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!Free Book ♗ Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks ♷ An Amazing Journey Through The Thriving Worlds Of Fantasy And Gaming In This Enthralling Blend Of Travelogue, Pop Culture Analysis, And Memoir, Forty Year Old Former Dungeons Dragons Addict Ethan Gilsdorf Embarks On A Quest That Begins In His Own Geeky Teenage Past And Ends In Our Online Gaming Future He Asks, Who Are These Gamers And Fantasy Fans What Explains The Irresistible Appeal Of Such Escapist Adventures And What Could One Man Find If He Embarked On A Journey Through One Fantasy World After Another In Fantasy Freaks And Gaming Geeks, Gilsdorf Crisscrosses America, The World, And Other Worlds From Boston To Wisconsin, France To New Zealand, And Planet Earth To Middle Earth To The Realm Of Aggramar He Asks DD Players, LARPers, Medieval Re Eanctors, World Of Warcraft Players, Harry Potter Fans And Convention Goers Old, Young, Male, Female, Able Bodied And Disabled What Attracts Them To Fantasy Worlds, And For What Reasons What He Discovers Is Funny, Poignant, And Enlightening
I wanted to like this book What could be better than a former geek returning to the fold Unfortunately, a few things quickly became apparent to me First, as a geek, I am not the target audience Second, Gilsdorf is projecting and occasionally states that he is better than any of the geeks present I don t mean better at being a geek Just better Stemming out of the second is my final revelation Gilsdorf is very negative about the geek community as a whole for 95% of the book Let s look at these individually I realized I was not the target audience for this when, in the first chapter, there was a pronunciation note for d20 How did he think I was going to say it, duh two zero That was quickly followed by an explanation of what a convention is, who Weird Al is, and that the LotR movies are based on books By chapter three, I knew this wasn t written for me But who was it written for That I m still not sure on If a book on geek culture isn t for geeks, presumably it s an evangelistic piece to get people interested, right That would make sense if it weren t for Gilsdorf s dismissive language about geek culture He calls Tolkien the original nerd which is highly disputable and then says his chosen profession of philologist is mundane , which I felt to be insulting not only to Tolkien but to anyone who enjoys philology Why would you include such a prescriptive descriptor of an entire field of study The author constantly distances himself from his subject matter as if to say Look at these crazy people Aren t you glad you aren t one of them It was infuriating.At the beginning of the book, Gilsdorf says that he played DD, quoted Monty Python and was generally a geek until he was a senior in high school and got a girlfriend Then he pretty well stopped being a geek, became cool, and didn t really look back until he was nearly 40 Now he s going to examine geek culture as an adult to see how it has changed and possibly gain some perspective on his childhood All well and good The problem is that Gilsdorf repeated states his own self loathing and then projects it on the people he meets The only possible reason that he can imagine to enjoy fantasy is escapism In fact, he is surprised when geeks are well adjusted people This continuously irked me He is a journalist isn t there supposed to be some level of objectivity in writing He admits that he doesn t participate wholeheartedly in things saying that it s just too nerdy for me Then he proceeds to subtly mock those who do, wondering what they re running from in their real lives It never seems to enter his head that perhaps we aren t running from anything There are a few moments when he breaks away from this He mentions how the geek community is welcoming to the LBGT community than many others, how games can aid people with disabilities, and how role playing can teach you about courage, chivalry, and honor Every time he would do this, I would desperately hope it signaled the turning point in his attitude After all, this was a semi memoir They often have changes of heart I had to wait until the afterward That is the only place in the whole book where he is positive about the geek community without apology I don t often hate books but for this one, I make an exception Don t bother reading this book Read Geektastic Watch The Guild Talk to geeks Play a game Read a fantasy novel Pretty much any introduction to geek culture is better than this one. I m wondering if I came to this book with the wrong expectations my first instinct is to write a pithy snarky blurb along the lines of Watch THE GUILD, read some classic KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE and you ll get enjoyment than you would reading this book Why the negative reaction to what is, admittedly, a well written series of glimpses into some seldom seen corners of the fantasy gaming universe The author encounters some interesting people and does a good job of talking about their lives without appearing to condescend or worship their involvement or over involvement I thnk the combination of his quest loosely defined as should I claim my enjoyment of things geeky, which I have