Article on Gen Con in Indianapolis Monthly Magazine - Page 4
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  1. #31
    I mailed the the Indy Visitors Bereau, and told them I love the city and the welcome mat the downtown businesses put out for us during GenCon. I then told them I wish the local press would get on board and not print insutlting columns. I linked them to the article.

    We'll see what happens.

  2. #32
    I admit I'm a little biased about this article. I wrote the Nascrag tournament last year, so it was exciting to see the details of my adventure in print. And, by his own admission, he enjoyed the game. I met him and the rest of the team after the award ceremony last year. He certainly seemed to be having a good time.

    Much of the article seems fairly innocuous. He's got the preconception that because someone can tell a story, he thinks he is a god. And he, like every other writer, can't see beyond the 3% of people who wear costumes. But basically he hung out with 4 20-something, sexually active, college students (one of whom was gay). His story reflect his experience.

    If he had attached himself to the nascrag judges he would have written a much different article. he would have thought that most attendees we're married and many brought their children with them to the con. He would have thought that most attendees were physicians, geneticists, college professors, stock brokers, nuclear physicists, computer professionals, and artists.

    My biggest problem with the article is this single paragraph:

    "Though he is a significant presence in the gaming community of central Indiana, and as devoted as any aficionado, Wells is far from the typical Joe Gamer. Most are single men in their 20s or early 30s with bleach-white skin and black attire. Many suffer from some combination of medical affliction, be it a runny nose/dandruff mix, an acne/pinkeye blend. They either talk constantly in a nasal, matter-of-fact tone, or they say little to nothing at all. Under no circumstances does the typical gamer wear a wedding ring, or for that matter stand purposefully in the vicinity of a woman. It’s not that he’s necessarily gay or doesn’t like women;it’s just that since mostly guys game, and gaming is mostly what those guys do, the situation rarely presents itself. When gamer girls are around, confusion, a sort of sexual disorientation, ensues."

    That's just despicable.

    BTW, if you're coming to GenCon, be sure to try Nascrag.

  3. #33
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    I can't get the article. Can someone paste it?

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnsemlak
    I can't get the article. Can someone paste it?
    Revenge of the Nerds
    By Tony Rehagen

    Once a year, Vampires, wizards, pirates, ninjas and other unidentifiable creatures invade the city. But behind the masks, Indy’s largest convention is like any other gathering. The attendees come for acceptance, sex and, most of all, love of the game.

    Mykal Wells is a god. He can conjure storms from blue skies, summon spirits from the crypt and make mythical beasts do his bidding. With a mere thought, he can slaughter an army of elves or lay to waste entire civilizations. He has put his closest friends to death a hundred times over, by dozens of exotic means. He can Change his shape and has more than 700 different manifestations: druids, dragons, wizards and wraiths.

    Wells’ followers know all of his identities as mere mortal embodiments of the greater being known as Game Master, an unseen, undying force that controls their individual and collective fate; a force that can hurt them, heal them, kill them and ransom them back to life at will and rules them with the sovereignty of his vast imagination. He is a divinity whose benevolence is matched only by his creative energy, and for that, the Game Master is revered.

    In the realm of the real, however, Mykal Wells is a scrawny 22-year-old Indiana University student with not a hair on his chin. His blue eyes magnified by a pair of thick wire-rimmed bifocals, his voice meek, high-pitched and cartoonish, he’d rather spend an eternity holed up in his tiny Bloomington apartment with his books, his dice and his characters in his make-believe world than be seen at a Hoosier basketball game or a keg party. Outside his circle Mykal Wells is often ridiculed and rejected.
    He is a god. He is an exile.

    Today, I find the illustrious young Game Master in the Indiana Convention Center near the end of a long line of fellow divinities waiting to obtain their four-day passes to Gen Con, an annual international gathering of amateur gods and Game Masters. The gaming convention is a communion of social exiles whose outward appearances are vastly disproportionate to their gaming personas. Between warriors unmasked as zit-faced Goth kids and sorceresses revealed to be pigtailed teenyboppers, Master Wells stands pale and freckled, slight of build in baggy blue jeans, a wrinkled gray T-shirt and sandals. A gay-pride necklace of multicolored beads is tight around his frail neck and bobs beneath his prominent Adam’s apple as he addresses the members of the IU Gamer’s Guild, which he founded.

