I was a bad nerd. I wanted to do all the nerd things – program, play D&D, read fantasy – but I was no good at BASIC, didn’t have any friends, and for some reason I could never get into hardcore fantasy sci-fi novels. Every Christmas we’d go to my grandmother’s house in Martins Ferry, Ohio, a little town outside of Wheeling, West Virginia and every Christmas I’d get a huge selection of toys. One year I got a Dungeons & Dragons basic set.
I read the books from cover to cover and marveled at the charming illustrations and combat system. I didn’t quite understand it (“Saving throw?” “Charisma?”) which probably meant I was a dumb kid. I made dungeons – basically copying the manual – and tried to play the game. Sadly, however, I had no one to play it with.
My grandma didn’t quite understand it and neither did my dad. My sister was too small. My one friend, George, liked the Atari 2600 more. So I played alone. I rolled, I moved my guy, I killed my guy. Repeat.
I think there is a certain breed of nerd that thrives in solitary pursuits, masturbation notwithstanding. In college the Magic players and FPS gamers were a jolly lot, always ordering pizza and trading off the few females that accepted them. I was always a loner, reading Catcher In the Rye and reading poetry. In some ways I’m a pretender to this geek throne, more liberal arts than CS, but I’m glad to say that I tried to reach the heights of one form of geekdom and failed and I took another road to this point, playing D&D alone and plotting my escape from Ohio.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: we are all geeks in a world that now adores the concept if not the practice of technophilia. It was a hard, odd road to get here – to traverse from using the Atari 800XL to the NES to the Wii was to take all kinds of abuse as a kid. Now everyone loves gadgets, even the kids who would have pantsed us in high school. So here’s to the geeks and the loners and the nerds. Here’s to you guys, the daily readers, proud in your new lives as students, husbands, wives, functioning members of society. A decade ago we’d all be hidden away in a comic book shop, dicing through a D&D module. Now we rule the world.