Alex's Story - Four Hours from Home

Four Hours from Home

A Gamer Story by Alex Wolf

In 2012 I took a new job in a city where I knew no one. It didn't seem drastic at the time - "Only a four hour drive from home" I told myself. But after only a few weeks it quickly became obvious how much more isolating distance is when you and all your friends have competing adult priorities.

I'm not shy, so meeting people wasn't a problem. I got on well with my new colleagues, and wound up filling my evenings with professional and social functions. But it wasn't the same as the social time I thrived on. It was missing something. It was missing was my people.

My best friends and I, back home, had always bonded over our shared experience of childhoods spent as nerds, staying inside on sunny days to finish every pedantic sidequest of the latest Final Fantasy release. Those hours weren't spent hiding from a real social life, as many would assume, but rather in finding meaning in game mechanics, and growing through identifying with our favourite characters.

My new friends were great in other ways, but we didn't have that together, and I struggled to find people who I could relate to in this way. It may sound silly on the surface, but I found those shared experiences to be a terrific shortcut to depth in a new friendship.

One day, unpacking months behind schedule, I came across my collection of Magic: The Gathering cards. Magic had been a huge part of deepening my closest friendships. This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the game. The process of building a playing a deck can be intensely personal. Every (unreasonably expensive) card purchased is a statement about yourself. Every nuance of every match is a metaphor for something real.

I'd seldom played outside my social circle, but knew it was common for gaming stores to hold regular tournaments, so I started attending. Before long, I started looking forward to these events as the highlights of my week. Not because I love the game (though I do), but because it was a gateway into a world where we all spoke the same language.

Eventually, a new group of friends formed from this which now makes up the majority of my life outside work and family. Sometimes we play games together, sometimes we just hang out, sometimes our kids attend each other's birthday parties. The kids are all still too young now, but I suspect it won't be long before we're all teaching them to play together. For me that means passing down a central part of myself to my kids that I might not have otherwise. It's kind of crazy the impact that rediscovering a community has had, and will have for the rest of my life.

My career remains one that might take me to more new places over the years. While I've learned a huge lesson in how disruptive uprooting an adult life can be, I've also discovered what appears to be a terrific way to mitigate that - my collection of expensive cardboard will definitely be coming with me wherever I go.

 Are you an avid Magic cards player? Have board games helped you cope with moving away from home? Send us your story by using this form.