mistakenly defined as a Peter Pan ish existence of never really taking adult responsibility with these portraits of the fantasy community feel like two different books jammed together and not always successfully What he writes about LARPing, the DragonCon costume parade, Tolkien fanatics, DD with some of the original players, going to New Zealand for Middle Earth tourism, WoW, etc is mixed with a kind of whiny mid life can I commit to my girlfriend do I even want to thread that grates on my nerves.How he got into DD his mother s illness is heartwrenching I feel callous complaining about the personal nature of the book based on the early chapters Yet by the time it was finished, I was tired of him but not tired of the subject. I didn t realize when I picked up this book that it would be, like Julie and Julia or The Year of Living Biblically, one of those I gave myself a quest and wrote about it so that I could get a book published books In Gilsdorf s case, his quest is a mid life crisis fueled desire to find out if it s possible to go back to his geeky roots without being a geek Or something like that Unfortunately, although his story of growing up with a disabled mother could be very powerful if followed to its conclusion, a he never does, probably because b if he did, he would have no room in the book for its ostensible purpose, an analysis of modern geek culture.Although the book says it s about fantasy and gaming in general, Gilsdorf s beat is the fake medieval, whether it s Dungeons and Dragons, Middle Earth, or the Society for Creative Anachronism You won t find discussions of Star Trek or Halo here The mostly self contained chapters explore different manifestations, with one devoted to a particular live action role play, another to the SCA, and another to Gilsdorf s Lord of the Rings tour of New Zealand I found some new possibilities for geeking out myself, but I could definitely have done without Gilsdorf s fear, expressed in every chapter, that the people involved in these pastimes are probably not normal, or at least total losers, and therefore he can t get too involved It s painful to picture him sitting silently by while a bunch of people at a LARP or an SCA event are having a great time, when you know that he would have fun too if he would just stop worrying about his coolness quotient. I started reading this book with all the enthusiasm of a little kid on a shopping spree in a candy store Literally I devoured the first several chapters, and it accompanied me everywhere to class, to the meeting of the Role Players Guild of which I m president , to the ER when the stomach flu hit me with all of the fury of Deathwing.Then there was a point where it lost me, long before I actually gave up halfway through the chapter about World of Warcraft As Gilsdorf s experiences with geekdom intensify and quantify, his recollections of them become less personal, and like a report or a magazine article There was plenty of magic in the first chapter, with him talking about his mother and how DD got him through high school but by the time I gave up on his journey, he was still trying to convince his readers and himself, apparently 2 3 into the book, that being a geek is okay Gilsdorf either did not have the foresight or the understanding that his audience would be comprised mostly of people who were already aware of that fact There is no stigma on it the way there was when he was a child, but he can t seem to let go of that, and his storytelling suffers for it. A subjective history of roleplaying18 November 2009 Being a committed roleplayer when I saw this book on sale at a bankrupt Borders Books I purchased it and put it near the top of my reading list I was a little disappointed though because even though it is a study of fantasy and gaming culture, it was quite subjective for my tastes and there was a lot comment about the author s life, and to be quite honest, the author seemed to be a little stuck up himself While he is correct that in the 70 s and 80 s, when roleplaying began to take off, it was a hobby played mostly by marginalised people, and that in the thirty years since it has moved into the mainstream, there are a number of suppositions that I simply do not agree with It is clear that the author is not a Christian, and seems to consider Christians to be caught up in a fantasy world, though throughout the book the author seems to be struggling with his own fantasy world, and seems to attempt to escape it and at other times seems to embrace it However, a lot of the aspects of roleplaying that he describes very much apply to the church While roleplaying may now be mainstream, there still seems to be a hesitance among Christians to actually engage in the activity I know that I have that hesitance at times However, it isn t exactly the only society that lives in a marginalised world People who adhear to a particular religious philosophy and drug users also fall into that category The difference is that people tend not to be incarcerated, or even killed, for roleplaying They never have and it is highly unlikely that they ever will There is also his supposition that fantasy roleplayers have a yearning for an idealistic past, though being a student of history I can say that there