Good ol' Days

From AmtWiki


I started playing Amtgard in 1989. I was 15. There were three kingdoms (though maybe 2 - I never can remember when IM started). Colorado was the Great Beyond and I don't think anyone really considered just how big the game would become. I started in the Burning Lands, birthplace of Amtgard. And I started with the people who started the game. Many of them were just starting the slow decline to burnout at the time, but for the first year or so at least, it was "the good ol' days". Aramithris and Tawnee were definitely heads of opposite factions, but he would still come over to her house after the park to hang out and play games. We all went out to get bad Mexican food after a day at the park. Everyone got together for birthdays or holidays. Everyone showed up for special events, demos and such. La Grue came out once or twice and everyone pointed him out in hushed whispers. I partied one weekend with the "bad influences" that were the Saracens, Corsairs, Sable Pride and various others, and the next with the "leaders" that were Lions and (eventually) Claw Legion. When I went off to college, every time I came home Caliope would throw a party at her house. To be fair, Caliope and Trinity threw parties all the time and would take nearly any excuse to do it again. Some of the people I knew then are probably dead now, or in jail. Some of the others are leaders in their community, respected professionals, raising families. My closest friends ranged from my age, to old enough to be my parents. No one really cared about complex things like socio-economic background, education or age. We all showed up on Saturday morning and played our little game, and we all hung out together. It didn't matter if you liked the other people, or if you'd say boo to them on the street. We all had our little geeky thing, and that bonded us together.

Things change, as they tend to do. I left town eventually. Amtgard grew. But some things stayed the same. I could go to an event - any event, in any kingdom - and I could walk from campfire to campfire and find friends. There wasn't a group where a drunk teenage girl might be unsafe. There wasn't a group where you couldn't leave your cloak by accident and not have it returned (or at least waiting for you) the next morning. There was no where that "you shouldn't go". We were older, the game was bigger, but we all still had this bond of our inner geekiness. I think we all knew this was an escape from the "real world" and took some effort to protect that. My favorite part of events was starting at one end of the event at sunset and wandering to the other end and back until I fell asleep sometime near dawn. Yes, we usually got drunk. Yes, we may have engaged in other less-than-well-thought-out things, too. But that wasn't really the reason I looked forward to event weekends. That wasn't the reason we were willing to pile 5 people in a tiny hatchback and drive 10 hours to an event. That wasn't the reason my friends and I spent our senior year in high school counting the weekends since and till events. For us, it was about being somewhere where we were accepted regardless of anything else. Teenage years are rough and I can't express nearly enough just how amazing it was to have a safe place to be a total loser among other total losers ... and somehow for that to make me cool.

However, NeverNeverLand doesn't really exist. I don't know what exactly caused things to change. Amtgard got bigger (much MUCH bigger), it started attracting a different kind of people, and the internet became easily accessible. Suddenly, the group wasn't so much a bunch of closet geeks - it included people in it just for the sport. Suddenly, there were events every weekend (somewhere), and if you couldn't make it to an event, all you had to do was log on to the internet to get your fix. Suddenly, it was impossible to know everyone in the game. Suddenly, people were known by their reputations, and by rumors, more than by their actual presence. This kind of distance made it harder to care about anyone and easier to feel like you knew someone without actually knowing them. But even then, the local parks were much the same. Even if two factions were in opposition in the game, they still went out for bad Mexican (or Chinese or random buffet) after the park. They still cheered when someone got knighted. They still all showed up for crown quals to see who would win the tournament. There was still a community.

Now? Not so much. What few old-timers are still around are jaded and bitter. There are no good-natured rivalries. Amtgard has become like the real world. You stick with those who are like you, and you hate those who are not like you. Your "enemies" are to be destroyed by any means - whether that includes beating them down on the field and refusing to acknowledge them hitting you, or spreading nasty rumors and half-truths, or cheating in tournaments. The game is so big now and so impersonal, that there is little loyalty to other "Amtgarders". Yes, we all play this geeky little game - but there's so many of us that we don't feel any kind of bond to the other geeks.

Yes, I say us. I may not have actively played for almost three years, but I will always identify myself as an "Amtgarder". Many of my friends are still in the game, I still go a few events, and the internet does have some advantages. I even had a squire knighted just a few months ago. This game taught me a lot about being a grown up, about playing nice with others, about acknowledging that we are all part of one community, even if we don't like or agree with each other. I think maybe that was my downfall. The Amtgard I knew rewarded hard work, regardless of who did it. It respected its leaders, even if it was sometimes very grudgingly. It recognized talent, even if you didn't like the artist. Today's Amtgard doesn't seem to do that. I am glad I got to learn the lessons I did, but I'm sad that all the young people joining today are joining something no more closely tied than a baseball league. I think they're missing a lot in the social interactions. Just like the real world, there are campsites you can't go into without fearing for your personal safety. Just like the real world, you'd better not alter your reality (with alcohol or otherwise) unless you're around people you trust. Just like the real world, your stuff isn't safe anywhere except locked up tight. Just like the real world, you have to be careful of your every word because someone's always listening. Amtgard, for me, was a place where I could mess up, be stupid, in general be a teenager, and it was ok.