    “Is it bad that I only come here to pick up gamer boys?” Wells asks me, head tilted back to aim his bifocals on the passersby. I freeze, unsure how to answer. I hadn’t thought about gamers as sexual beings. Like all of Indianapolis, I’ve seen them on the street and in downtown businesses, and real-world coupling is not the first thing that comes to mind. For four days each August, 25,000 men, women and children dressed in elaborate costumes (samurai, knights, princesses, Hobbits, droids, etc.) invade the city. But their facades do little to muffle their cracking prepubescent voices or hide the flakes of dandruff on the shoulders of their black cloaks. So, I can see the appeal of wanting to alter your identity for a few days. But all of the effort and pageantry and long nights of rolling dice … it’s just to get laid?

    “Is there a lot of sex at Gen Con?” I ask him.

    “Just like any convention,” Wells responds. “People hook up here all the time.”

    “You have to know that most of these people don’t leave their basements all year,” says one of the Guilders. “Then once a year, they all congregate here to mate. It’s like that movie, March of the Penguins.”

    Of the Gen Conners roaming the halls of the convention center, at least nine out of 10 are males, and a good number of them are heavyset and pimply. They show up in their threadbare XL T-shirts with romantic mating calls like “Wenches Want Me” and “Girls are no substitute for PlayStation” stretched across their bulging torsos. And now, in my mind they all appear to be waddling up and down the hallways.

    Maybe sex is just a red herring. Aside from Wells, the other Guilders in line don’t seem all that interested in procreation. They are tired, having stayed up all night at a friend’s house in Bloomington playing Tetris 3 on the Super Nintendo, talking about the phallic properties of the falling blocks and inventing new obscenities. They hardly notice when another company of three Guilders approaches the slow-moving line. Their leader, a lanky, long-faced teen with a ponytail, runs up to Wells and jumps into his arms.

    “You’ve saved the princess,” he says in effeminate falsetto.

    The two share a smile and a short, silent glance. For a second, it seems like there’s a spark, something romantic between them. But it’s hard to be sure.

    Another member of the company stands before Wells as a lieutenant would his commanding officer, eager to interrupt. “There are only 300 copies of Mage: The Awakening available,” he reports. “Some they’re giving away as prizes. They’re only selling 75 copies each day.”

    “We want two copies,” the Game Master responds, putting down Ponytail. “We’ve got to get one for the Guild. The doors to the exhibit hall open at 10 a.m. Here’s $20 for that copy. Camp out in front of those doors. That’s your new home.”

    “For the next two hours?” the lieutenant asks.

    The Game Master checks his watch. “It’s only an hour and 10 minutes.”

    “What’s Mage?” I interject. Silence. I’m met with a half-dozen incredulous glares. I can carry on an in-depth conversation about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, books I’ve read repeatedly since childhood. And I have soundly beaten my younger brother in Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, earning every wedge of plastic pie before he even got a turn. During an especially awkward time in my early teens, I even logged about five hours in my neighbor’s basement playing Dungeons & Dragons. But for the life of me, I have no idea what these guys are talking about.

    “If you don’t know, then you are not going to get one,” snaps the lieutenant.

    I later find out that Mage is a storytelling role-playing game about sorcery, and the new guidebook contains rules and guidelines the Game Master can follow to administer the game. This particular edition won’t be released to the public en masse for two weeks, but the publisher is selling a limited number in advance to the uber-geeks at this Gen Con.

    The name Gen Con comes from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where, 39 years ago, a group of friends gathered to play sci-fi and fantasy games. Since it moved from Milwaukee to Indy in 2003, it has become the city’s largest annual convention, rolling about $25 million into the local hospitality industry. These gamers have come to see the latest gaming gear, to hear lectures on foam-weapon-making and to learn how to run their own live-action role-playing game (LARP). But most of all, they’ve come to game, to play exotic roles through table card games like Magic: The Gathering or dice-driven games like Dungeons & Dragons or LARPs, where participants actually act out the game. It’s all about the world of make-believe, roughly the same universe I occupied as a child playing war and baseball in the backyard.

    Gen Conners are full-grown adults who play for hours on end and take their activities as seriously as we take Sunday’s Colts game or the new episode of American Idol. A healthy dose of childlike imagination is a prerequisite for gamers. But most of them don’t game to escape as a child does. They do it as a means to communicate with like-minded people. They game to belong.

    Wells is a connoisseur of all forms of role-playing games (RPGs). His time out of class is dedicated to gaming night and day with his 125-member Guild; he spends his in-class hours sketching new characters in the margins of his binders and notebooks while he should be taking notes, and he spends almost all of his money on gaming gear. He’s shelled out $7,000 on Magic game cards alone. For him, Gen Con is his season finale, his Super Bowl.

