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ISSUE 119 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/3/2006

Revelations of a geek renaissance

By Rob Martin
Arts Editor

Friday, March 3, 2006

Despite very sincere efforts, I am no geekier today than I was 10 years ago. At the age of 12, I dreamed of my college days: the chance to sleep in every morning, spend lazy afternoons with reruns of “Sliders” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and long, long nights of video game playing. My geek renaissance was like a tiny Mario, still waiting for the red mushroom to pop up and raise me to new heights.

In junior high, life was simple. I would get home from school as fast as possible in order to maximize the time before the 'rents got home from work. This brief, daily period of leisure was an ecstatic time. I drank as much Mountain Dew as possible and played endless rounds of Goldeneye before my Dad took over the television and forced me into more “productive” things.

The wonderful thing about these early days was that a tight-knit community of geeks who lived close by, even next door. Even after the power light on the Nintendo 64 went out, the geekiness was only beginning. You do not need electricity, for example, to play Magic: The Gathering.

Cards created a new set of problems to uninhibited geekdom: lack of money. In order to have the bossest deck one needed expensive cards. Allowance and the annual Big Two (birthday and Christmas) could only begin to cover the monstrous expenses of a collectible card game addiction.

I dreamed of the day when I could play video games straight through meals if I liked and earn enough money to own two copies of every video game. College looked to be that very chance. I would have no parents and a job to support my gaming habits.

After receiving money-filled envelope after money-filled envelope for graduation it seemed as if my dreams were already beginning to come true. It was only by a sheer act of will that I saved my money for initial college expenses rather than buying all seven seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” on DVD.

First year came and went with barely any progress to a new awakening into geek nirvana. I lived in Hoyme, full of hardcore athletes and hardcore Christians, but few hardcore nerds. In fact, it was a video game that alienated me from getting in with the real geeks.

Every day the halls of my corridor resembled a rectangular bowl of spaghetti. Piles of Ethernet cords flowing from underneath one door and sliding down the hall to disappear underneath neighboring doors: Xboxes connected for multiplayer Halo. I can say without hyperbole that my corridor mates spent most of their waking hours locked in heated death-matches. I however, did now own an Xbox and found it almost impossible to talk to people that did. My first chance to embrace my inner geek had failed.

Sophomore year came along; I brought my Nintendo 64 from home as an ancient seed from which my new geekiness would flower. But my priorities were mixed and I ended up spending all my time with friends and homework, with no time left for video games. Until my roommate and I discovered the video game “quickie,” used for brief study breaks. Simply pop in Mario Kart or Road Rash 64, play a single race and return to work.

With a bit of luck, the quickie would turn into an epic battle for the Mushroom Cup. These breaks were no geek renaissance, but definitely a step in the right direction. I think we did, however, achieve a sort of accomplishment with Road Rash 64.

A cross between motorcycle racing and professional wrestling, Road Rash 64 was a fair game at best. At least I'd never met anyone who had played it. But with daily intervals spanning from sophomore through junior year I think my roommate and I would make the top ten list for “most hours invested into the game.” Slightly below us would be the programmers, followed by the beta testers.

Junior year was geek death. I spent a semester in Term in the Middle East where there certainly was no abundance of video games. To keep my fantasy world alive, however, I resorted to reading “The Lord of the Rings” while in Morocco.

First semester of senior year went with few incidents of true geekiness. But then, over Interim break, on a campus almost completely devoid of people … It happened.

It began mid-afternoon sitting around with my two remaining podmates. It took off when we admitted, each in turn, that not only did we miss playing Magic: The Gathering, but we all had secretly stashed decks in our rooms just waiting to be liberated. We sat around the common room table at four that afternoon and did not move until after nine o’clock that night. I can not remember if we ate; it does not really matter. We fully embraced geekdom.

The next week the rest of the pod came back and began work tearing down our geek self-esteem: “Are you sure you have enough mana to come to dinner tonight?” “Do you have a spell in there to give yourself a life?” But for that fleeting moment during break, my childhood dreams became a reality. True, we missed dinner, but just as God sent manna to feed Moses and the Israelites, the God of Geekdom sent me mana to fill my inner need to be a geek.

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