is no idealistic past While some believe there was a time when there were monsters and to an ancient Roman, an elephant was pretty scary, as was a lion , and that there were practitioners of magic, these things were never all that rosy He also seems to describe science fiction as being depressing, and while some sci fi games like Shadowrun and Cyberpunk are very dark, we also have Star Trek and Star Wars Whereas fantasy roleplayers have a yearning for the past, there is also a desire to see an idealised future where all of our problems have been solved As for me, I roleplay because it s fun I mostly DM because I simply have never found the same enjoyment in playing When I last played as of this writing we spent time playing, and we spent time talking about nothing in particular My group for want of a better definition, at best we had 5 people, but in a lot of cases there are only three of us doesn t take the game all that seriously and we simply get together as a social event As for his descriptions of the events and how everybody is welcomed and feels a part of something, I must say that that is idealistic at best I have LARPed, and the LARP that I played in was full of snobs My biggest issue with roleplaying is that there are people, normally called power gamers, who use the game to make themselves feel good about themselves, and when something bad happens they throw a tantrum As for LARPs, that was an exercise in losers throwing their weight around a bunch of losers Nine years after I stopped LARPing I see some of the bigwigs in the LARP working as delivery boys While there is nothing wrong with being a delivery boy, these guys have university degrees, and it is not as if it is a job one does between jobs, this job seems to be their career Such is irony. This book is full of self loathing and a total lack of respect for or perspective on Geek culture.If you re not a geek, you can read this and be confused by the nerd references and or laugh at geeks Har harstupid geeks with their dice and their unicorns and their celibacy.If you ARE a geek like me Huzzah , I think you ll just feel like you re being mocked by someone who used to be a part of the tribe and now is too busy blaming Geek culture for his own lack of social graces This book made me roll my eyes so hard I gave myself a migraine I do not recommend this book To anyone. I m beginning to think that the search for the Arkenstone of geek culture is less like a search for the One True Grail and like panning for gold Not in one of those rich, heavily flowing streams either, but in a rather narrow, shifty little trickle of a stream, which simultaneously depresses your optimism yet makes you airpunch when a goodly sized bit of gold dust sifts out in your pan.It s a little odd that it s taken me this long to get to Gilsdorf s book If you throw geek culture into a book search, this title comes up often than perhaps any other It s something of an Ur text in the sub genre of geek culture studies, preceding the recent interest in nerdy navel gazing which has given us both highs and lows As such, it has the usual virtues and faults of a first book in genre it s got some overly broad statements, but bears a simple sincerity which makes it quite readable.The primary problem with Gilsdorf s book is that it s not, in the end, really about geek culture at all It s about Ethan Gilsdorf He s fairly self indulgent as a writer, spending as much time or fretting over his own identity as he does the functions and fallacies of geekitude as a whole He tries a sociological take, mixing interviews with major figures and meccas in the field comicon, Dave Arneson, Tolkien s England and Jackson s New Zealand, SCA s Pennsic war with his own fumbling attempts to go native But such an approach misses THE signature element of geekery it s deeply, deeply immersive It s about sincere, even unhealthy, obsessive love for some abstruse topic The escapism is commonplace, yes, but it s almost a side effect to the strange desires of geekery to know a thing down to its depths There s a marketing concept sometimes called Realia It s real world representations of things from fictional universes Instead of selling people a Harry Potter t shirt saying I love that book series, you sell them a Gryffindor team scarf and their own wand, so they can imagine being part of that world entirely True geekery takes that concept and punches it so hard it comes out in another dimension.There s no way to fake that No objective sociological approach can really represent it accurately Certainly Gilsdorf, who is mostly concerned, we discover, with finding a girlfriend, is not going to get much deep insight from his bargain basement Margaret Mead approach He s not hateful about it, like poor Mark Barrowcliffe, but he s not particularly effective either This is an enjoyable book, a sincere book, but not an earthshaker.Panning for gold takes patience Still hoping for that mother lode. Where should I begin At 4 or 5, finding that little door in my bedroom that I couldn t get open, and wondering what was behind it Picturing lakes, dragons, probably characters from Rainbow Brite and He Man, all hanging around together in a world of magic and peace At 9, too impatient to write actual