By Jaye Sonia
Be advised – sometimes, things just start out weird. When they do, it’s probably advisable to step back and evaluate the weirdness so that you can make the best possible decision. You know, use your magic powers of discretion! Sometimes, of course, you do exactly the opposite, too. You grab on, hold tight, and enjoy the ride!
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing for bazaar Magazine for nearly two years now (next month marks that prestigious event). It’s funny, in a way, because it simply wasn’t on my to-do list when I moved to Kuwait. It wasn’t a goal. While I had read bazaar now and again in Starbucks, writing for it simply wasn’t on my radar. Instead, it was an opportunity that fell into my lap, to use the popular colloquialism. For that, I have to thank the wonderful Mrs. Yusra Ahmad.
My relationship with bazaar started as a conversation over a cup of coffee. It was late 2010 in Egalia and my friend, Rick Wright, had just been interviewed for the 2011 Dining Guide (because he’s got magic powers in the kitchen). We were discussing his article when the topic of gaming had come up. He had mentioned, since I was already a writer, that I should do a piece for bazaar. I had toyed with the idea, but I never really committed. Then, Yusra approached me about it – but from a different angle. She had heard about the infamous Pathfinder RPG game I run here (see bazaar, November 2011, for more information on that game). She wanted to know more and possibly do a piece on it. She knew, by her own admission, little about table top gaming because of the sheer popularity of MMOs, both here in Kuwait and abroad, tended to drown out a lot of the other noise. Simply put, little was known about gaming beyond its electronic frontiers. So, Yusra and I began to talk. Our conversation was based primarily on defining what gaming was, where it originated, and how it affected culture. We discussed its importance, its drawbacks, and how it might shape the future in positive ways (all before I had read Tom Chatfield’s Fun Inc. Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century). Toward the end of December, Yusra just asked me – would I write an article for bazaar explaining and expanding on what gaming was. I agreed, of course. Soon after, that article gave birth to a second article, which gave birth to a third article, and like magic, the process was set into motion. Finally, Yusra asked me if I enjoyed writing for bazaar and if I’d be interested in writing a regular column.
Of course, since you’re reading this, you know how that turned out! Not only did I accept her offer, I ran with it. Over the course of that first year, we discussed what was appropriate for the magazine and established my boundaries as a writer; Yusra was essential in eliminating some of my perceptions about Kuwait and bazaar’s readers. To my surprise, I quickly discovered just how accommodating bazaar was. She lifted limits that I set for myself, all the time encouraging me to engage bazaar’s readers at the highest possible level. Most, she informed me, were both progressive and educated. Sure, I might need to censor discussion topics in the Sultan Center, but bazaar wasn’t the place to worry about it. I need only write fun, intelligent and artistic articles – targets I was already aiming for.
That first year, Yusra gave me a lot of room. She suggested certain topics; I touched on some and ignored others (up to and including the allure of wizards in fantasy literature – sorry Yusra!). Generally speaking, though, it was a blast. I built up a body of material and, over time, realized I had done a lot more in Kuwait than I had originally planned. By the end of 2011, I was actively seeking out books that explored both the nature of gaming and its effects on society. Soon after, I picked up Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms (by Ethan Gilsdorf) and The Functions of Role-Playing Games: How Participants Create Community, Solve Problems and Explore Identity (by Sarah Lynne Bowman). I had previously read The Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A New Performing Art (by Daniel Mackay) and saw, overall, a theme developing. G&G wasn’t just something that was fun to write for. It was (and still is) a column that had a whole host of potential – even if it lacked Yusra’s wizards.
It’s hard to predict whether or not I would have ended up writing for bazaar if it hadn’t been for Yusra. I like to imagine I would have, that even if it hadn’t been for Yusra, bazaar and I might have met anyway, possibly in some dusty cantina in the Outer Rim. But honestly, that’s all well-wishing and speculation. I cannot say for sure and I know, at least in my gut, she deserves my thanks and gratitude. So, while I can’t speak for the whole of the magazine (and they dare not give me such unbridled power – muhahahha!!), I can say ‘thanks’ all on my own. Yusra, this magazine isn’t going to be the same without you working the secret gears behind those curtains in Emerald City!!
I think it’s safe to say we’re all going to miss you. Adventure well, my friend.