Geek: a slang term used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast, or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit. Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride. Its meaning has evolved to connote “someone who is interested in a subject (usually intellectual or complex) for its own sake”.
Working for a tech company, I have met many geeks. But not one has trumped the breadth of knowledge, energy for life & people, or, simply, the overall fun level of my friend, Johnny Voruz.
I met Johnny almost a decade ago at work, he was the video expert in our
marketing department, and we were instant friends. Over the years, Johnny has been my go-to for buying tech equipment, co-art director for CD packaging, you-name-it, Johnny can do it.
After different job paths split us up, we’re working side by side once again for the past year, and it’s been great fun. We’re on the same team, working in tandem, so we have a chance to really communicate again.
It didn’t surprise me that he was a Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast/Dungeon Master. I had never really gone ‘behind the curtain’ regarding the popular game, and asked Johnny about it. He’s done a tremendous job recently of explaining the world of D&D to me, and we’ve even played a bit. A bit.
Johnny was cool to answer my D&D related questions in FIVE QUESTIONS:
1) How old were you when you 1st discovered D & D? What were the circumstances and how did it go?
JV – Unlike most Dungeons & Dragons diehards, I actually didn’t grow up with the game that’s been around since 1974. I was 28 or 29 when one of my favorite online comics Penny Arcade, did a podcast for the company who now owns Dungeons & Dragons – Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast. The podcast was awesome. It was creative. it was fun. There was witty banter on top of these epic moments of adventure and exploration. And it all happened while they were sitting around a table with some dice, some paper, and their imagination. I went out and bought the Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual the next day without even playing the game myself.
2) What do you think draws certain adults to play in imaginary worlds?
JV – I think EVERYBODY plays in their own imaginary worlds, look no further than the magic of television and radio. I think the nature of escapism has grown in our society as our hierarchy of needs becomes more fulfilled with each passing day here in the United States. The most interesting thing about what Dungeons & Dragons offers for entertainment is the social experience of storytelling that’s only limited by a person’s imagination. In a TV show, the camera shows you what the director wants you to see. In Dungeons & Dragons, you get to call the shots and essentially go anywhere you want in a world that you’re making up as you go along. I think people are drawn to the idea that they can think about what it would be like to be able to do whatever they want for 4 hours on a Friday night while they snack on pizza and pop while surrounded with friends.
3) What makes a good Dungeon Master? Are you a good one?
JV – In the game of Dungeons & Dragons, you’ve got your players, who all get to make decisions for a character they’re “playing” as, and then you’ve got the Dungeon Master – who acts as the “coach” for the rest of the imaginary world that a Dungeons & Dragons group gets to play around in. A good Dungeon Master is an excellent communicator who knows when to talk and when to listen.
They’ve taken the time to explain the vision of the shared universe: what it’s like to live there, what’s considered commonplace and what’s fantastic and rare. The game of Dungeons and Dragons also involves a lot of problem solving. A good Dungeon Master works with players as they imagine outcomes of player-influenced actions in the imaginary world. Do they succeed? Do they fail?
A good Dungeon Master doesn’t always let you win “just because”. Failure should always be a possibility, even in an imaginary world. Dungeons & Dragons is a social, team game where you need to work together cooperatively to overcome obstacles.
4) Do you think that some people don’t just like to play but they NEED to play, and would rather live in those worlds than in their real lives?
JV – I think that anyone who NEEDS to play Dungeons & Dragons probably has an addictive personality on par with people who NEED to gamble, NEED alcohol, or NEED to escape reality. While Dungeons & Dragons deals with things like cults, gods, and devils (developing a bad reputation in certain religious circles that carries on even today) – when you boil Dungeons & Dragons down to it’s most basic components – it’s just people sitting around a table, rolling dice and doing basic math. If someone has a real problem and needs to play a game to escape it, I’m of the belief that, while the game itself isn’t hurting anything, it’s probably best to step back and take a look at what the problem is and then try to fix it in small, manageable chunks. It’s actually the same way I’d tackle problems as a player in Dungeons & Dragons 😉
5) How does one begin to play if they never have before? What’s the best way? Any advice to a newbie?
JV – Dungeons and Dragons has a rich history of imagination that I think stems from childhood innocence. We think of the craziest and coolest stuff as kids until it’s worked out of us in the act of growing up and fitting into the mold of what life has in store for us. My best friend (who I met because of Dungeons & Dragons) has always said that growing up with Dungeons and Dragons was great, because nobody knew how the hell to play it, so they just made it up and filled in the gaps and tweaked rules to fit the way their group played the game. My advice is newbies that want to play Dungeons & Dragons is to get a group of 3 – 5 people who think this way and then get around a table, get whatever dice you can scrounge up, and start talking about things you’ve always wanted to do and what it would be like to do them! Most importantly: HAVE FUN!
Contact Johnny at Google+