Once a year (twice if I’m lucky) my friend J.P. (a.k.a. Jape) comes to town and we play games for a few hours (a whole day, again, if I’m lucky). Yesterday was one of those lucky times, we played games for about 11 hours!
When we get together, we play Magic: the Gathering (a fantasy card game)http://www.wizards.com/magic/tcg/Default.aspx or Heroscape (a customizable miniatures game) http://www.hasbro.com/games/kid-games/heroscape/, and yesterday, for the first time, we played a game called Light Bikes, which is a game that Jape himself created, based on the light cycles in the movie Tron. If you haven’t clicked on the links earlier in this paragraph, please, at least click on this one http://speedrally.net/?page_id=74.
Jape’s imagination and attention to detail are unparalleled amongst people I know. He claims it’s his OCD acting up, but I know it’s because he cares a great deal about the gaming experience and the look of his original game creations. His Light Bikes game is beautiful, well thought out and fun to play. His other original games are fantastic, as well.
Our time together is never really about the games, though. Jape is a friend I met while attending Derry Street United Methodist church during my formative years in the early 80’s. He was one of several guys that I got together with to play Dungeons & Dragons through my teens and early twenties. When my wife Amy and I were first married, living in downtown Harrisburg in 1993-94, Jape and his wife Maura lived just up the street from us. It was during that time that Jape turned me on to the Magic: The Gathering card game. They now live in North Carolina, and Jape only comes back to Pennsylvania for weddings, funerals, Christmas or gaming conventions. He and I will talk on the phone every 6-8 weeks, or so, but getting together in person is way, way better.
During these marathon gaming sessions, we talk, play games, laugh, eat, play some more games, reminisce and laugh some more…and play more games. We lose ourselves in the gaming. The outside world sort of disappears. Troubles melt away. As Jape said this morning before he left, “You’re not thinking about the past or future. ” Isn’t that the definition of “being in the moment”?
What a gift. Truly.
My 13 year old son Elliott, and his 14 year old friend Owen, joined us this year. All 4 of us had a blast. It feels really right for Elliott to be a part of our gaming sessions now. I love having him there. It’s like some kind of “circle of life” thing. I was about Elliott’s age when I started playing Dungeons & Dragons. Also, Elliott and Owen were really excited about the day. They had been looking forward to it for more than a week. I’m thrilled that my teenage son still thinks that spending an entire day playing games with his Dad and his Dad’s friend (two guys in their 40’s), is cool. After the monster, 7 hour Heroscape game, we played the first round of Light Bikes (which we all loved), and then the two teens left to play Capture the Flag with some friends on the other side of the neighborhood. I got a kick out of the fact that Jape, at first, thought Elliott and Owen were going to play a video game called “Capture the Flag”. Jape, of course knew what Capture the Flag was, he just thought a video game, perhaps, swiped the name. He seemed genuinely impressed and heartened to see a couple of teenage boys actually going outside, in the cold, to play an actual outside game with a bunch of friends.
While Elliott was gone, Jape and I played another round of Light Bikes, but our age was catching up to us and we both started losing steam. Still, when Elliott got back, Jape broke out yet another game he had been wanting to try. An old game from the early 70’s called Ploy. That’s P-L-O-Y, a “futuristic” chess/checkers type game. He and Elliott played on while I finished up some chores.
And then our day of gaming ended.
You know that feeling when you’ve been roller skating for hours and then take off your skates and walk around without the skates but it feels like you’ve still got the skates on? That’s how your brain feels after 11 hours of gaming. You’re in a bit of a daze while your brain re-acclimates to the real world around you. I think if Jape lived closer, we wouldn’t need the marathon game days as much. We could get together for a couple of hours here and there, now and then to play and get our fix. But, alas, when we see each other now, there’s that feeling like “I don’t want this to end, because it might very well be another whole year before we do it again.”
Jape is one of those friends you know you’ll always be friends with, no matter the distance, no matter the circumstances. He’s the kind of friend who, as an adult, still feels comfortable crashing on your couch and you know, if you ever needed to, you could crash on his. He always comes bearing gifts and this year was no exception. In classic Jape fashion he created several custom figures and cards based on Speed Racer characters, for our Heroscape game. And, just like his Light Bikes game, the characters are very well thought out and fit nicely into the, already existing, Heroscape world. You could just tell he’d put a lot of research and thought into them. I guess that’s one of my favorite things about my friend Jape. He does these things for the love of it. While I am absolutely certain he’d also love to make a million dollars designing games, I am also just as certain he’ll continue to create them, even if he makes just enough to recoup the money he put into it in the first place, or no money at all. I appreciate that. I appreciate that, a lot.
You know, looking back over this post I noticed that I didn’t mention who won any of the games we played.
Huh. How ’bout that.