February 26, 2013

The Foundations of Geek: My Story

The Wasted Lands blog has thrown down a blog gauntlet: Tell us YOUR formative experiences, and what brought you to the wonderful world of Geek culture!

I was born in Germany and moved to the US when I was 7 (1973). Unfortunately, I don’t remember much in the ways of specifics other than…
-Doing some hikes up some mountains. I have always had a grasp of the wilderness.
-Seeing the old-world architecture. While nothing specific has stuck with me, I have always loved the look of old architecture.
-Two languages. While my German is no longer functional, growing up in a bi-lingual house helped me understand other cultures.
-Struwwelpeter. This is an illustrated book for children wherein the stories are exaggerations to showcase proper behavior. Many of stories and pictures are fantastical, such as cats crying and putting out a burning girl and monsters that cut off the thumbs of children who suck their thumbs. Here is a link to an English version of the book.

At 9 years old (1975) we were assigned to read Watership Down. Before that point all my reading assignments were done to complete the school task. I devoured Watership Down and then realized that books could be for enjoyment. From there on, reading became a joy and something I still actively pursue. Lord of the Rings clinched my love for fantasy. Throughout high school my group of friends would devour books and then recommend them to each other; it was almost a challenge to see who could find the next awesome series.

Also at age 9 (1975) I went to see the Apple Dumpling Gang at a drive-in. It is a western comedy that had me falling in love with movies. Later in 1976 I first saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on The Wonderful World of Disney. It captured my science-fiction/fantasy interest and showed me how it could be done visually. While I love all movies, that was my first “science-fiction” film. I still go to see a movie usually once a week, with science-fiction/fantasy/action being my favorites.

Sometimes in the late-70’s I started reading comic books. I’m sure I had read some before (certainly I remembering watching the Super Friends TV series on Saturday mornings), but the X-Men (post-Giant Sized X-Men #1) really captured my imagination and got me to increase my comic book intake. Soon I was reading a large number of lines. Eventually the cost became too much and I had to stop; I haven’t picked up reading comic books since then but the pull is still there.

At age 13 (1979) I played my first D&D game. From there a group of us played all the time; at lunch, at each other’s house – we even skipped school one day to play all-day at the local park. We started with D&D and quickly moved onto other games such as Gamma World and Villains & Vigilantes. Since then I’ve played in many campaigns and with many rule systems. It’s hard to describe how much role-playing games have defined my life but that is when it all started.
A few things I remember are…using a bazooka to kill a rust monster trapped in a pit, making Wolverine as a Gamma World character, making copies of the rule books for my friends.

At age 14 (1980) I gained access to the computer at our high school. From there I became a computer geek, playing the games the computer had on it and then writing my own. I remember at lunch times going to the back room of the computer center, loading up the cassette player and playing the text-game Adventure trying to get a bit further than the day before.
This love of computer games reached another point in 1988 when I bought the Pools of Radiance computer game. I ended up going out and buying my first personal computer (a Tandy) just so I could play this game. Since then computers have been an integral part of my life.

At age 22 (1988) I was talked into going to a LARP event by a couple of my players in my ongoing D&D campaign (that ran 11 years of real-time). Before this I had vehemently avoided going to live-action events because I felt that was crossing a line from imagination to reality and the potential dangers therein (and I had heard rumors of SCA people sacrificing chickens to evil gods at their events).  However, I went (to a light/boffer game) and had a blast. I’ve been going ever since, averaging about 20 events a year).

At age 34 (2000) I was talked into playing Everquest by a couple of my D&D players. Again I was hesitant as I feared the gameplay would be sub-par (internet gaming was in its early stages) and the time consumption issues. I eventually tried it out and ended up playing. While I no longer play Everquest, I have played an on-line MMO ever since (World of Warcraft currently).

My geekness runs a wide gamut. Yes, I am a geek but I’m okay with that.

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