I’m pretty new to gaming and at 38 years old it was particularly daunting coming into an established community. So, having been a Star Wars fan all my life and given an x-wing core set by my wife as a birthday present I was pretty excited to give it a go, but having no one to actually play against meant it sat on my shelf gathering dust.
Fast forward a year or two and I happened across a gaming shop while shopping in Woking, the wonderful IBUYWARGAMES, and decided to pop in for a quick geeky gander. Walked through the back door straight into the manager’s office area and was greeted by the friendly owner Ian, who excused my back-door shenanigans and ushered me through to the store proper. There I stood with my 7 year son next to me peering across a room filled with X-wing players in mid tournament, and it was glorious.
Fast forward another arbitrary chunk of time, and after copious amounts Facebook lurking, I plucked up the courage to ask about learning to play x-wing. Time slowed down as I awaited the trolling of the noob wanting to intrude on their community. When I got a reply notification I tensed and opened it with dread, to be met with a friendly and welcoming message encouraging me to come down on ‘Star Wars Wednesdays’ and there would be someone happy to play some demo games with me. This was followed several more reassuring messages to come down and give it a go.
That was around a year ago and since then I have become a regular at Star Wars Wednesdays and have become a member of a gaming group, the fantastically named “ZOMBIE SQUADRON” (I’m also a fan of the zombie genre. Fate, I am in you!).
Not long after my induction into Zombie Squadron the system open in Birmingham appeared on the horizon.
If a single word could sum up my pre-system open preparations it would be ROUGH. I am not the healthiest of specimens at the best of times but add stress into the mix and my body just waves the white flag and is done. What does this have to do with x-wing? Well, I am pretty new to the whole gaming community so every new experience is both a joy and anxiety filled nightmare. I look forward to joining in but at the same time feel like an interloper in someone else sandpit.
Once again, what does this have to do with x-wing? let’s just say my journey to the system open, which included getting a ticket to my first massive x-wing event, the anticipation of travelling and rooming with folks who I had only known for a few months, all of whom have established relationships, and the added trepidation at displaying my less than stellar x-wing skills, had my anxiety roller-coaster on the tracks way before the week leading up to the tournament.
I had spent weeks learning my list, making tweaks trying to become proficient enough to not put on a poor showing and let my squadron mates down. Then the Monday before Birmingham and I am hit with a chest infection which knocks me for a loop, and the thought of not being well enough to attend the very tournament which I had anxiously been awaiting.
Fast forward to Saturday morning and this is where my weekend starts to get better. I come down to meet my fellow Zombies, and at this point I am in the mindset that I may not even go to the tournament, but everyone is asking how I’m feeling. These good folks, into who’s established group I have imposed myself, seem genuinely concerned for my well being. With this encouragement, and feelings of good will (along with some hastily procured medication) I ventured forth towards the awaiting battlegrounds.
So, to Yavin, where after an anxious morning, the first pairings were announced and off we went. Before each match I explained to my opponents that I was under the weather and made sure to let them know if I had to suddenly disappear I would concede the match to them and, to their credit, everyone was very understanding. Although strangely no-one took me up on my offer of an anti-bacterial wipe.
Having lost my matches in the main tournament we then once again regrouped and I was glad to hear that a number of Zombies were doing well and through to the next rounds. Those of us who weren’t, continued on to the Hanger bay tournament. I would like to give more of a run down on this but after my first match, which I remember as it was my first win of the weekend (although regrettably it was against another Zombie), I have very little recollection of the remainder of the day. It has been mentioned to me that at that point I was also not looking particularly healthy, but I like to think I was just trying to spur on my team mates by becoming the embodiment of our logo, putting the ‘Zombie’ in ‘Zombie Squadron’ if you will. Needless to say, it had been a long and tiring day, and when the opportunity arose I headed back to the hotel early and got some much needed rest.
Sunday morning, I awoke feeling a lot more refreshed and ready for the day, although a bit disappointed I hadn’t been able to join the group for drinks and food the night before. Catching up with the news from the previous evening I was glad to hear that a few zombies were still faring well in the main tournament. After a warrior’s breakfast of tea and toast it was time to venture back to the hallowed battlegrounds.
I won a couple of games that weekend, but by the end I was a shattered mess. Yet with the help of my team mates, and some great opponents, I came home with a smile on my face and the memories of one of the best weekends I have ever had.
Another time jump forward and we are in the lead up to 2.0, I also find myself struggling with anxiety and depression through a variety of causes. On top of everything else I was worried about letting my squadron mates down by suddenly going AWOL and for not keeping up with any information about 2.0.
After messaging them to apologise I was told in no uncertain terms that “it’s just plastic ships” and that it was more important to look after myself. I have been at my job for thirteen years and I have had maybe two messages since I have been off of work, yet these guys who I have known for just a year, and normally see once a week, have continuously checked in to make sure I was doing ok and to let me know that they were there if I needed them. And It is not just my squadron mates- the local FLGS owner, A member of our “rival” the 186th squadron plus others from the wider community have all been there for me with advice or to just be an ear to unload to.
Jump to now and here I am, writing this rambling account of my first year in X-wing, and it can be summed up….
When I go to my FLGS on a Wednesday night THAT is my safe place, not just the store but the community, the first place I have ever really felt like I belong and that I am accepted for being me.
So PEW PEW and FLY CASUAL.