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By Mark Knapp

Community Conversations is a series of blog posts written and published exclusively by SSA parents, it is a space whey they share their stories, experiences & opinions about their experiences in self-directed education.


I played a lot of games when I was a kid.

One Christmas it was a Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Mario Brothers. Then came a Sega Genesis, a Sega Saturn, a Sega Dreamcast, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Wii, Playstation, an Atari. We played games like Zelda, Punch-Out, Pilotwings, Duck Hunt, F-Zero, Excite Bike. I read Nintendo Power and spent entire weekends building cities in SimCity with friends.

Computer games started with a Texas Instruments TI-99 in the basement. Then my mom started bringing a PC home from work on weekends. At some point we got our own PC and a Compuserve Internet connection. It was amazing. And through that wondrous Compuserve connection to the world, I found my first gaming passion. It was a text-based Dungeons & Dragons-esque role-playing game. They were called MUDs (or Multi-User Dungeon). It was dozens or hundreds of people interacting in a text-based world. Typing commands and reading results. Forming parties to adventure together. Getting your character stronger, smarter, and more dextrous. I was in junior high and high school. I would go to bed at "bed time." Then I'd wake up when everyone was asleep and play until 3 AM before collapsing back into bed. I'd make may way through school the next day (thinking about the game) until getting home and immediately meeting back up with my fellow adventurers. At some point (I don't remember when or why), I stopped playing.

Board games were a very regular thing. My mom and I played Can't Stop, Press Your Luck, Pictionary, and so so many more. Visiting aunts and uncles played Taboo, Win Lose or Draw, Catchphrase. The cousins would play Settlers of Catan, Axis & Allies, Hotels, or something else. We spent a week in a cabin one summer at a camp in the woods creating our own board game based off of the game Hotels. It was Hotels 2, and it was WAY better. There were skyscrapers and natural disasters.

Arcades came later. Marvel vs Capcom, Tekken, Puzzle Fighter, Dance Dance Revolution. I spent years at the arcade. I met great friends and formed unique friendships. I hadn't encountered race until this group of friends. I was the only white person, and they were sometimes uncomfortable in my neighborhood. I hadn't realized that about my neighborhood before them. We traveled the country playing in tournaments. I started recording the bigger tournaments, editing the video, transferring to VHS tapes, and distributing back out to the community.

This all had to come to an end at some point. Because I had homework. Because I had final exams. Because I had to get to work.

I've often reflected on my time with games with mixed emotions. Perhaps I was addicted at some point. Perhaps it was negatively impacting the other aspects of my life. The things I was "supposed" to be pursuing. I suppose you could argue that it was easier to be a better person after I stopped playing games. It left me more time to graduate from college, run a company, and create a wonderful family.

You may be right.

But to this day I can't shake this nagging sense of regret. And I still wonder: What if? What if I could have played more games? What if I could have created that board game? What if I could have created more arcade game tournament videos? What if I could have done the thing I loved? The thing I wanted to do more than anything else when I was a kid?

Unfortunately, I'll never know. But I sure hope my kids get to find out what happens when they get to do what they love. That's why we want to give them the choice to attend a Sudbury school.

And maybe.. just maybe.. it's not too late for them to drag me along for the ride.

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