Monday, July 21, 2008

The Geek Shall Inherit

I'm a jumble of pride and shame today -- Zak and I played our first game of Pokémon.

He's been into the cards for a while, but had never tried to learn how to play the game. I'm proud that my 7-year-old quickly picked up the game mechanics, turn sequence, card abilities and all that. But there's also a twinge of guilt for leading him down the path to full-fledged geekdom I took.

I don't think I even started at such as tender age. My earliest memories of stereotypically dorky inclinations are from fourth grade when some of my school buddies introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons. We didn't fully grasp how the game was supposed to work, so we "played" as we went about our normal daily activities. No, we didn't beat on each other with toy swords. But I was a cleric, and when I sat down to lunch I'd announce that I was casting Purify Food and Drink on my meal. Without fail, one bite in Jason O'Toole would cackle that he had poisoned my PB&J AFTER I cast my spell and I was now dead.

Needless to say I didn't think this seemed like a very fun game. But for whatever reason I bought a basic rulebook and module B1: In Search of the Unknown and kept after it. And eventually, for whatever reason, something clicked.

I won't bore you with all the details of afternoons spent drawing up castle plans for my mage, Thorgul the Mystic. Or how I had a map of the World of Greyhawk on my bedroom wall. Or even how I created my own science fiction role-playing game just for fun that for some reason I was able to turn in for an 8th grade English project. Mr. Butterfield gave me an A+ on it, probably in large part because it made absolutely no sense to him. Let's just say that I continued to play D&D until after I graduated college, and that if someone called me today and said they were playing this weekend and would I be interested in joining them I'd give it serious consideration.

I enjoyed a couple of relatively non-nerdish years, then in 1994 Danelle's dad bought a bunch of us all cards for this game called Magic: The Gathering for Christmas. Like Michael Corleone, I'd been pulled back in.

We tried it a few times over the holidays, but eventually everyone else in the family stopped playing but me. So I started going to play at comic shops and fell in with a group of other guys who became my primary social circle. We used to play for fun at one shop while a guy named George Baxter (who was quite well known internationally in the Magic community) gave presentations on how to succeed in tournaments. We called his young sycophants "Baxterheads" and snickered at their folly.

Then we moved to Denver in 1997, and I got sucked into the tournament scene myself. Somewhat ironically, my transition to the dark side happened at a store called The Light Side. I was never a great tournament player, but I won a few and was ranked in the top 20 in the state in my favorite format. I joined a team, went to play-testing sessions, participated in a local Magic e-mail list. I was in as deep as you can get.

Just how geeky is Magic? When I told someone I befriended through a text-based online role-playing game based on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series that I played Magic, her only reply was, "Wow -- you ARE a geek." Ouch.

Anyway, around 2004 I decided I couldn't devote enough time to Magic to stay as competitive as I wanted to be. So I gradually drifted away, and now I probably haven't played at all in about a year.

That text-based game kept my geek flame burning for a while, then last year I took up World of Warcraft which Danelle had already been playing for about a year. I think it's safe to say my geek cred is beyond reproach without even getting into things like my collections of comic books and Star Wars action figures.

So this afternoon there I was at the kitchen table with Zak, listening to him crow with glee as his Lucario attacked my Piplup with Aura Sphere. Sure, he and I hike together, go to baseball games together and "cool" stuff like that. But I'm excited about this new activity we can share.

And I officially apologize here in writing in advance for all the dates he won't get and wedgies he WILL get because of this. But hey, I still ended up with two Super Bowl rings and a hot wife despite my own geekular leanings. And I didn't even roll a 20-sided die to get them.


Ace Hunter said...

"Creatures you are most likely to see in Type 2."

"Cap the Cane! Cap the Cane!"

My M:tG group, "The Magic Hole", is getting together tomorrow evening. Sadly, I won't be with them as it's my dad's birthday. He turns 69, or as he calls it "the magic number".

Ace Hunter said...

PS: Bottle Gnomes > Ticking Gnomes.

Besides, how can Ticking Gnomes help your Fireball get past a CoP: Red?

SteveHarbula said...

"Want you back... Pirate Ship..."

"Doesn't matter."

Good Shawn/Bad Shawn

Jennifer & Satan

Our Magic days in Dallas aren't lacking for inside joke material.