"The alternate worlds and wild imagination of D&D gave me and my fellow misfits an outlet, and we had dozens upon dozens of hours per week to spend on it. Where else were we going to go? We lived in our high school. Think about that for a minute. Six or eight ferociously bright kids-Choate is one of the most academically competitive schools in the nation-with nothing to do but make things up to amuse one another, and D&D providing the framework."
Although those years have since passed, Lake still credited the game with providing a foundation he has built upon as a successful writer.
"Those three years playing D&D at boarding school did more to ground me in storytelling, plot construction, and sheer, raw imaginative throughput than any other single activity of my life. Today I'm a successful fantasy and science fiction novelist with ten novels and over two hundred short stories in print or on the way. I might have gotten to this point by a different path, but it would not have been the same journey,"
This was something akin to my experience. Role-playing games, perhaps the most intrinsically social of all hobbies, provided human contact in its otherwise near-total absence. And it gave me a creative outlet to engage in storytelling in collaborative context.
I remember more than a decade ago joining an informal community of Watership Down role-players. We had no fixed starting rules and pretty much just spontaneously created a game with a rich and elaborate storyline. With minimal editing, one story arc that lasted over two years could have easily been turned into a novel.
Obvious copyright issues prevented us from proceeding. But ordinary people, in a community of people who never met face-to-face, were able to create something quite extraordinary. And that game is, by the way, still going on.
I haven't played with them in many years, but sometimes I visit and just look at the front page. In the midst of all of the things that have been chaotic and shifting in my life in the past decade, I never would have though that an Internet message board would stand the test of time. But it has. And that it has done so gives me a sense of comfort in its stability.
That's my story. What's yours?
UPDATE: James Rummel adds his thoughts, reminiscing that the argument against gaming dates back to the 80s. Here you can read Michael Stackpole's elegant and researched takedown of that movement.