Tag Archives: gamers

Is This the New Age of Geek-Friendly Entertainment?

Is this the new age of geek-friendly entertainment? We’ve been asking this question for a while. At least since the first X-Men movie was a success. Our popular entertainment has taken the kind of turn that makes it seem like gamers, comic book fans, trekkies and the like are no longer the out crowd. While it’s not clear that playing StarCraft will ever make you popular outside of Korea, it seems more and more like being a fan of the traditionally geeky is not a stigma so much as just another thing.

Geek fare makes big money now– the kind of money that can buy special effects that make geek fare look badass. Still, I can’t help but wonder how far we’ve come. To what extreme? Is anything still out of bounds? Where do the real outcasts lie? I mean, yeah, high school is probably still hard for cosplayers, but I’m talking about the kind of rejection that comes from going to a dance in a Star Wars t-shirt in 1990. Whose burden is that now?

Well there’s a movie about LARPing coming out. That’s Live Action Role Playing for any muggles reading, and that is something which stretches the limit of what I consider reasonable, out-of-the-closet geekiness. Granted, I used to LARP in high school, which I consider downright heroic bravery now, but I’ve toned down over the years.

Seriously? Seriously. And crazy as it seems, it looks fantastic. It makes me happy that Peter Dinklage, better known as Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s Game Of Thrones, is embracing a role that makes fun of the role he’s best known for. And I’m just happy he’s finding mainstream work.

But is it mainstream? From where I sit, that depends entirely on two things. Whether Knights of Badassdom is profitable or not and what the message of the film is. The first item should be pretty easy. While it isn’t set to catch a wide audience, the production costs of filming a single wooded location with horror-style effects is probably minuscule. So not a hard target to hit, and judging from the website, they’ve spared some expense.

The second item is a little harder to say. From the trailer it appears this is a “rise above your mundane life to fight evil” kind of story, where LARPing represents the mundane life. So it’s a question of sincerity. Do they choose to play it ironically and make fun of the setting they release their monster in? And what do our protagonists take away from the experience? Does the movie end with survivors embracing their geeky hobbies or do they put away childish things?

Actually, Supernatural had an episode about LARPing just the other week that demonstrates what I’m talking about. It was pretty good and while fun was made at geek expense, the message wasn’t that nerdy endeavors are the refuge of the socially unclean. Quite the contrary. The main characters finished the episode by joining in and LARPing fun was had all around.

I recall Role Models showing LARPing in a positive light as well, though the movie wasn’t about it.

But that’s the good. And Supernatural always had a connection with its geek fan base that just isn’t intuitive with CW programming. There are negatives too.

io9 has compiled a pretty extensive list of all the times television stereotypes the “geek loner” into a social problem.

One tried and true trope that these shows inevitably turn to is the “nerd episode,” where the straight-laced cops/doctors/whatever enter the bizarre and terrifying world of gamers, role-players, cosplayers… and even furries. These are usually poorly researched and almost always make nerds look like morons, lunatics and/or sociopaths. Here are just a few episodes of these super-popular, mainstream network TV shows that did nerds no good at all.

 I’m right there with them. Some of these episodes are embarrassing.

So maybe what we are seeing now is the civil rights movement of geek entertainment… if the stakes were far lower and no one had to get beaten or arrested. There are folks out there that see things like LARPing as just another game people play. And then there are people who see it as a gateway drug to practicing witchcraft or not getting dates or something.

No idea what's happening here, but a dwarf has never looked more awesome. Even Gimli.

No idea what’s happening here, but a dwarf has never looked more awesome. Even Gimli.

That said, the trailer for Knights Of Badassdom keeps making me think of Cabin In The Woods and Kickass for some reason. The premise is clearly different, but I feel like it’s almost perfectly set to be a commentary on horror films and the way we look at entertainment. Or it could go a completely different direction.

Whatever way it goes, it looks like it’s made with geek stock in mind. Setting aside Dinklage, True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten, Community‘s Danny Pudi, Firefly‘s Summer Glau and at least one of the McPoyls from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia are present. Making this cult-friendly fare by my estimation.

But that’s probably the best we’ll get. And this is all speculative, as the film has already been pushed back from its 2012 release date. With no date currently given, I think the best we’ll get is a marginally profitable cult-classic that shares some space on the shelf next to Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. That’s ok though. These things take time.

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Gen Con Planning Tips

I love Gen Con so much. And I think a lot of readers of this site might enjoy it too, so I thought I’d give you a few tips for maximizing your convention experience. If you are bad at planning, or just have no idea where to start, I’m here to help.

1. Register Early

Gen Con’s badge registration generally starts in January. THIS IS THE TIME TO GET BADGES. Not only will you save money with early registration, you won’t have to stand in the MASSIVE line to buy your badge at Gen Con.

Early registration also applies to event tickets. Event tickets generally go on sale a few months before the convention starts, and if you want to do awesome things like True Dungeon, Artemis, or play in all your required Pathfinder Society scenarios, you NEED to buy those event tickets early. Gen Con is rapidly expanding, and that means more people are coming and selling out events. A week after registration is often too late if you want to do one of the really popular Gen Con attractions.

2. Contact Info

Bring business cards with your contact info. You are going to meet some great people who are going to rush away as soon as your game is over to get to their next game. Business cards with a phone/text number are an easy way to touch base with people later. Trust me, there’s rarely any time to chat with people after the game. Plan ahead.

We didn’t take business cards this year, and we immediately regretted it.

3. Indies

Indy game developers all over over the exhibit hall. PLAY THEIR GAMES! Maybe even take a chance and buy one of their games. A lot of these devs have to put their shyness to the side in order to sell themselves and their games; give them a shot and take a listen. They will really appreciate it.

This is how I found out about awesome games like Castle Panic, Bears!, and Quack in the Box.

4. Be Bold

No one ever got anywhere by being shy. Gen Con is pretty laid back, but the energy level is often very high, so there’s no time to be bashful. Do you want your favorite developer to sign a book? Ask.

You’ll find that game developers and celebrities are often just people like you, and many will even be flattered when you ask them to sign something that they put their heart and soul into.

This worked for us when I was talking to Joe Carriker, who was nice enough to demo A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying for us. He was the line producer and a heckuva nice guy. After John bought ALL the available books for the game, I asked Mr. Carriker if he would sign them, and he seemed a little big surprised that we would care enough to do so. Game creators make us happy. Why not try to make them happy to?

5. The Early Bird

Get to events a bit early, if at all possible. This will give you opportunities to chat with the people you’ll be playing games with. In our case, we got to chat a little bit with Tim Clonch, our Mutants and Masterminds GM, for a few minutes. Arriving early also allowed us to meet our fellow Artemis crew members for the session.

6. Don’t just attend game events

There is so much to do besides gaming at Gen Con: The Masquerade Ball, building larping weapons, making chain mail, seminars, speed dating, cosplay, zombie hunts, a film festival, music acts… the list goes ever, ever on. If I wouldn’t have stopped to listen to some of the musicians, I never would have heard a bunch of Klingons singing the Ewok song from the end of Return of the Jedi.

7. Get more people.

John and I decided that two just isn’t cutting it anymore. If you are one of our friends and are nominally interested in gaming, expect a call, text, Facebook message or email because we want to roll up to the Con in style with a bigger entourage. Seriously, if you are reading this, whether you know us or not, you need to get to Gen Con. It touts itself as “The Best Four Days in Gaming,” and it’s true. You WILL have a good time.

These tips should help you have an even more awesome time at Gen Con. For next year, The Cool Ship is considering hosting some events (we have some awesome ideas). If you’d like to roll with us at the con, let us know in the comments.

 

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