Mark Barrowcliffe's memoir caught my eye in the bookstore several months ago, and again during each subsequent visit. I have never been a gamer (of any kind - I don't even like social board games), but my social circle has always been peppered with gamers of all sorts, so I feel a connection to the subject. I went into the book knowing next to nothing about the game, but knowing a bit about gamers, so I was looking forward to a sneak-peak of what my friends were really up to.
Barrowcliffe's memoir delivers just that; he moves through a description of the kind of people attracted to role playing games, how he himself was introduced to the phenomenon, and what really goes on during those 6-10 hour marathons.
I really enjoyed Barrowcliffe's descriptions of other players, and found myself longing to meet some of his awkward and fantastic boyhood friends. I loved the description of the mania that D&D can create, and laughed along with the author as he presented some of the "mainstream" views of D&D (you know, gateway to the occult, Satan's game, that sort of thing).
But here's why can't rate this book higher than 3 stars out of 5: I can't stand the adult Barrowcliffe. Spaz? He's an overly-enthusiastic, mildly obnoxious, and completely obsessed teenage boy who discovers the world he's always dreamed of in a role playing game. He has the same personality flaws as 75% of all teenagers, and while I may not seek his company in real life, he's a perfectly enjoyable character in the memoir. However, Barrowcliffe? He's a bit of a prick when it comes to gamers. His criticism and observations are frequently true, and often add to the narrative itself, but every other chapter or two he takes it a bit far and is just unnecessarily nasty.
This shift from teenage-gamer to adult author has left Barrowcliffe feeling exposed. While he desperately wants to write about his boyhood obsession, he's afraid of the labels and classifications that come with it. In an attempt to distance himself from such a distinctive label he mercilessly condemns all gamers.
But let's be honest: who is going to pick up a book with "Dungeons and Dragons" in the title? Gamers, ex-gamers, or individuals like myself who feel very kindly towards gamers. The kind of bashing that slips in and out of the narrative just doesn't suit the actual audience.
So, it all comes down to this: 4.5 out of five stars for entertainment, but minus 1.5 stars for insulting the audience.
Still, if you have any kind of relationship to D&D - even a very distant one - I would recommend this book.
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Macmillan; Unabridged edition edition (6 April 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1405091266
- ISBN-13: 978-1405091268
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.5 x 21.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 440 g
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