I've met a few people who are still part of a community. Generally, they play in small parks with limited access to the rest of Amtgard, through events or the internet. Generally, they are either young teenagers or older parents. Rarely are they "elite" fighters. Rarely do they have any titles or awards. They may or may not have much in common with the other people in their park. But they have that sense of community I find missing elsewhere. We're always talking about where Amtgard has come from and where it's going and how to solve our problems. Perhaps going back to why we started will save Amtgard from where it seems to be going. No one understands Amtgard like Amtgarders and that bonds us together in our geekiness. There are new people and new ideas joining this game all the time. But at the most basic level, we still get together once a week to dress up in funny clothes and beat on our friends with pillows.


from facebook -

i had somebody ask me what it was like when i started amtgard. Back when there were only 3 parks in the whole of the amtgard world. So here is my response. You can like it or ignore it. it's up to you. I have a weird memory and all of this stuff is filed away. From nevron standing up for me, when people in my own park would make fun of me, to gilos asking barad-duin to make sure i got a rose for playing my songs at feast when we went to olympiad I.

i started amtgard june 23rd 1988. My friend rufus grimwulf had started this game called amtgard, and we and our entire d&d group had discussed names and classes we'd play. I remember the day, because i got let go from my job, and called him. he told me about this thing called fighter practice, suggested i come, and the clincher was that it was free.

It was vastly smaller and everybody knew everybody else. I knew about the other parks, because they mentioned something call clan, and were talking about going to the emerald hills coronation. A few weeks after i started, these strange amtgarders came down from dallas. Mostly i remember nevron and selka. Nevron had just gotten knighted and wasn't able to play anti-paladin yet. At keep i mentioned starting when there were only 3 parks, and had somebody ask me about attila the hun's birthday bash. Tbh, i had no idea what he was talking about. Today i was reading and realized that was the day amtgard started. I was not one of those folks.

What was amtgard like? It was small. It was so small, and we really had no real idea what we were doing. there was a rash of trash can lid thefts around austin, as we built our shields, and it wasn't long before we realized we could buy separate trash can lids at the home improvement store. Our first weapons were made from pvc, and couch foam. Camp foam was probably the first great tech improvement. With no internet, all we had to go by, were the diagrams in the rule book. I remember being told they were right out of the dagohir book. Thankfully we were mostly safe with our weapons. the only really horrendous incident was a couple who used practice arrows and didn't understand they had to take the tips off first. i always heard it was rufus who experienced the arrow sticking into the tree next to his head. Gratefully nobody got hurt, but that couple was asked to never come back.

My first weapon, since i was a wizard, was a staff. It was about 5' long, the handle was covered in duct tape and foam, and well it was about the same size as a marine corp pugil stick. It was ridiculously huge, but rufus made it for me, it was about a year before we figured out we didn't have to pad the handle. By todays standards, a reeve would call it a red weapon, if they even allowed it on the field. You could easily knock some one over, though it was so slow, you'd be lucky to connect. most fighters today would laugh at it, block you and hit you 20 times and giggle as your weapon ponderously slammed into the ground.

We had downright dirty nasty politics. We had people maneuvering and trying to fix elections. We had accusations of voter fraud. We had accusations of favoritism of judging, unfair practices and everything. I have no idea how many of these were fact, but trust me, there was plenty of it. The worst of the politics culminated in the barad-duin split. it was ugly and the fact that amtgard was so small, made me fear it would destroy itself. Today, if a park leaves amtgard, it's not that big of a deal, because amtgard will survive and the parent kingdom will be fine. The fact that communication was so slow was a huge thing. You could call somebody, but it wasn't cheap. When i was kingdom monarch of the CK in 93, my phone bill was $100+ a month, just in long distance charges. Email made a huge difference.

When i was telling people about one of our events, i actually had a set of addresses on file. I would send each person on that list, 10 copies of the flyer. That was the only way to let people know when and where the event was. I do not miss the joy of that.

we got very few paper awards. it wasn't until later when people started printing out one's on their printers that we got any. I considered myself unusual, because i actually have a nice looking award for my serpent belt from theo. i also got a nice looking one for my flame. nothing like what linden does, but considering that half the time we got nothing, or just a simple piece of paper

Heck, i didn't even worry about keeping my awards. I didn't expect anything to come of it. Now a days i have to rely on the fact that people like nevron were at each one of my knightings, though i do have copies of those awards. Though tbh, how can anybody today verify who's actual signature is on a piece of paper.

We went to everybody's event. There were no mid reigns, so we went to burning lands coronations. If i went to every possble amtgard event in the 80's, that was 7 events a year. Both BL, EH and BD coronations and clan. that was it. We raided because all we had was the battle game. to give you an idea, i have several of my old newsletters, and they mention a&s tourneys and don't give you the winners or placings. They don't list the awards given out at a court. they do print out everybody's weeks. I have one with 3 pages dictating who has what credits.

this was before the internet, and the things is, that i for one, didn't expect amtgard to last. I remember wondering why i was putting so much effort into something that probably wouldn't last more than 10 years. We just didn't not expect what happened. When ivar put it up on this internet thing, i'm not sure anybody really appreciated how far it would spread.

so what was it like? It was small, we were young, and didn't really know what we were doing. However we cared about this stupid little game we were playing and fought each other over it, and it survived.