    After the Guilders have obtained their passes, they meet the recon company and the five-dozen gamers who’ve had the same designs on the same Mage book outside the doors of the exhibit hall. Wells sits down on the ground and pulls out the Gen Con program, packed with almost 5,000 games, lectures, workshops and events. He’s hoping to map out the next four days. “There’s always like 80 things at once that rock my world,” he says. “I’ll make a plan, and I probably won’t do a fifth of the things I want to.”

    At about 9:45 a.m., there’s a noticeable commotion behind the doors, coming from inside the exhibit hall. It rouses the gamers, anxious to get in and grab their copies of the rare book. One boy, a large, round youth wearing a shirt emblazoned with an orange-and-red dragon stands and raises his flabby arms. “Bring forth the virgins!” he yells. “We must appease the gods beyond these doors. We need lots of virgins.”

    Perhaps he’s forgotten where he is.


    Even though he exists primarily to game, Wells has allocated the first day of Gen Con just to walk the massive 400,000-square-foot exhibit hall, check out all the new games and toys, and basically just bask in the culture. For 361 days a year, Wells’ universe of gaming is limited to the walls of his imagination and those of his tiny, book-cluttered bedroom. At Gen Con, however, it’s as if his dreams have materialized. He can, in a sense, be himself, walk Indiana city streets not just as Mykal Wells, but as the Game Master incarnate. He can finally live the game, if only for four days.

    Having released his Guild to their independent interests, the Game Master is now hauling bags full of artwork and games and dice and books to his friend’s car in an IUPUI parking lot before heading back to the Convention Center for more. Wells brought $450 to last these four days. Two hours into the convention, he’s already spent $300. “I just won’t eat,” he says.

    The 30-minute walk from convention to car has facilitated a heated debate between Wells and an Elkhart high-school classmate of his, Mike Ekins, now a fellow GM who started his own gamer group at IUPUI. As if they were real-life politicos continuing an argument from the floor of the Indiana Senate just blocks away, these two deliberate on the issue of Power Gaming. I straggle behind, partly because I’m furiously trying to scribble down notes, but also because, as the bickering pundits are drawing peculiar glances from the civilians they pass, part of me would rather not be associated with them.

    “It just pisses me off when players create these characters that can’t be killed,” Ekins says. “It just screws up the game. Like the Tauresque.”

    “But that’s part of the game,” Wells says. “Besides, I figured out a way to kill the Tauresque.”

    “No way. How? At what level?”

    “Level 5, with a cleric.”

    “How?”

    “I thought about it for about a week,” Wells says. “I’d need a mage to teleport me into the Tauresque’s lungs. Then I create water, filling the lungs and suffocating it.”

    “But then you’d die.”

    “Who cares if I die? I’ll go down in history.”

    Then a brief pause before Wells rekindles the original point. “I created a character that can’t be killed at all,” he says.

    “No way.”

    “It has the regenerating powers of a troll, but is immune to acid and fire. As long as its mind is intact, it can’t be killed.”

    “So just cut off its head.”

    “But the mind’s still intact.”

    “But it’s not connected.”

    “In-tact.”

    Ekins pauses to think about it as he pops the trunk of his car. “Damn, that’s evil.”

    “I know,” Wells says proudly, as he unloads his bags. He slams the trunk shut.

    “Let’s go back and look at some more stuff,” Wells says, breathing heavily, exhausted. With both hands he pats down his torso, takes a quick internal inventory of himself and his facilities. He’s been up for two straight days. “I’ve got about another hour in me.”

    Gamers don’t sleep. At least, that’s the myth. But underneath their bedsheet capes and cardboard armor, gamers are human beings. So of course they sleep. Just not at Gen Con.

    It’s 9 a.m. Friday. The city has awoken around the Convention Center halls, now flooded with light that drenches the sun-shy gamers, seated in circles at tables or on the ground. Many of them were in these very spots when the sun last set and have moved little since. An RPG can go for days, weeks, even years, theoretically. Characters take hours to build and months to develop and hone their skills by accruing experience points, “learning” spells and building prowess with certain weapons. The “action” transpires at a clip just a hair faster than real time. Minimal duration for a typical gaming session is three to four hours. Otherwise, you couldn’t get anything accomplished. That’s why there is no such thing as a casual gamer. It just takes too much time for anyone who’s not completely obsessed.

