Hal and The Terrifying Girl Disorder

Hal always carried it with him. On game nights, it was always nearby, quietly dozing in his car until the time came.

He’d pull it out with a smile, knowing it vexed me.

The Terrifying Girl Disorder is a peculiar thing. It’s a small box import from Japan and it’s as quirky as they come. It boasts an odd draft, weird tableau card play, and even a longshot instant win condition. The concept is wild – after a global phenomenological event, girls begin to manifest superpowers. An incident occurs where a group of the heroines suddenly become affected by memory loss and bewilderment. Players are tasked with sorting through these jumbled memories to ultimately discover their character’s true identity.

I dig weird and unusual games. This one frustrates me.

It’s an opaque design. Whole layers seem unnecessary and there’s a lot of white noise between decision points and outcomes. You can spend an entire session working towards a specific goal and have a seemingly random tumble of cards upend your entire plan. This doesn’t always bother me, of course, but there is something about this particular game that feels extraordinarily frustrating and futile.

I suppose I’m most troubled by my inability to understand it on a fundamental level.

The only picture I have of Hal on my phone. Not The Terrifying Girl Disorder.

I’ve seen Hal nearly every week for the past eight years. He’s been one of the most reliable fixtures of game night. He’s always been very generous and agreeable in playing whatever game I had to review or whichever game others at the table wanted to play.

Hal passed away this week unexpectedly.

Since I first heard the news, my thoughts have gone a number of places. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I didn’t feel like it was my place to say anything at all. Then our friend Josh said this, “nothing feels right but saying nothing is worse.”

I have a lot of doubt. A lot of regret.

I loved Hal. He was an intelligent and very kind friend. He taught me a lot about myself. But he also caused turmoil.

Hal was a very vocal person when playing games. You always knew what he was feeling in the moment. Frustration and anger would flow from his mouth like shards of glass. I respected this about him, but it would occasionally ruin an evening. There were times where his frustration led to the entire group being on edge. There were nights where I questioned whether he should be at that table and whether game nights would be better without Hal. They wouldn’t have been.

That’s what I’m thinking about now. The conversations with others where we contemplated having a discussion with Hal or delivering an ultimatum. The criticisms I levied outside his presence are painful to think about. It feels a betrayal.

Hal loved game night. When we did find a title that spoke to him and everything was flowing, his face was a huge grin. His energy was infectious and it was euphoric, even if this wasn’t his default mode. I would trade messages with other members after such evenings and we would remark on how joyful it was to play games with Hal.

Thousands of hours. All those game nights.

And I know almost nothing about Hal. I don’t know either of his parent’s names. I don’t know if he had any siblings. I don’t know where he grew up or what he wanted out of life.

I do know he enjoyed whisky and absinthe. I know he loved Guillermo Del Toro and heavy metal. I know where he stood politically. I know that I admired his character.

I know how he behaved when he was both indignant and merry. I know how he carried himself. I know his mannerisms. I know him, perhaps, on a more fundamental level.

I wish I knew all of the things that I don’t.

Much like The Terrifying GIrl Disorder, I wish I understood him better. I wish I could make sense of our relationship. I wish I could make sense of what happened.

I wonder if all of that time spent playing games was misused. I wonder if we would have been better off sharing a drink or discussing philosophy. I wonder if I knew Hal at all.

I may not spend the next eight, 10, or 20 years playing games with Hal. But I will spend them remembering him.

  4 comments for “Hal and The Terrifying Girl Disorder

  1. April 12, 2023 at 2:18 pm

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing it Charlie.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. drmabuse00
    May 7, 2023 at 11:08 pm

    My sincerest condolences, Charlie. I have a Hal in my group and I love him dearly but my goodness some nights I rue having him at the table.

    Liked by 1 person

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