Jordan's Story - Me, For Real

A Story by Jordan Power

When I turned thirteen, old enough to know I wanted to be cool but young enough to have no idea what that meant, I planned my own birthday.

It was fall, still warm where I lived, and I’d invited my friends to the corn maze just outside of the city. Someone else, someone cool from another school, had his party at the corn maze a few weeks earlier. Everyone was talking about it and I wanted to capture some of that buzz.

You see, at home, I spent most of time playing games. I escaped to a new, magical world with Guild Wars. I built my own civilizations in Age of Empires. I collected Magic: The Gathering cards and even tried my hand at some very basic role playing with my brothers. I loved casting spells and crawling dungeons and, really, being somewhere else.

I loved being someone else.

At school, I did a different kind of pretending. I played football at lunch and talked about girls and made the class laugh when substitute teachers couldn’t keep us in line.

So, when my birthday finally rolled around, I was ready to be that me, the cool me, the corn-maze me with a birthday that everyone talks about.

My dad was taking the long way home, and I was asked if he could hurry. The door was locked too, which slowed me down a bit, but I my key was in the door before my dad had opened his door. I didn’t have time to wait.  

The lock clicked open.

Then, surprise.

A dozen other pre-teens stood up from where they’d been hiding in my living room.

My parents had asked them to play along, to let me plan for the corn maze, to let me look forward to the corn maze. It was nice of them, really. To spend their time and energy putting together a second party while keeping the charade of the first one intact.

At least it would have been nice. If they hadn’t ended the world.

Those are thirteen-year-old words, of course. More dramatic than they need to be. But that’s how I felt when twelve of the cooler kids, the ones I talked to about football and kissing girls and a hundred other things I was already certain I didn’t like, popped out from their hiding place to surprise me, dressed in full medieval fantasy costume.

End. Of. The. World.

“I thought you loved that stuff,” my mom had said.

“They didn’t know.”

My parents had organized a night of tabletop games, playing with the miniatures I painted before hiding under my bed. They had fantasy-themed board games. A castle cake. Prizes for the best costume. Party games. Role-playing games. True-to-life games they played in the Middle Ages.

My literal dream. And my actual nightmare.

I played along, though. I knew that was the right thing to do. Besides, I had to teach everyone how to play. And, as I did, as I watched that friend make a smart move with his miniatures or this that one step confidently into her role as Magic Princess, I started to relax.

The world was just fine.

And I became a little more comfortable with myself. I got a little less anxious about the fact that I’d rather sling spells than kick field goals (I’m a much better magician than I am kicker, anyway). I felt a little more proud to be me.

It was only a little at first. I stopped hiding the miniatures. I asked if a couple friends wanted to get a set of their own.

Then it was regular board game nights. A few more friends. A community.

Then it was favourite games out on display. It was asking new friends if they wanted to join. It was playing in hobby stores and living my life as proudly as possible.

Games have helped me feel better about who I am, in every way. They taught me how to be open and honest and cool in a way I could never be when I pretended to be something I wasn’t.

They helped me realize that no one cares, no one’s watching, and most people have way better things to do than yuck my particular brand of harmless yum.

Now, some number of years later, my birthday is just one excuse invite bring people together - friends who play games and those who never have - to jump in, to go full-out, and to have some fun doing what I love to do.

And for anyone who knows me, the real me, that’s never a surprise.