The Geek Empire

"I think we should start a game night."

That was The Varmint's opening line for what would prove to be a long, strange trip down the rabbit hole of his teen years. Let's just say you have to read it to believe it...

"Like what?" I asked, obliviously, "Pictionary or Scrabble or something?"

"Uh, no," he paused, "I was thinking more along the lines of a game where the players work cooperatively to beat the game. Something more adventurous, where imagination and storytelling are involved."

The Varmint knows I love storytelling; he also knows I am not keen on hyper competitive games. Suddenly, all the hair on my neck stands on end. There is only one thing that would cause The Varmint to be this strategic in his approach.

"You want me to play one of your nerd games, don't you?"

My Varmint, the designer, the surfer, the master of the laid-back, easygoing vibe was also one of those seminar kids who sat in the back of the class in school, playing Dungeons & Dragons. As in: 'Your level 15 dwarf is no match in single-handed combat against my level 20 rogue." Don't know what the hell that means? Neither did I until AFTER I got married.

All of this would be naught but a charming side-note in the story of The Varmint's Cinderella-like transformation from gamer geek into a man with passable hygeine and actual social skills if it weren't for the fact that, on occasion, HE STILL PLAYS. He's like a crack addict who occasionally still tokes, convinced he's got a handle on it. I'm convinced I married an egghead of the perpetual pocket protector variety.

The real story here is that there is simply no desire for reform. 

Nerdalicious"D&D games are fun," he says, getting more animated as the conversation goes on, "You drink beer. You get to actually talk to people. Plus it's not all Dungeons & Dragons games anymore. There are lots of new spinoff games that are way more accessible to... to," he hesitates.

"Normal people?" I offer, blithely.

"Civilians," he sniffs. "As a matter of fact, I've been doing some research..."

This, by the way, is where I will do you the favor of cutting away from our conversation. Anytime The Varmint mentions the word 'research', it is best to force oneself into a trance or a coma-like fugue. The Varmint loves his research and takes forever to get the point while he's wallowing around, reveling in it, talking about the many different avenues he explored, blah, why this not that, blah blah, citing this source or that alternative - it's like being stuck in a living room slideshow of someone else's vacation.

You just have to nod and wait for the magic words. And aha! There they are now! Let's rejoin the conversation, shall we?

"... and so, I thought Arkham Horror or The Fury of Dracula would be two really good options."

"These are both nerd games though, right?" I say, pointing out the obvious.

"They're not nerd games. They're geek games," he says, aghast. "There's a difference."

Not wanting to delve further into the hairsplitting social strata of game dweebs, I move on to the personally relevant part of the story.

"But you want me to play them. And you maybe want some of our friends to play them. Which means you will be telling people that you are a closet D&D dork. Out loud. For everyone to hear. Is that it?"

"It'll be fun!" he says, ignoring that last bit totally."We'll have micro-brewed beer!"

"I believe the beer may have already been mentioned," I say.

He then suggests we go with him to buy the game. Stupidly, I assume we're heading to Toys R Us or Target to get it, and up for a jaunt, I agree. Shortly after packing my poor, sweet, innocent child into the car, he informs me we are not going to either of those establishments.

"No. No. Noooo," he says, "this is a specialty item."

Instead, I discover too late that we are driving to the Shangri-la of Dorkdom, the Island of Misfit Poindexters, the Valhalla of Dweeb: We are going to Game Empire.

Inside Game Empire, it's exactly as you'd expect - the stereotype thrives. Comic books, games and fantasy figurines cover the walls. Greasy-haired dudes litter a separate gaming area, slumped into their board games, discussing wizards and lore levels with Unabomber zeal. Half naked Angelina Jolie-inspired chicks wink out at us from every comic book cover, their nipples potent enough to poke through leather unitards and steel breast plates.

As we enter, the volume drops noticeably and uncomfortable glances are shot in the baby's and my direction: I think the smell of estrogen has them confused. I clutch Makenna a little closer, fearful they might charge.

The Varmint puffs his chest out, wraps his arms around us, and leads us to the game section. He's happy and laughing as he pulls different games from the shelves, talking about the merits of each. "What do you think?" he asks Makenna, a trifle loudly. She is magnanimous in her approval: They all look delicious.

TheVarmintsNewGameFinally, he chooses a game and we prepare to pay. It is here that I finally catch on. 

The Varmint is looking around, nodding. He is jovial as all get-out, making small talk with the cashier. He's standing very straight and tall, his legs are a little stiff, his shoulders are thrown back... he's... he's... crowing.

As we exit, I can't contain myself.

"OH MY GOD!," I hiss Valley Girl-style, "You brought me and Makenna in there to gloat, didn't you? You were gloating - with actual proof -" and here, I jump up and down and point at Mak's head, "that you have had sex!"

"Nope," he corrects, "I was gloating that I have sex regularly."

And despite himself, The Varmint cackles, a long, evil, gleeful cackle that would make Vincent Price proud.

The rat. 


  1. ubermegan said on June 9, 2007 09:15

    This has got to be one of my favorite entries! Bravo, Tam; and congratulations Shannon, since high school I knew you had it in you, somewhere.


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I am a writer and lazy artist who loves travel, architecture and design. Right now, I'm into photography. My fabulous husband (a.k.a. The Varmint) and I are also the principals of a San Diego-based creative agency - and new parents to the divine Baby Mak. Read More >