    When Wells meets me in front of the exhibit-hall doors just after 10 a.m., it’s apparent that his earlier statement of “another hour left” in him was a gross underestimate. After closing down the exhibits at 6 p.m., he rendezvoused with the other six Guilders back at their shared two-bed hotel room and got hooked into a game of Illuminati, a card game in which each character controls a secret society that works to acquire other organizations to dominate the world. That game ran until 9 p.m., when the Guilders walked over to the Westin, where the Japanese anime film Howl’s Moving Castle was being shown. There, in the darkness, he kissed the ponytailed Guilder, and the affair apparently spilled over to the hotel room that night.

    Wells takes off his backpack and from it pulls out a tattered, spiral-bound notebook. On its wide-ruled pages are sketches, graphic and textual, of characters, spells and story progressions, the blueprints of the Game Master’s private universe. “I’m never anywhere without my notebooks,” he says. “I spend a third of my time gaming out of these—and I remind you that another third is spent sleeping and using the bathroom.”

    Then he quips, “And at least a sixth is spent on boys.”

    Though he is a significant presence in the gaming community of central Indiana, and as devoted as any aficionado, Wells is far from the typical Joe Gamer. Most are single men in their 20s or early 30s with bleach-white skin and black attire. Many suffer from some combination of medical affliction, be it a runny nose/dandruff mix, an acne/pinkeye blend. They either talk constantly in a nasal, matter-of-fact tone, or they say little to nothing at all. Under no circumstances does the typical gamer wear a wedding ring, or for that matter stand purposefully in the vicinity of a woman. It’s not that he’s necessarily gay or doesn’t like women;it’s just that since mostly guys game, and gaming is mostly what those guys do, the situation rarely presents itself. When gamer girls are around, confusion, a sort of sexual disorientation, ensues.

    That fact is illustrated when Wells meets his party. Kayla, Courtney and Purple Sarah—so named because her now-blond hair was once dyed—are the female contingent of the IU Gamers Guild at Gen Con. None of the three is unattractive by any means, but from the distant awe they’re drawing from the men as they walk through the halls, you’d think Galadriel, Lady of Lorien were here in the Elvish flesh.

    But these girls aren’t here to tantalize would-be suitors. Like everyone else, they’re here to game. “It’s a male-dominated world of gaming,” says Purple Sarah. “But a lot of girls game, too. They’re just not supposed to.”

    Sarah is a hardcore LARPer. She loves the freedom of live-action, where you aren’t restricted by levels and dice and can just improvise with the flow. She also likes the costuming that’s sometimes involved. Yesterday, the 5-foot-nothing Sarah walked around the convention all day in a full Victorian gown as part of a LARP she played in until 2 o’clock this morning. “People outside were constantly staring,” she says. “I didn’t mind. People need to be weirded out every once in a while. Anyway, I love characters with fashion sense. That’s why I love pirates.”

    “Pirates?” I ask.

    “Mm-hm. Pirates have better clothing sense and all that cool jewelry. It’s all a matter of taste.”

    “What’s all a matter of taste?”

    “Pirates vs. ninjas.”

    Blank stare and silence.

    “You know, it’s the proverbial gaming argument. Pirate vs. ninja. If you want it done quick and quiet, you want a ninja. But if you want it done with style … I have a very strong stance on this.”

    “You’ve put a lot of thought into this?”

    The tiny gamer girl shoots me a stone-solid serious look. “Yeah, I think about it all the time.”

    Now walking through the exhibit hall, Courtney and Kayla are fidgeting with a pair of small dragon puppets they bought yesterday. Perched atop their low-cut shirts, nestled between their breasts, the little wooden beasts are connected to a long wire by which their heads can be made to move back and forth. Kayla’s been having trouble with hers, but she’s figured out the problem.

    “It moves better when it’s not against my BREAST,” she says.

    With the utterance of that last word, all action in the hall freezes. The head of every male gamer within earshot of the voice instantly pivots to its source.

    My name is Lieutenant Connor Proudfoot. I am a Halfling (something like a Hobbit) who also happens to be a fifth-level rogue. I have the ability to evade, sense traps and dodge attack; I’m proficient with a club, sling or mace; I speak common tongue, Halfling, Elvish and Orcish, but I’m supposed to do so with a limey English accent that I can’t seem to keep from letting slip into half-assed Australian. As one of the few members of this troupe with military experience, I’m supposed to help lead us through the Maze of Peril. Oh, and I, as an RPG rookie, have no freaking clue what I am doing.

