A Related Digression on Gamer Food
So, why did I spend so much time talking at length about Gamer Food? Am I really that needlessly pedantic when it comes of the more tangential aspects of gaming? Am I truly that concerned about the nutritional profiles of other gamers out on the web? Is this all a lead in to some fascinatingly complex rules system that uses an ingredient label as a means to generate characters or adventures?
No, on all accounts. Although, that last one could be interesting, in a sort of Rolemaster kind of way.
The reason I chose to devote an entry to the whys and wherefores of gamer food is because I’ve been burned pretty badly by gamer food over the years. Too many times have I woken up the next day feeling immeasurably sick from the various excesses of the previous night. More often than I can readily bring to mind, I have vowed never to make some specific mistake, only to find myself back in the throes of regret from falling back to the same poor food decisions at the gaming table. Combined with the often late hours of gaming that have solidified as my personal preference, the physical toll can be notable.
Some of my earliest gaming memories are tainted by a condition I would term a ‘salsa hangover.’ Back in the day, I would find myself ill and lethargic, given to a mild headache through having binged solely on chips and salsa over the course of an eight to twelve hour gaming session. I attribute it to the increased salt uptake from the chips, but I’ve never precisely pinned down the precise reason as to why I felt so miserable at the time.
Another time, there was the singular happening that we term ‘The Bismark Incident.’ (And the temptation stands for me to leave that notation unresolved and move on.) This refers to a D&D game that I hosted one time in high school, where I had planned out a fairly lengthy game session and my mother had taken it upon herself to provide food. For whatever reason, she had decided that pastries were a fine idea. Which would have been perfectly fine, in moderation.
Let it never be said that my mother prefers moderation. It’s much less amusing.
Imagine, if you will, the size of a standard bakery birthday cake. This is what is referred to as a ‘half-sheet’, being about 12″ by 16″ in size. This sort of cake will often serve 30 to 40 people. With this in mind, a full sheet cake is 24″ by 16″ in size, with the accordant serving capability.
When my mother showed up, she was bearing a full-sheet cake box, packed to the edges with assorted flavors of filled bismarks. (I can definitively say that the box was packed, since she also was carrying a normal bakery sack that had to be stapled shut, since it also was pushing the breaking point.) Where I grew up, a bismark was the term for a filled yeast donut, with lemon, raspberry or blueberry filling. In other parts of the world, they’re called jelly donuts, jambusters or berliners. They’re not too far removed from the Polish Pączkis that show up before Lent in some area.
So, they’re not light and tiny things.
I’m not entirely sure what possessed her to buy the entire day’s supply of bismarks for our group, but I have the feeling that they offered her some insane deal to avoid having to rebox them as ‘day-old’ donuts. Keep in mind, also, that there were only four of us, perhaps five. There was no sane or logical way for the group of us to eat this many calories in a way that would be safe or non-detrimental.
But we tried, damn it.
It got to the point where someone around the table would look up blearily, deeply and irreversibly ensconced in a sick, sugar-fueled haze, reach for a bismark and momentarily try to think better of it. Then they would offer one to the person sitting next to them. That person would automatically look it, refuse the idea and after the space of a couple of seconds, resign themselves to their fate and accept. At one point in the early morning hours, one of our number got up and wandered outside, availing themselves of a convenient bush to hide what was likely a lemon-scented pile of vomit. (This draws unfortunate comparisons to another time, when one of my groups chose to drink heavily and game. I had not known it was possible to throw up into a Pringles container without making a mess. The person in question only discovered the reality of this the next morning, when he picked it up and found that the can of chips was mysteriously ‘heavier’ than it logically should have been.)
More contemporaneously, there were the bizarre incidents that put me in mind of thinking about gamer food in the first place. Both of them relate specifically my newly minted Edge of the Empire game, as it’s a freshly put together group that still lacks coherent tastes. (Actually, it would be three, if I included the strange instance of the Sweet Onion Salsa that showed up. That’s not strange, in and of itself, but I can safely say that it isn’t my favorite of the particular brand. What was strange was the characterization that one player gave it, namely that it tasted like ‘jalapenos and grape juice’ to his palate. That was enough to put me off further sampling.) And because the group hasn’t decided on a select taste profile that can mostly be agreed upon, there’s some bounce to the efforts.
The first incident was from a pizza order, where the website had offered a new option for toppings. In particular, it had a selection for ‘breaded chicken’, which seemed safe enough from the surface impression. I instantly assumed some sort of popcorn chicken, adding a new crunch to the other toppings. I wasn’t completely sold, but another player seemed game enough for it.
The reality was something like generic frozen chicken nuggets, the kind you would expect to appeal to a pack of feral eight year olds. For some reason, they were sliced in half, more or less diagonally, and inexplicably hidden underneath the pepperoni. And the consistency suggested that they were thrown on the pizza frozen, with the expectation that the regular bake time would be enough to thaw them out.
It wasn’t a good choice on anyone’s part. Although, to be fair, it was a good story to tell afterwards.
So, stinging from the hell of ‘chicken nugget pizza’ and all that entails, our host opted for a strange quiche experiment the next week. Which wasn’t bad, all told, save for the weird details that crowded in around the edges. Lacking an interest in actually making a pie crust, that role was taken on by flour tortillas. And in the process of baking, the exposed edges of the tortillas turned into a vaguely ceramic material that was surprisingly brittle and dangerous in the aftermath. This would have garnered more commentary over the course of the evening, had we not realized that it was a minor sort of affliction when compared to the cheese that would not melt.
All right, so I need you to visualize something for a moment. Imagine, if you will, a quiche. All of the expected kinds of ingredients; creme, eggs, Parmesan cheese, spinach, etc. A normal, square block of foodstuff, even with the shards of tortilla hazard on one edge. But as you’re eating it, you realize that it’s pretty much holding together some form of hash browns, a shredded potato matrix of a sort.
Except that’s not potato.
If had to testify to the contents of the quiche, without further discussion, I would have sworn that it was a potato and spinach concoction. As far as I was concerned, for the purposes of that meal, it was potato that held the whole mixture together, and not Swiss Cheese, as was later claimed. It had no tensile properties, no particular flavor, and there was nothing to indicate that it might ever melt. And this was after going through the oven and a subsequent turn in the microwave, just to bring it back up to my threshold of temperature.
That said, it wasn’t a bad meal. It was just weird as hell.
So that’s my story. That’s the sequence of events that brought about deeper thinking about gamer food, for good or for ill. I happen to think that there’s a lot that could be analyzed with the normal gamer diet (not counting the permutations of a video game player’s natural tendencies), and more than anything, I’ve merely scratched the surface for the time being. I only know my own personal experiences, and I can’t say that they’ve given me a great outlook.