Monday, March 28, 2011

You Can Always Depend on the Kindness of Strang(n)er(d)s

The other night, I met up with my older brother and his friends to play Axis & Allies. While I knew of the game, I had never played it before. For those who are not familiar with it, picture Risk as imagined by Peter Jackson, who happens to be on steroids during its development.

There are all sorts of different figures, each with specific attack and defense values and an insanely large amount of territories to occupy on a map. In the case of my brother’s social circle, the map itself was also insanely large. Someone found a PDF file on the Internet of an Axis & Allies board and went through the trouble of having it printed at a size whose edges hang slightly off of a large dining room table.

So that’s what I was walking into Saturday night as the new guy. To be honest, I was sort of intimidated. Had it been another group of people, I would have found an excuse not to attend, like an ingrown toenail or my dog’s digestive problems or work. Instead, seeing as it was my brother (who has been referred to in prior posts related to the Geek Tournament as “The Selection Committee”) and he has always been my geek mentor, I took the night off of work just to participate.

My rationale was that it would be worth it. It’s been a long time since I’ve spent a Saturday night doing anything so decidedly geeky. I have pathetic ways to spend a Saturday night covered. I’ll catch up on some laundry and watch recorded episodes of The Big Bang Theory or The Regular Show. I’ll play Xbox by myself while mowing down a six pack, leaving me toasted enough to think my wife gives the slightest crap about my exploits when she returns late from work.

Babe, you should’ve seen it. I was like, BAM BAM BAM, that’s a three shot burst because I was using the M16, and the guy didn’t even see it coming. It was my fiftieth headshot and dudes just kept coming around the corner, not even knowing where I was and I was all, ‘Come get some!’ It was aaaawwwwesome! (Then I go for the high five and get left hanging.)

But while pathetic was in my vocabulary, the injection of geekiness into my weekend evenings had eluded me as of late. The entire premise of the evening, letting my geek out into the open to breathe some fresh air, called to me. Like they say, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, geeks gotta delve into minutiae, particularly over World War II military strategy.

Upon walking into my brother’s place, the map looked even larger than I had originally imagined. Details of the game were being discussed on a level that might as well have been in another language, and actually might have been. I nearly hyperventilated. But soon enough, I realized that it was all in good fun. I was reassured by veteran players that I would get it soon enough and I did. Ultimately, I walked away from the evening with enough knowledge about the game that I could play it confidently on my own (with one to four friends twelve and up).

But I walked away with much more than that. That night, I collected more than game pieces at the end of the evening. I felt more than the glorious mixture of beer and Chinese take-out in my stomach. My faith in nerd/geek-kind was strengthened. I remembered the things that were comforting about being a part of geek culture. I felt the acceptance that is nerddom.

At some point, everybody who calls themselves a nerd or geek has been ostracized. They have been made fun of or left out because of who they are…sorry, whom they are. It leaves them accepting of newcomers at, I believe, a higher rate than average. Perhaps nerds display a constant search for fellowship instead of the constant drive to display their dominance over a social group. This leads to a more supportive than competitive culture.

That is how I spent my Saturday night: Getting reacquainted with the greatness of geek, pulling on the common thread of nerd and then, from that thread, knitting a sweater of brotherhood that warms the heart and mind and that comes in one size fits all so that nobody willing to wear the garment is left out in the cold. And since that metaphor has taken on a life of its own, let me conclude by saying, thanks guys for a fun night and for making the new guy feel welcome.

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