    Perhaps it was because I had shown promise with my rudimentary knowledge of pirates and ninjas, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, or maybe it was because Wells could sense the conflict between fantasy-dwelling dweeb and just-the-facts, real-world journalist within me. Or more likely it was just because they were short one player and desperate to enter the Gen Con NASCRAG—NAtional Society of CRAzed Gamers—tournament; but Wells has recruited me to be a member of his team, which Courtney and Kayla have named Mike Wellson and his Robot Pals.

    That’s why I’m sitting here in Conference Room 116 at 11:45 p.m. at the tail end of a three-hour Friday-night gaming session, contemplating how an English Halfling might ask permission to go to the bathroom.

    The basis of this game is that my teammates and I are all officers in the court of King Padraig, who is missing. We are now charged with babysitting the King’s son, Neville, a faerie godchild with divine blood who can wreak havoc with his mind and who has shrunken us all to mere inches and animated his toys so that we can “play war” against the army of tiny faerie assassins who’ve come to kill the boy. Two hours and 45 minutes into the first round, our weary miniature band has been crawling around in the castle’s plumbing and has managed to find the incapacitated King, who’s also been shrunken. Our goal at this stage is to acquire the ingredients necessary to revive the King. To do so, we have to enlist the help of the Mouse Folk who inhabit the pipes of the castle. And to earn their respect and trust, we’ve been forced to run through a particularly hazardous part of the castle’s inner workings known as the Maze of Peril.

    But we’ve taken too long, got stuck on a few of the puzzles and, as the tables all around us are already empty, and the stroke of midnight that signifies the expiration of our time limit quickly approaches, we’re in panic mode, stuck at a crossroads in the maze.

    Fortunately, our faithful Game Master is focused on the situation. In his current form, he is Finnegan Mulcahy, a fifth-level sorcerer who also happens to be a hippie with a magic holding bag full of food, dirty laundry and other seemingly useless objects. Calm and collected, he’s like Jordan at the charity stripe with the game on the line. “Let’s do a listen check.”

    All six team members roll our 20-sided die; the higher the number we roll, the more we hear. I roll a three and hear nothing but my heart pounding in my chest. Meanwhile, Wells rolls a 17.

    “From the right tunnel,” the judge says, “You hear a sound like this.” She then scrunches up her nose while making a sound somewhere between a cough and a pig-snort. It’s the exact same sound we heard earlier before being confronted with a giant diamond-back spider.

    “Then we go left,” says Wells.

    “The passage widens a bit to reveal a mousetrap with three slabs of cheese on the trigger,” the judge reads. “On the wall is a sign that reads, ‘One is safe to eat, bring it with you.”

    “We don’t have time to do a sniff check,” says another team member.

    Wells is poised. “The cheese on the sandwich in my holding bag,” he says, “is it the same kind of cheese in the trap?”

    “Why yes, it is.”

    “Let’s take that to the Mouse Folk.”

    We hastily agree and the trick works. The Mouse Folk accept us. We save the king with two minutes to spare. The judge tells us that the names of the teams that advance to the second round will be posted outside the room sometime after 1 a.m. But we are not optimistic about our chances. Wells seems especially hopeless and deflated. On the walk down Washington Street, he says nothing.

    To truly appreciate the impact Gen Con has on Indianapolis, all you really have to do is walk into the downtown Steak n Shake after midnight on the Friday of the convention. Every seat is filled with a Jedi Knight, a goblin prince or a mountain man who has finally decided that after two straight days of gaming, he needs a creamy milkshake and an order of cheese fries. Unfortunately, these characters haven’t realized that after 48 hours of nonstop gaming, they might also need a shower and a change of costume. The thick smell of grill-seared steakburgers is almost overpowered by that of intense body odor. Paranoid, I spray on another couple doses of cologne.

    Also on the air is the clamor of hundreds of gaming conversations, discourse on the true capabilities of ghost ships and the ethics of placing a sniper at the spawning point—the place, in certain games, where a character regenerates and reenters the game after death—to continually frustrate a fellow gamer while holding up the game and irritating the GM. But thanks to yours truly, the Guilders in and around one rear booth are focusing their discussion on a more traditional debate.

    “Of course girls want to be pirates,” exclaims a Guilder. “Pirates win for fashion. But ninjas are silent killers of the night. As opposed to rowdy killers of the sea.”

