Of all the things I do that make me a geek, nothing brings me as much joy, or has eaten up as much of my not-as-disposable-as-it-once-was income as gaming.
Of all the moments in my life that contributed to me realizing that I was a geek, few are as significant as attending my first gaming convention near LAX around 1988. It was the first -- and one of the very, very few -- conventions that I attended simply to have fun. This may seem insignificant and even a little bit of an odd distinction to make, but keep in mind the context for me: in 1988, I was a veteran of the Star Trek convention circuit. I traveled to a different city every weekend, signing stuff, entertaining the people, and treating the events as work obligations, rather than the big parties they were for everyone else. It was crazy to go to a convention simply because my friends told me I'd probably have a good time, but those three days of playing Warhammer 40K, Car Wars, Illuminati, and others that have been Guinness'd out of my brains remain three of the happiest days of my life, where I got all the pudding I wanted, and never had to eat my meat or stand still, laddie.
As I've grown older, and taken on more adult responsibilities, finding time to game with my friends (who have also have mortgages and families of their own) has become really, really hard. Finding time to go to a convention? I may as well find time to build and pilot a rocket ship to the moon.
But this past weekend, when I discovered that the Southern California incarnation of the mother of all gaming conventions, Gen Con, was happening in Anaheim, I came up with a fiendish plan to spend the day there on Saturday. I'd play some games, surround myself with geeks, and justify the whole thing by writing about it for this week's Geek in Review.
I believe this is called "living the dream."
I'd hoped to go with one or more of my friends, but they all had prior commitments. I asked my kids -- who are gamers in training -- but they wanted to spend the day with their own friends, instead of geeking out with their stepdad. That meant I was going alone. (There was no way I would ask my wife to come with me. We have an agreement: She doesn't drag me into the mall for half-yearly sales, and I don't drag her into game shops or conventions. So far, it's worked out very well for us
So-Cal Gen Con was in a huge hall at the Anaheim Convention Center. It was harshly-lit, and felt cold and cavernous, more like Comic-Con than the more intimate gaming cons I remembered as a teenager. I felt intimidated, and wondered if it had been a mistake to come.
I kept walking, and looked for the exhibitor's area. This was always my favorite part of the con, where I can get demos of new games, maybe pick up a nerdy T-shirt or two, or find an out-of-print sourcebook that the completist in me simply must have. (Because, you know, it really makes sense for me to buy GURPS Humanx. I may need it for that Steampunk/Supers/Horror/Humanx campaign that everyone's been dying to play for the last, well, never.)
Eventually, I made my way out of the cavernous convention all, and into a nearby hotel, where I felt more at home.
It was intimate, dimly-lit, and packed with people in costumes, playing games, napping on couches, and doing the things that geeks do. I passed one guy gloating into his cell phone, "So, I guess you're not picking up your phone after that humiliating defeat?" He was cleaning up the aftermath of a Magic: The Gathering duel. A pair of men passed me, heavily engaged in conversation. One of them said to the other, "Not only is it a valid thought, it's a valid line of discussion!" I have no idea what they were talking about, but it certainly seemed valid to them. Four teenagers walked in front of me as I crossed the lobby, one wearing a Cthulhu backpack. All of them were dressed in black pants, the boys had the obligatory flannel shirts unbuttoned over their T-shirts.
"Wait," one of the boys said to one of the girls, "you got up at seven?"
"Yeah," she said, "I had to, so I could take a shower."
The boys barked out the standard geek laugh, the one that is sort of like a cough shot through an air horn.
"What? Don't you get up to shower in the morning?" She said.
"No way, man!" The boy said. "I just get up and go!"
Walking behind them, I could confirm this fact.
The newswire is tragically NSFW today, so if you're offended by the boobies, don't click through. However, if you are into some of teh sexay with your geek, knock yourself out and go read Wil Wheaton's Geek in Review: Living the Dream at So-Cal Gen Con.