“He’s from Star Trek and he’s half human.”
That’s a real exchange between my nerdy, long-haired, bespectacled boyfriend, Michael, and myself, a stunning blonde (I get to be described as “stunning” in my own article). It is just one of the many conversations he tries to have at me (not with me)–conversations in which I become so bored that I literally announce, “I am no longer listening to you.” Then I proceed to fluff my hair or pick imaginary lint off my jacket. This particular conversation had me feeling a little grumpier than usual because we were traveling up route 95…headed for PAX East.
I’d like to pretend that Michael didn’t tell me exactly what PAX was about; but, based on the previous paragraph, you’ve probably already gathered that he told me many, many times, and I failed to pay attention. Still, I will maintain that he tricked me into going on a romantic getaway at a lovely, lakeside inn called “Pacts.” When, somewhere en route, I realized his sneaky, nerdy scheme, I became a bit unsettled–mainly because I have never played a video game. Hand to God. I had a controller (this word has been in my vocabulary for only 10 months) in my hand and pressed buttons once, but I had no idea, nor did I care to get an idea, of how to play. But that was only the start of my trepidation! I was also worried about being that girl at a Super Bowl party who doesn’t know how football is played and keeps asking annoying questions. Everyone hates her. I hate her. His friends would hate me and they’d be right to do so. Despite my distaste for what I was sure would be coming, I really do like Michael (lotsies) and wanted to at least appear supportive. Finally, I was worried about being bored out of my skull by a bunch of weirdos talking about weird crap. I mean, seriously? THREE WHOLE days about video games? I didn’t exactly expect the worst, but I wasn’t looking forward to it either.
On Friday, we got up ridiculously early to get in a line, to get in another line, to see the keynote speaker (a man who I am sure has a name, and I bet it’s a good one). I was bowled over by the size of the convention center, and by the sheer number of people filling it. I was fully prepared to count ceiling tiles and recite the alphabet backwards to keep myself awake. Michael told me that wouldn’t be necessary–that the keynote would be good. Well, color me shocked, he was right! Yes, a lot of the nuances about specific games and characters were lost on me; however, the overall tone was 100% relatable. The speaker was an amusing, slight fellow who spoke about his journey as a game designer. He candidly discussed mistakes he’d made, things he’d tried to do that hadn’t worked out, and how he eventually found success in his career. I found myself enjoying every moment of his speech. AND, I’m fairly sure he’s somehow responsible for Jake Gyllenhaal wearing a loincloth and being all sweaty.
Next up, we stayed in that room and had an hour of Q&A with the creators of PAX. One was a tall (Gabe), and one was a small (Tycho). (Look, I paid attention to what they said–you can’t expect me to get ALL the details, like names.) Personally, I find Q&A anathema. It makes my insides crawl when people ask awkward questions, are combative, or fail at being witty. I braced myself for an hour of burying my face in Michael’s shirt (did I mention he was in an Iron Man shirt? *sigh*). Once again, I was shocked. The banter and charisma Tall and Small had with each other and the audience was hilarious, warm, entertaining, and entirely charming. I was won over. Nothing stirred my interest and curiosity more than the fans lining up to tell deeply personal stories (in front of perfect strangers!) and then thank Tall and Small for everything they’ve done. What HAD they done? Far from bored, I wanted to hear more. It was like Ellen with less dancing!
Stop three was more familiar territory: the Child’s Play panel run by people I (sort of) knew! Yay! So it turns out that Tall and Small are awesome philanthropists who have super awesome foot soldiers who raise bajillions of dollars to help kids in hospitals and battered women’s shelters. And my boyfriend is one of those foot soldiers. Smug, Smug, Smug. The members of the panel were great at explaining the basics of fundraising without ever coming off as pandering. They even came off as cheerleaders for the cause. That kind of enthusiasm to help is downright infectious.
The rest of that day was spent playing a tabletop card game (yes, “tabletop,” “card,” & “game”–three words I’ve never strung together in my life before this weekend) with Michael and his pals. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out the minutiae of the game and had to start feigning interest (which I’m sure fooled no one).
At dinner with his giant crowd of friends (popular nerds?), people who meant well repeatedly called me a “good sport.” That annoyed me. It’s not like I had planned to be a dick all weekend just because games aren’t my thing. If I had to enjoy myself counting ceiling tiles, then I would have enjoyed myself counting ceiling tiles. But the truth was, I enjoyed myself doing whatever everyone else was doing. (Aside from the tabletop game. That was the worst.).
Day Two: Michael and I wore costumes (cosplay!). We dressed as contestants from the 1990s TV show, “Legends of the Hidden Temple”. Other than suffering a hardcore fan who said our costumes were only “mostly authentic” (sorry, I didn’t actually play on the show and save my costume to wear exclusively for your critical eye, d-bag), the idea to wear costumes was fantastic. People reached out to have mini-conversations with us and take our picture. It was like a giant, shared memory with a ton of strangers. Strange–but good strange.
The panels on this day were the Theory of Role Play (I will sum that up in one sentence: “The point of RPGs is to create something that is enjoyable, exciting, and explorative.”), College Humor Dorkly (I didn’t get the jokes unless they were about Super Mario Bros…and even then, only sort of), The New Edition of D&D (this is the only time I counted ceiling tiles–I just had no frame of reference for anything being discussed), and D&D the 1981 Edition (I was shocked and amused that people gasped about and were invested in the fate of characters that were only being discussed on slides). In each panel, I learned something (500 ceiling tiles in the Waverly Room) and was able to find something that appealed to me. The best part of the day was Michael finding a new tabletop game, Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards:Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre (doesn’t that just roll off the tongue?), that we ended up playing with friends until one in the morning–though I was not amused when Michael called me a “real gamer.”
All right, so I don’t know the names of the actual speakers or panels. I don’t want to immediately fill out a character sheet for D&D. LARPing is definitely something that you shouldn’t expect me to understand yet. But on the ride home, Michael and I had a great time talking about all that nerd stuff. And, I didn’t tune out or mix up vegan and Vulcan. (See? I told you I knew.)
Most importantly, I gathered SO many good girlfriend points. Michael, be prepared for a 5 hours of German opera. We’re going to the Met.