    “But,” interjects another, “you’re forgetting the Inverse Proportion Rule of Ninjas. Since one of the key attributes to any ninja is stealth, the more ninjas there are, the more likely they are to be discovered, the more likely they are going to get their asses kicked. Think of every Kung Fu movie you’ve ever seen.”

    Wells seems uninterested. He’s fading. He’s been pouring packets of sugar down his throat and washing them down with water. After all the stuff he’s bought at the convention, it’s all he can really afford. He kind of wants to go back to the convention hall to see what teams advanced. But at the same time, he doesn’t. At 2:08 a.m., Wells finally resolves to head back to the hotel room to crash. He tries to assemble his Guilders/roommates to follow.

    “How are all of you sharing a room?” I ask. “Where do you sleep?”

    Wells gives a sly wink. “This is Gen Con. Gen Con is always one step away from one huge orgy.”

    Now they’ve done it. It’s bad enough that on every other weekend of the year, they monopolize the TV airwaves, crowd the malls, bars and city streets and parking lots, forcing Wells and his fringe guild into their cramped apartment hideouts; but now they’ve gone too far. Now, because of a Saturday preseason home game that happens to coincide with Gen Con, a blue-and-white horde of Colts fans has occupied downtown and the Circle Centre food court, disrupting Wells’ convention, his dinner and his good mood.

    “I can’t stand these people!” he says. “I can’t stand sports.”

    Out of his bag of Gen Con freebies, Wells pulls out a miniature figurine, that of Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson, part of a baseball board game. Staring at Reggie dejectedly through wild eyes enlarged by his thick bifocals, he begins to pound the plastic figure into the table with his fist. “I friggin’ hate sports!”

    This was supposed to be a celebratory dinner. Mike Wellson and His Robot Pals advanced to the second round and, riding that momentum, we managed to complete the second task in pretty good time. We found out just minutes ago that we’ve made the second list, advancing to the finals tonight. Wells was brimming with pride and optimism, confident that we could prevail. Now, getting up to leave a gyro that’s barely been touched, he’s overcome with rage. “Screw it,” he says. “Let’s just go back to the convention.”

    Apparently Wells’ fellow conventioneers have had the same thought. Scores of gamers, many of them still costumed as cat people, droids, goblins and super heroes, crowd the skyway from Circle Centre back to the Convention Center. Along the way they are met by an army of football fans, decked out in blazing blue-and-white jerseys and hats with Colts flags and signs, trying to force their way into the food court for a pregame feast. As the bottlenecked masses slowly slither their separate ways, they exchange disdainful glares. Two husky men, faces caked in blue-and-white paint, their beer guts hanging out from beneath undersized, over-stretched Peyton Manning jerseys, catch a glimpse of the costumed gamers.

    Someone mutters “Freaks!” just loud enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear. But in the din, it’s difficult to discern who is talking to whom.

    It’s a quarter past 11 p.m., Saturday night, and it’s been a long day. After two NASCRAG sessions, six hours sitting at a table trying to maintain a cockney accent while solving puzzles, battling giant cats, communicating with Mouse Folk, distracting pixies long enough to steal their gold, fighting dragons and freeing imprisoned giants, all the while trying to keep my right leg from falling asleep, I’m beat.

    Not Wells. He’s managed to steal a total of maybe 10 hours of sleep over the past four days, has ingested no foreign substances outside of sugar—not even caffeine—and yet he is sitting on his hands as he eagerly waits in the audience of nearly 100 gamers at the Regency Ballroom in the downtown Hyatt. This is the NASCRAG awards ceremony, where the top five teams will finally be unveiled and honored with canary yellow NASCRAG T-shirts. Except for the champion. That team will split a dragon’s hoard of gamer goodies: $2,700 worth of books, games, models, miniatures and CD-ROMs. That trove now sits on a vacant stage. Wells can hardly keep his eyes off it.

    “I thought we did pretty well,” he says as much to himself as his teammates. “I mean, that first round might bring us down. But maybe … I’ve never won anything before.”

    The rest of us on the team are tempering his hope with some cautious optimism. True, we were the first team to complete the task in the third round, we vanquished the evil Bubba and his band of wicked blue fairies, and we convinced the brat half-faerie prince to put on the Toque of Wisdom—a gray felt hat that we literally decorated with multicolored paint, ribbons and feathers we “purchased” with our stolen pixie gold—which finally made the youth aware of the damage he was inflicting and convinced him to reverse the spell, restoring us to normal size. But our first-round maze debacle and an
    adequate-if-unspectacular second-round performance had to have factored into the equation. In other words, the Robot Pals are thinking fourth or third place at best. “I just want to win something,” Wells says. “I’ve never won a tournament or anything before.”

