Zombies, dungeons and dragons

“My parents just put a pin in the map as far as I know,” says 24-year-old Sammy, when I ask him why his family moved from East Sussex to Brixham 14 years ago.

We are sitting on one of the smaller tables in the café, my coffee and a tape recorder between us. We have only just met and, although he is friendly, I can see Sammy is a little uncomfortable with this semi-formal arrangement.

He tells me that, after leaving school, he completed a three-year gardening course but was unable to find work.

“I had been trying to find a job, went to the JobCentre Plus, but there was nothing. I just got fed up and started playing the Xbox.”

Ah, computer games. I have a 15-year-old son so we have some common ground.

“So, what do you play?”

“Call of Duty,” he says, “Gears of War.”

“My son has just bought some snowboarding game…”

“Tony Hawkes, it’ll be.”

“He’s also got that Black Ops, although it’s an ‘18’ game.”

“Does he do the zombies on Black Ops?”


“There are zombies on Black Ops. I bet he keeps that from you.” I make a mental note.

“So when you couldn’t find a job, how much time were you spending on the Xbox?”

“A lot,” says Sammy.

“Go on, estimate.”

“Most of the day.”

“And most of the night?”

“No, I share a bedroom with my younger brother. I had to stop at night.”

Sammy first came to The Edge a couple of years ago. He can’t quite remember how it happened or what he first got involved with, planning a tea dance with the Young Volunteers, he thinks.

“Why do you keep coming back?”

“It’s something to do.”

Recently Sammy has been involved in a role-playing group set up at The Edge by one of Mara’s sons as part of the Neighbourhood Challenge. It’s a bit like Dungeons & Dragons but different.

“How does it compare with playing a video game?” I ask, now completely out of my depth.

“The video game is a story already laid out. It never changes. Role-playing is always changing. With the video game, you know where it is going, you’ve been there before. If your character dies then you reset and start again, if your character dies in role-playing, you are dead, out of the game.”

“Are you any good at it?”

“I’m all right. I haven’t had a character die on me yet.”

At lunchtime Sammy has an appointment. He is seeing Dan, another retiree who is coming to The Edge to pass on his knowledge and skills. “It’s something to do with electrics and switches,” he says, “I don’t know that much about it.”

I take some pictures of Sammy and, after I’ve passed him the camera, he takes a couple of me.

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