There are many stereotypes attributed to role players, but the truth is that we come from all walks of life. We're students and soldiers, programmers and prison guards, teachers and porn stars. I've resolved to travel across the world and play with as many different groups as I can - to find out what draws people to gaming, to see what we have in common and what's different. I stay for three days wherever I go. One day I run a game for my hosts. Another day I ask them to entertain me, showing me the things they love or find inspiring. The third day is open. If you're interested in being a part of it, contact me at [email protected].
July 4th, 2009. Košice. The second largest city in Slovakia. Back in the US, people were setting off fireworks and waving flags. Here in Slovakia, I was sitting in a tiny bathroom staring at Michael Jackson. The King of Pop had been dead for just over a week, but today he was looking good. He was dressed in red and black leather, eyes hidden behind sunglasses. He was bad. You knew it.
The windowless room was just large enough for the toilet. One wall was devoted to Michael Jackson - a shrine of pictures from various concerts and albums, largely from his heyday in the eighties. The experience was somewhat like being in a coffin. I wonder if anyone has ever taped pictures of pop stars on the inside of a coffin; if you got buried alive, at least you'd have Michael to keep you company.
I bid Michael adieu and squeezed out into the flat. Four people shared the Soviet-era apartment. It was 21-year old Ivan who had extended the invitation to me; he and his older brother John lived with their mother Melina and their father, a doctor who was currently away on business.
My terms for travel are simple. I'll provide a day's entertainment in exchange for a place to stay for three days, and one day's entertainment provided by my hosts. No stipulations are made about the quality of the lodgings; a sofa is nice, a bed is better, but I've slept on the floor in a number of places. Ivan had no guest room to offer, but he had no intention of giving me the couch. Instead, I was set up in the room he normally shared with his brother. Posters advertising various computer games adorned the walls, along with a larger-than-life image of Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. A few Smurfs and Duck Tales characters could be seen hidden below the posters, remnants of the brothers' childhoods. The family was equally generous with food. I was given more wine than I'd had all month, and an amazing array of meals. Melina portioned the food, and it always seemed as though I had twice as much as everyone else. I might not be Michael Jackson, but it seemed like the family treated every guest like the King of Pop.