    Finally, the NASCRAG patriarch (a baby-faced 30-something man) emerges in his robes (bed linen) and towering white Pope hat (construction paper and poster board). After a 20-minute spiel, he senses the fever pitch of the crowd’s anticipation. “And without further ado … Fifth place: No Chance In Hell.”

    The six gamers of “No Chance In Hell” leap from their seats, hug and congratulate each other and then make their way to the stage to receive their shirts. Wells crosses his fingers.

    “Fourth place: Darren What’s Our Team Name?”

    Leaps, hugs, congratulations, T-shirts.

    Wells releases two lungs’ full of air. In his magnified eyes, glaring at the stage, I sense the battle between desperate hope, fleeting fast …

    “Third place: Moist Cabbage.”

    and the painful realization that our name …

    “Second place: Tastes More Like Mammal.”

    probably isn’t coming at all.

    The battle is over. Even in Wells’ wildest fantasy, where he’s truly Game Master, we couldn’t have been the best over all three rounds. Not after getting lost in the maze and struggling with the giant cat in the second round. There’s just no way.

    I can see the spell of utter defeat cast upon Wells’ pallid face. Not just another rejection in the long log of real-world rejections, but a rebuke here, in Wells’ own world, where he’s supposed to belong, where he’s supposed to be Game Master. This cuts deep.

    And yet …

    “And finally …”

    there’s still a lingering chance …

    “… our 2005, Gen Con Indy …”

    that just maybe …

    “… NASCRAG champions …”

    the great Game Master above …

    “… are …”

    could find it in his bag of dice …

    The patriarch pauses for dramatic effect. Then he shouts, voice distorting over the microphone, “Mike Wellson and His Robot Pals.”

    Jubilation. Wells leaps into the arms of Kayla and Courtney and screams “Holy ! Oh my God! Holy !” The team rushes the stage to accept the prize package and the adulation of the gamer masses all standing at attention and applauding Wells and his team. Wells puts his arms around Courtney, looks at the crowd, and takes it in.

    He then stands up straight and with clenched teeth behind pursed lips, he thrusts his frail fists, atop toothpick arms, into the air, like something out of a campy ’80s action movie. But this is very real. On the verge of tears, utter joy seems to seep from his every freckled pore.

    This is Wells as he’s always seen himself in his mind. The Game Master, triumphant at last.

    Sunday afternoon. The convention is winding down, its throng of costumed enthusiasts thinning rapidly from downtown Indy. The Game Master is back with his Guild at the Circle Centre food court, happily slurping a strawberry-
    banana smoothie.

    He has already regaled the Guilders with the tumultuous tale of last night’s events: How he managed to snag Princess Victory from the clutches of Dragon Defeat and restore the honor and glory of his team. Half-drunk on pride—the other half on two glasses of room-temperature Canadian whisky that Courtney snuck into the ceremony—Wells paged through every name on his cell phone last night, calling everyone he knew to report his feat. Now, he’s simply enjoying himself and his smoothie.

    Then it occurs to me that I have yet to get my primary subject’s take on of gaming’s most enduring questions.

    “The quest for pirate versus ninja is a fruitless one,” Wells says. “For within every ninja lies a fraction of a pirate, and within every pirate, a ninja.”

    “I’m telling you,” interjects a Guilder. “The Inverse Proportion Rule ...”

    “That’s a lie!” another argues. “Ninjas are not as susceptible to that rule as you might think.”

    Meanwhile, one of the Guilders is thumbing through a round of Tetris on his handheld Game Boy Advance. Almost unconsciously, he starts to hum the Russian rhythm of the game’s legendary theme song. One by one, each Guilder joins in. Finally, Wells’ chipmunk tone rounds out the ensemble. Laughter ensues.

    Out of the corner of his eye, Wells catches the enemy blue-and-white of a shopper in a Marvin Harrison jersey. But this time, there is no rage. Instead, the Game Master pauses thoughtfully. “You know, a nerd can be anything.”

    “Pardon?” I ask. It’s the first time I’ve heard anyone utter the dreaded N-word during the entire convention.

    “A nerd can really be anyone who’s really into something,” Wells says. “Whether it’s gaming or movies or football. If you look at it that way, we’re all just nerds.”

