The battlefield lay in ruins. No cry was heard from hero or mercenary alike. All was silent. It was over.
"Want to go again?" my brother-in-law asked.
We had just finished playing through our second skirmish of a new tabletop miniatures war game he had introduced me to - and I was hooked.
My wife, of course, was thrilled. I could almost hear the objections. Surely, the first wargame he had gotten me into was an expensive enough hobby, and consumed enough of my time. Did I really need to get into another one?
Which was an absurd question. The games couldn't be more different. The first one featured sprawling battlefields and armies made up of distinct squads of units, vehicles, and heavy weapons. This new game was a much smaller-scale skirmish with just a handful of individual characters on either side. The rules were simpler and more streamlined, setup and gameplay didn't take as long, and the miniatures were larger and more detailed…and more expensive. I probably wouldn't share that last part.
But on our way home, after getting the floor wiped with my pathetic forces a third time, I couldn't help but wrestle with some guilt. Despite my justifications, I had to wonder, should I, a fully grown, mostly responsible thirty-something, really be spending time and money on what is essentially the grown-up version of playing with army men? Not that I fully funded my own hobby. That's what birthdays and Christmas are for. But still, I had to wonder…am I too old to be playing with toys?
I'm not sure when I finally figured out the answer to that question. Maybe it was on the road, as we drove past a fully loaded pickup truck that definitely wasn't being used to haul anything. Maybe it was later that week as I dug through my wife's crochet hooks trying to help her find the "right" one - even though I'm reasonably convinced half of them were exactly the same. Maybe it was while I was scrolling my news feed and saw a friend posting about their latest fishing trip where they broke in their latest fishing pole.
All I know is that, eventually, it hit me: we all have toys. Some of us have grown-up army men. Others have guitars that they only play for fun, or golf clubs that they only swing with friends, or graphics cards with more processing power than the computers that sequenced the human genome. We all have things in our life that cost us money, and consume our time, and contribute nothing more or less to our lives than joy. Sometimes they bring us together with others and serve to create shared memories and experiences. Sometimes we enjoy them on our own. But at the end of the day, these things aren't investments, or necessities, or tools of a trade. They're toys.
So when I came upon a Black Friday deal on some new minis, and had some pocket money to burn, I didn't wonder whether or not it was the most mature purchase. I didn't wonder if I was somehow less of an adult because I was spending money on toys. I only wondered if these new recruits would help me wreak sweet vengeance upon my brother-in-law at our next meeting.
Because the truth is, we all have toys. Some of us just don't call them that. But me, I'm starting to think embracing the fact that adults still get to play with toys, just like we did when we were kids, is part of the fun.
And after all, isn't fun kind of the whole point?
Well, that, and driving my brother-in-law's pitiful army into the dirt. If I have to buy a few more toys in order to make that happen, so be it.