What did the Queen call it? Anus Horriblus? Yeah, that just about sums it up. 2006 is a year that, if I was bothered with that sort of thing, I couldn't be eager enough to see the back of. In just about every aspect of my life, it has, to be brutally honest, been shit.
Personally I've lost not one or two but THREE members of my family, including my mother, all in relatively quick succession. I'm not a very sentimental person but thats taken quite a toll on me. Work has been Hell - the students union has no money to invest and therefore cannot compete with the local bars and the University is effectively holding our jobs to ransom. This is the third year where we have had to undergo 'restruturing' - ie. voluntary and involuntary redundancy - as well as a pay freeze. Job security is paramount for me and it simply isn't there anymore. Health wise, things haven't been too great either, with my increasing workload causing me a degree of exhaustion and stress I have never had to face before.
This malaise has seen the deterioration of my hobby life to a far more manageable level. Some of the things that have happened have been really quite heartbreaking, others have been more of a relief.
I've relinquished my chair as the Iron DM and haven't refereed an RPG for many months. Thankfully Nigel has stepped in with a magnificent game of Pendragon which seems to have captivated most of us and seems set to run and run. Do I miss being in the DMs chair? No, not really. I enjoy playing and it is something that I have really missed.
I've also wrapped up my small website management empire - no more developmental ventures, no more involvement with Comic Images, no more little sidelines for friends. This manifested itself twofold - in the first instance by quest for perfection meant that I was spending a lot of time pottering around doing websites when I could have been doing other things. In the second instance I did not have the time, understanding or inclination to learn, to do the special coding things that could make my sites look even passingly professional - and in the gaming market that meant running a constant risk of being upstaged by the audience, bright young things that they are. So, it stopped.
The disassociation with Comic Images and Raw Deal was something that was coming for a while, but in the end the impact is only really starting to tell now. As the WWE buzz about Wrestlemania beings to build I've suddenly realised that I won't be going this year. In a pretty mundane life, having a trip to the US every year was a highlight. No more highlights. I haven't played Raw Deal for months now and I have really lost close contact with a huge number of my friends. I'm in the process of selling off my old RD stuff.
World of Warcraft has been a constant companion this year, but even that has not been smooth sailing, not by any way, shape or form. Whether it is the constant postponement of the Burning Crusade expansion or the time pressures of playing 'seriously' on my life, it has always been a niggle. And then there was the great sundering of the Dungeoneers and the feelings of betrayal and anger that went along with that. My new guild, If In Doubt AFK Out, is great but it will never been the great masterpiece that the Dungs could have been.
Creatively I have started writing again, but what started as a torrent of fanfic involvement has turned into a trickle as it always seems to be the last priority on the list. I have even tried to get involved in an online modern fantasy RPG but I am still to make my first contribution - time, as always being the factor that is key.
So generally, 2006 has been a year that has stripped everything back to the bare minimum. What does 2007 hold for me? What good things have come from 2006 that I can carry forward?
Well, the aforementioned The Burning Crusade expansion for WoW should give that hobby a new spark of life (or, in the glass half empty world, kill it dead). Already the Silvermoon server is undergoing a palpable change in attitude and action in preperation for the new aspects of the game. I'm sure the AFKrs will be front and centre when the Dark Portal opens on the 16th January!
Raw Deal Revolution is a new, stripped down version of Raw Deal that I have bought into a little bit. It seems like a canny little game and Chris Henderson, the manager in Middlesborough will be running Revo only tournaments so I will probably be attending. Hell, the next national PPV might well be called Homecoming because me and Steve Hassall are apparently coming out of retirement. It's not really about the game, it's about having a close circle of friends. I just hope I have the time to satisfy this particular aspect of my gaming life.
I sincerely hope that we carry on Pendragon to it's natural conclusion. The game so far has been a slow, atmospheric build-up with some very effective moments delivered with great subtlety. The one thing it does allow, in the most part, is one player to be missing - a change which has allowed us to game far more frequently.
Within the world of RPGs I want to experiment more with some of the smaller 'indie' systems to see other aspects of gaming. I also want to carry on the development of my own RPG. The first draft has been made but the initial playtesting has floundered rather disappointingly. You would have thought that with nine groups onboard someone would have at least made one comment? Ah well - I'll get it sorted eventually.
However, the real challenges for this year will be away from the computer or the gaming table. Dealing with my new, radically reduced family and the different interactions that this will bring. Managing my workload and eventually finding a new job because I cannot continue working where I am now. Dealing with my erratic energy levels and the health of the other members of my family. Being a good father and helping my two girls develop further.
All of this and remaining true to myself and not letting the mundane overwhelm the interesting and the inspirational.
Goodbye 2006, you were a steaming bag of shite. Hello 2007, you can't get mush worse!