  5. #35
    I think the writer was trying to cash in on the whole Brokeback vibe in the media last year.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Varianor Abroad
    I don't know how long you've been playing. Those of us who may well be considered grognards (I've been playing since 1981) remember the days of being demonized for roleplaying. There was a huge social stigma that still lingers. I'm a professional. I'm married. I have two kids. The article is not the Gen Con I know.

    On a weird side note, I do find it cool that the author was on the team that won NASCRAG.
    I've been playing since about 1992, so I think I was spared the demonisation you speak of. I did hear about it though, from some older players. Yeah, I have been ridiculed for my hobby by some who don't play, but for the most part it gets a comment like "oh, that game with the little figurines, right?". That's fair enough to me. We play a niche hobby that's seldom understood. Simple ignorance, which I'm happy to dispel.

    I admit I went into the article slightly defensive (the title "revenge of the nerds" in particular had me rolling my eyes) but I found it a breath of fresh air. Here's a so-called "mundane" going into something unusual to the common denominator. He had a few wake up calls in his preconceptions (sex among gamers, in particular). I think it made him a better person, more understanding. I got the implicit message that the events at Gencon are unusual for the gamers, too. Think of how people act at each World Cup, or the Olympic games, or even on any holiday (where they go somewhere else). People act differently when they travel, Gencon would be no different.
    When you're in an environment that's different to usual, what do you notice most? The things stand out: that is, the unusual, and the attention-grabbing. Surely, there'd be a lot of that, right? Someone from the outside is far more likely to notice the more unusual people, rather than the more "normal" ones.

    What I meant though, is that perhaps people were going in looking to be offended by the "mundane" who went in the midst of the conventioneers and dared to comment. It seems to be common thing these days in this time of easy litigation, and ease of communication.

    Yeah, I'll give that it wasn't a full representation of folk, and that there were a few mistakes/limitations to the overall. But you know what? I've got better things to do that worry about it. I'm happy to be me, and I'm not embarrassed about my favourite hobby. Why should I be?

    The question I ask is this: Is it really worth the time and effort to get worked up over?

  7. #37
    Join Date
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    "Response from Mykal Wells regarding Indiana Monthly Article"

    From here: http://community.gencon.com/forums/4...howThread.aspx

    Mykal Wells sent this message to the Gaymers Yahoo group

    Hello. I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this subject.

    You see. My name is Mykal Wells. I've gotten more than a few angry
    letters in the last 2 days.

    I would just like to throw in my two cents.

    Revenge of the Nerds is complete garbage of an article. I accepted an
    invitation to allow the Indianapolis Monthly to join me at Gen Con
    2005 to see how Gen Con is experienced from the inside by an average
    gamer. That being said I do not apologize for what I *actually* said
    and did (which is some but certainly not all of it). I was being
    myself, that was after all the point, and I won't apologize for that.

    However, the IM turned it into a heinous and hurtful piece of trash
    that I'm ashamed to be apart of. It seems mostly composed of
    misquotations, fabrications, and outright lies.

    I, personally, feel slighted by the article, but most of all it
    misrepresented my friends and my community at large. That is
    unacceptable. My friends and I are currently discussing a proper
    course of action for this downright vicious and unwarranted article.

    *also I would like to declare that I am not nor have I ever been a
    diety of any proportion... To the best of my knowledge*

    Good Gaming.

    <3,
    Mykal

    Also see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8008623...-21636006@N00/
    The reporter is the overweight guy in the black t-shirt, the only stereotypical gamer in the photo!

  8. #38
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    I thought the article was ridiculous in its use of stereotypes and poor, sensationalist journalism. It was biased against gamers and roleplaying, and was also homophobic and offensive towards Mykal Wells and gay people. An intelligent letter complaining of this article to the magazine seems appropriate.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoroaster100
    I thought the article was ridiculous in its use of stereotypes and poor, sensationalist journalism. It was biased against gamers and roleplaying, and was also homophobic and offensive towards Mykal Wells and gay people. An intelligent letter complaining of this article to the magazine seems appropriate.
    I'm sorry but I may have become slightly daft in the past hour or two, but "homophobic"? I just don't see it. It may be offensive to Mr Wells (that I can understand) but I see no slight whatsoever toward gay people. Could you kindly point it out to me?

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark CMG
    For what it is worth . . .
    Well done, Mark!

    Cheers,
    Gary

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