Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid | AspenTimes.com

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd HartleyThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

When I was a kid, my friends and I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, the original fantasy role-playing game. We thought it was fun, and we played for about a year or so (that year being essentially fifth grade), but after a while we all realized that if we kept playing we ran the risk of being labeled geeks for the rest of our lives.Whether or not I could be considered a geek today is a subject of some debate, but if I am, its not because I used to play D & D. I gave that up at the age of about 11 when it became apparent that players of role-playing games were heavily ridiculed and ended up in high school with no friends, wearing denim jackets with Jethro Tull artwork painted on the back.Fast forward to 2008. It was announced on Jan. 22 that World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), surpassed 10 million subscribers worldwide. Just how many people is that, really? Let me put it this way: If you had one person for every person playing World of Warcraft, youd have 10 million people.I have no doubt that there are probably a billion geeks in the world today, so if 10 million of them are playing role-playing games, thats a small percentage. Still, its a huge number, and World of Warcraft is just one of dozens of those types of games on the Internet. In actuality, there are probably a good 20 million people out there leading fantasy cyber-lives.And apparently its not just geeks like me who play these games anymore. Dave Chapelle, a veritable paragon of hipness with his own show on Comedy Central, is supposedly a huge World of Warcraft fan, as is Robin Williams and three-time World Series-winning pitcher Curt Schilling. Hell, Mr. T even did a TV ad for World of Warcraft, and if you think hes a geek, Id love to see you say it to his face.So by now youre probably wondering what exactly my point is. Well, I dont really have one other than to say speaking on behalf of myself and every other paladin, wizard, elf, halfling and dwarf who was ever called a dweeb simply for playing Dungeons & Dragons that we demand an apology. We werent geeks, as it turns out; we were merely trend-setters. (OK, fine, we were geeks who happened to be trend-setters.)Id also like to issue a word of caution to anyone out there already involved in a role-playing game or anyone who might be thinking of signing up for one: Whatever else you do, just remember that its only a game. Its not real, and its not meant to be a replacement for your actual life, or lack thereof.Believe me, I know how tempting it can be to lose yourself in a world where you can be strong, intelligent and attractive just because you created a good character, but if you start thinking it somehow matters, youll end up like Amy Taylor.Taylor, a 28-year-old British woman, met a man online playing a game called Second Life, and the two got married in 2005. By all accounts, the man, 40-year-old David Pollard, was faithful to Taylor in real life, but that wasnt good enough for her.He never did anything in real life, said Taylor, but I had my suspicions about what he was doing in Second Life.She hired an online private detective to follow Pollards character around and caught him cheating on her with a virtual prostitute. Pollard denied any wrongdoing, saying he had an online relationship with a girl in America that didnt involve any cyber sex, but the damage was done, leading Taylor to recently file for divorce.I find myself at a loss for words to describe just how pathetic this whole scenario is. I mean, theres geeky, and then theres massively multiplayer geeky. Its one thing for a pimply kid to pretend hes a dragon-slaying knight, but its a whole new level of sad for grownups to base their lives on the actions of their online characters.One would like to think that Ms. Taylor could learn from her mistakes and try to find love in the real world, but it seems thats not going to happen. Shes reportedly now in a relationship with a man she met online playing World of Warcraft. No word on whether its Mr. T or Dave Chapelle.

Todd Hartley is a chaotic neutral ranger with 18 strength and charisma, 47 hit points and an armor class of -2. E-mail your comments to toddmhartley@gmail.com.


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