Columbus, OH — When Eric Lee Roth was growing up, he felt like an outsider because he couldn’t play football like other kids. But he found his place in the Ohio gaming community, and he’s called it home for the past 18 years.
In Eric’s hometown of Pickerington, Ohio, football was one of the most popular things to do. If you weren’t playing for the Pickerington Tigers, then you were spending your nights watching them on the field.
But Eric was never interested in sports and spent much of his childhood at home reading and writing about fantasy and science fiction.
“I didn’t really have a lot of people to hang out with,” said Eric. “I didn’t get out much. I was mostly in front of a computer screen or playing in front of a video game console.”
Eric did have a small group of friends but felt limited in what they could do together. He was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), which affected the joints and muscles in his arms and legs.
“Because of my disability, I couldn’t go out and hike. I couldn’t shoot hoops,” said Eric.
His life changed in 2000 when he went to a table-top gaming event at The Ohio State University in Columbus. The game was Dungeons and Dragons, a popular role-playing experience in which players assume the roles of fantastical characters and embark on an epic journey.
Eric with another gamer at Gen Con.
It literally opened new worlds for him.
“Being able to act as someone who can swing a sword and cast a spell… and not have to think about who I am in real life, that made it so much easier,” said Eric.
“I don’t have to be super strong or dexterous. I could just point my finger and the enemies would explode,” said Eric.
The gaming community quickly became his family. Eric no longer worried that his friends would be bored at his place. Now, they bonded over board games and epic quests.
Eric’s passion didn’t stop there. He helped build a board game store just outside of Columbus called Orc’s Forge. With his dad, he assisted in putting up walls and tables. At Orc’s Forge, he became an essential part of the community.
“No one thought of me as the disabled kid,” said Eric. “I was just another player. I could just pick up the dice and roll them like anybody else.”
Eric and his father manage the Orc’s Forge booth at a Renaissance Fair.
For the past eight years, Eric has volunteered at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus. He makes sure convention-goers have their badges and credentials and are ready to have a fun time.
As Eric became more involved with the Dungeons and Dragons community, he also grew closer to his father, Dan Roth, who also loves fantasy and gaming. They attended conventions, like Origins Game Fair, together. For Dan, nothing felt better than seeing his son thrive in a community where he can express himself fully.
“You always look for your children to be accepted no matter where they go,” said Dan. “When I take him places like Gamma, or here at Origins or a game store, he’s not Eric the disabled, he’s Eric.”
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