What would you do if one day you woke up and found that seemingly overnight you had turned into a monster? Hair was sprouting in unexpected places, you felt a deep rage without understanding its causes, and you heard the call to leave your family and join your pack? That is the theme of the role play game “Werewolf” and it is also a metaphor for adolescence. Somewhere around the age of 13 physical, mental, and emotional changes transform our lovable kids into “monsters.” No one understands them except for the members of their “pack.” If you are a parent or an adult who loves teenagers you have seen all of this in one form or another. It is a great time of loneliness for kids and desperation for parents.
Imagine being alone in the world - ugly, unlovable, rejected by your once devoted parents, frightened, isolated, and angry. It’s pretty scary stuff. Where can you turn? When the desire to retreat from an alien world hits many kids turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to block out their pain. The lucky ones turn to the support of peer groups that can nurture them as the werewolf pack nurtures its kindred.
The analogy only stretches so far but at the Loft we are the “pack” that creates safety in numbers and peer-to-peer support. Bill Yori was one of the first gamers to join our Werewolf game in the early years of the Loft. He was no more or less monstrous than his peers. His “fangs” and “claws” were similar to all the other adolescents we have seen over the years. His isolation was painful but not unique and if he had hair sprouting from unexpected locations he was discreet enough not to show it in public.
Bill and his fellow werewolves acted out their rage in stories of valor and solidarity. They shot imaginary bad guys and won the respect of their friends. They knew it was play but they were living in the metaphor. Their characters learned how to take decisive action and somehow that translated into the reality of their lives. Their characters took responsibility for their actions and so did the players. Their characters felt suffering and loss but learned how to endure and so did Bill and his friends. By trying out independence and courage they learned what those words meant. When Bill’s mom died his friends, his “pack”, was there for him.
Bill went to college and came back to Waldo County. After years in the corporate world he has recently gone back to UMO to complete his engineering degree. He is still a gamer and still loyal to his original “pack.” I’m not a big fan of scary subjects, the world is scary enough for me, but I have met and befriended a number of “werewolves.” Somehow they all were transformed from monsters to friends and neighbors of the decidedly human variety. Back then Thom Roberts ran the Werewolf game for Bill and his peers and now he is doing it again every Friday night at the Game Loft for another generation of werewolves. There is a tremendous reward for all of us when we are able to see kids struggle and survive the painful transition from monsters to mentors.