digging through countless sealed plastic bins looking for just the right one.  But when I uncovered the correct bin, I not only found my entire collection of Crimson Skies materials (boxed set, sourcebooks, novels), I also found myself completely awash in nostalgia.  I discovered Crimson Skies during a period of my life that I’ve always considered my own personal "golden age of gaming."  Holding those small pewter aircraft in my hands, while flipping through the various pulpy "Air Action Weekly" rulebooks, reversed my internal clock fifteen years.

Originally designed by Jordan Weisman (Shadowrun, Battletech) and FASA, and released in 1998, Crimson Skies was my first entrance into a world of super glue and acrylic fueled marathon painting sessions.  I purchased the game in the fall of 1999 during my junior year at Penn State, and within weeks I transformed most of my close college gamer friends into militia pirates and corsairs navigating the hostile skies over an alternate 1937.  Every Tuesday at Penn State’s union building, our crew would be spread out across several tables, each boasting complete miniature squadrons, ten-siders, and plastic damage templates.  Around the same time, already invested in the proper paints, brushes, and tools (much to the despair of my first credit card) we started getting into Battletech as well.  That just meant more figures to care for, and more excuses to rush through homework.  Affording these additional figures was still a challenge, and often we’d choose ramen noodles and Banquet Meals for dinner just to scrape a few extra pennies together for another pewter Battlemech.  


I imagined that having a full-time career, and better yet a steady income, would grant me the ability to better invest in my gaming hobby...

... I just didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to actually take part in the hobby as much as I would’ve liked.  

I finished college not long after, of course, and as time went by my gaming experiences were fewer and fewer.  Part-time shifts were replaced by a full time career, and all-night weekend gaming sessions were replaced by desperate once-a-month one-shots.  If 1999 was my golden age, I’d say that the early 00’s were the friggin’ dark ages for me as a gamer.  Keep in mind, I did not discover online play until 2009, and while I was in my twenties I was still too self-conscious to mention to anyone outside of my inner circle that I was a gamer.



I still did a little painting in the late 00's, including these seaplanes


While I was digging through my boxes last week, however, I came across several other piles of materials from that "lost decade."  Through my dark ages, I still kept accumulating books that would eventually find their way in my various secret stashes throughout the nooks and crannies of my home.  My Battletech collection is downright massive, not only featuring the miniatures I painted in college, but sourcebook after sourcebook despite having not played the game since the summer of 2000.  I think this "trend" that I noticed in my buying habits is probably similar to most of my fellow gamers who transition from college-gamer to adult-gamer.

It’s all a question of two resources: time and money.  When we are young, especially in college, we have vast amounts of free time that can be spent playing the games we love, but typically cannot afford all of the games we’d like to own.  Later, when we "grow-up", we may have the money to buy those games we’d love to own, but very little time to play.  

Oh great irony!  

I see this when gamers, myself included, drop hundreds of dollars at Gen Con, or on Kickstarters, or just at the local game stores.  It’s like we hobbyists are subconsciously trying to prepare for a period in our lives when we’ll have a lot of free time again, without the cares and worries of the real world crushing our imaginative spirits.

For me, I’m glad that I continued to purchase the Crimson Skies miniatures and books after my own golden era of gaming, and I’ve managed to unpack several games as my kids have grown older.  Watching my daughters both play Crimson Skies this past weekend gave me an incredible amount of joy and appreciation for being a geek-dad.  Perhaps I need to consider my college years more of a "classical era" and look towards 2015 and beyond as a "renaissance," as I find new and creative ways to play the games to which I've always wanted to return.  

I do know one thing though...

… I’m going to have a kickass retirement come 2045!  I plan on wrapping up my 65th birthday with an all-night Battletech marathon!

Who's coming?  I call Inner Sphere and the Draconis Combine!  




My daughter during her first game of Crimson Skies