There’s an insipid country song about being country when country wasn’t cool. Well, despite my misgivings about country EVER being cool, I do feel the sentiment of that song can be universally applied to all sorts of “walks of life”. Take geekdom, for example. My geekdom and that of my friends has become “mainstream” in recent years - basically, marketing experts and people who sell stuff realized that we geeks have a bit of disposable income, so… now you can barely turn around without bumping into something out of our myriad imagined worlds.
How many of you are planning on going to see Avengers this weekend?
The following is a testimonial of geekness from a friend of mine. I can assure you that his tale is similar to many geeks’ and nerds’ tales out there (even mine), so as you read his story, think about the geeks and nerds you know. Was this how it was for them growing up? And you assumed they didn’t have a life. HA!
Apparently, the best revenge (of the nerds!) is living well.
And now, without further ado, Alan Huskey:
I was talking with some friends the other day about the state of gaming, and it got me to thinking. Here were four adult males, all over 30, discussing what used to be a kids’ hobby. How did we get here, and how did we get to where sci fi conventions are covered by major news outlets, and new game releases can achieve “event” status?
I started seriously gaming when I was in high school. More about that in a minute. My real entry to nerd/geekdom was in third grade. I wanted to check out Red Planet by Heinlein from the local bookmobile. (My school did’nt have much of a library, hence the bookmobile.) The librarian told me the book was beyond my level, and I should go get something more appropriate. I refused, and Mom backed me up. (This was the same school that spanked my left hand with a ruler every time I tried to write with it, and punished me when I tried to write in cursive while everyone else was doing rote block letter writing.) After I read it, I was hooked. Badly. In middle school, I discovered The Hobbit. Read that and the Lord of The Rings trilogy within a few weeks. The Silmarillion too. I was on my way.
While living in LA - I was in middle school at the time - I was taken to my first convention ever: SpaceCon 4. It was the Fourth LA Star Trek Convention. 1977. Star Trek actors, people in costumes, props, poster, memorabilia, models, and games, all for sale in a dealers’ room that has acquired mythical status over the years, and in reality was probably no more than 30 or 40 tables at most. I picked up a copy of a pocket game called Star Fleet Battles, by Task Force Games (now called ADB). Took it home and started learning to play with my brother, who was 3 years younger than me. Loved it. I was a HUGE Trek fan, and the starships and space battles were of great interest to me. I thought it was awesome. I still play it today, that is how much impact it had. So now the stage was set. I was an outcast at school, a “nerd”. I read science fiction and fantasy all the time, I played nerdy games, I even fell into the world of Dungeons and Dragons, amidst articles about how dangerous it was to youth, how it was a tool of Satan. (This, among other things, led to a severe dislike of religion, religious dogma, and fanatics who are religious.)
Editor’s Note: Alan probably still liked playing clerics once in a while, despite this dislike of religious trappings.
Finally, in high school, I made a friend who is still my friend to this day. Eric Henry. He introduced me to war games! We played old Avalon Hill and SPI games; he was even in a game of the month club with SPI, so he got regular copies of new games. ACW, ancient naval battles - we tried everything under the sun. Turns out my favorite was World War 2. This led to me purchasing from the local game shop in Highlands NC, a copy of Squad Leader and its gamettes.
I played Dungeons and Dragons up to the early 1990’s, and really stopped because the whole pen and paper role playing thing was not to my liking any more. (This would not change until I grudgingly tried Everquest.) I had discovered Games Workshop and Warhammer 40,000. More on miniature gaming later, if Will lets me repeat this exercise..
I remember the seriously home-grown looking stuff from those early days. A lot of self published game accessories, before the copyright craze of the 80’s. I remember everyone looking at me funny when I mentioned my hobby. I remember weekends of gaming with little to no sleep, playing Rise and Decline of the Third Reich. Advanced Civilization. The list goes on. Now, it’s all popular. Popular culture embraces geekiness and nerdiness. We have entire networks devoted to the stuff we love. Games are slick and well thought out to the last detail. The stuff we dreamed of, but couldn’t do with the tech of the time, is commonplace and easily done on any PC with a decent printer.
I just know one thing: Being a responsible adult, and having to choose between things I wanted to be popular my whole life, and making sure all of the monthly bills are paid, really sucks. I need to win the lottery, so that I can embrace, fully, my inner nerd.
I’ve been counting down the hours until Dragon*Con on both my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Someone pointed out to me that my count seemed off, because by my count, the Con starts sometime tomorrow. Wednesday. And yet the official start time isn’t until sometime Thursday.
I know, I know, I know. But you see, for ME Dragon*Con starts at about 2:30 tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, when I go to the airport to pick up my friend TAE HO!!!
For a lot of people, Dragon*Con represents the chance to dress up as some character from geekdom and be the center of attention. For others it represents the chance to get face-to-face with their favorite authors, actors, artists, and mavens. For yet others, it represents a chance to totally nerd out - playing games, crossing lightsabers, talking culture and fandom with like minds.
For me, Dragon*Con has become something else entirely. For me, it is the one time of year when I get to see many of my disparate friends from all over the United States. Tae is from South Carolina. Joe Bisz is from NYC. Jay Elgin now hails from Austin. And yet THEY WILL ALL BE AT DRAGON*CON for 5 days. If I could convince my buddy Thomas to fly in from Vegas, Charles Jenkins to come down from Philly, and Buccheri and his crew to drive down from Baltimore, Dragon*Con would be… complete.
Here’s to that happening someday. In the meantime, welcome back to Atlanta all the rest of you whom I love so dearly. I’ll see you soon… starting tomorrow.