stories, but drawing and coloring character after character, analyzing their personal attributes and naming each, and keeping them in a big binder I had enough in there to make a comic book universe of my own, although it would be a derivative and lame universe But, hey I was 9 Or maybe at 11, when I first played a roleplaying game Or 13, when I first designed one and blackmailed friends into playing It took me years to realize it pisses characters off when you kill them completely at random I started off a cruel and Old Testament sort of GM Playing Magic the Gathering for the first time at 12 My first attempt at a fantasy novel at 14 My first pseudo finished gaming system at 16 I don t know where to start, but I know what might be the most poignant moment at 23 or 24, after the roof of the cafeteria I worked at literally blew away in a tornado, and I was suddenly on unemployment, was still in school full time and couldn t find a job It was not a happy time, and a couple of my friends were going through similar situations Anyway, we were in the unemployment line, which took hours to get through And the whole time, we were talking animatedly about the RPG I was GMing at the time My friends were asking about aspects of the world, discussing their characters, remembering moments from earlier games it was a time in my life full of stress and uncertainty, and that game was my only complete escape from the rough reality I was living through I would qualify as both a fantasy freak and a gaming geek, and I m not exactly in the closet about it So, Gilsdorf was preaching to the choir with me but he wasn t doing anything as firm as preaching This book is less a thorough analysis of the gamer medieval geek mindset, and MORE an analysis of Gilsdorf and his struggle to move forward in his life That is, his struggle to decide if the form of escapism he was involved in was healthy or unhealthy In this search, he goes to conventions, games with gamers, interviews and plays with Warcraft players, attends reenactments, helps build a castle with only the tools of the middle ages, and gives at least a dozen handjobs to Tolkien Seriously Motherfucker goes to New Zealand so he can see the locations they filmed parts of the movie on, and in what was probably the uber geek moment of the entire book, sets up his LoTR toys in the same spot the actors had been for one of the scenes and then took some pictures Not that there s anything wrong with that.The book was quite entertaining, honestly, until the final couple chapters Then, I got a headache from all the eye rolling I was doing Why was I eye rolling I m glad you asked Each chapter tracks a certain geeky trend, and each chapter is interesting, other than they don t develop into a complex analysis of geekery, unless this counts Fantasizing like geeks do is fun, and it s not that much different from an obsession with professional sports or making model airplanes So, if you want some weak ass attempt to evade geek related guilt, this is the book for you Since I m pretty comfortable in my own geeky skin, I didn t find this insight to be very, um, insightful.Anyone who has taught an English course, and probably anyone who has taken one, has read one of those papers where the author wrote the whole thing and then realized it wasn t focused enough to write a conclusion that really wrapped things up Oftentimes, the author just farts out some bullshit that they think sounds passable and turns it in, hoping the teacher doesn t notice The teacher DOES notice, every time Apparently, the publisher didn t Then, he fails in what he seemed to be REALLY trying to do show his personal evolution through this GeekQuest Why does he fail in this Because he doesn t become comfortable with his geekdom, nor does he decide to become a muggle He well, he doesn t really decide ANYTHING The book just kind of whimpers out with a bunch of lame geek metaphors, and then dies and flops over on its back, twitching on your carpet I get the feeling a deadline came up faster than Gilsdorf expected it to, and instead of getting an extension, he shat some inanities onto the page and shipped it out That said, I realized after finishing the book that it ends with a glossary of geek terminology I was simultaneously proud and concerned that I hadn t needed to reference the glossary at any point before then, and that I knew every term except for one Hmm, perhaps I HAVEN T reached a totally guilt free state of geekiness. Okay, I ll admit it, I m a geek A total, Magic DD Pathfinder playing, Doctor Who Star Trek anime watching, fantasy scifi manga reading, geek I ve never been to a convention, but I go to the Renaissance Festival every year, and the bookcases in my den office are covered in dragon statues So nothing in this book was much of a surprise to me Except some woman at Dragon Con telling the author that Daleks are a Doctor Who Stargate crossover creation whaaaat And I think he believed her Honestly, for most of the book Ethan seemed just really uncomfortable He was somebody who is totally not comfortable in his own skin and just sort of stands around and gawks at people, somebody who doesn t want to do something he enjoys because of how other people might view him When he does participate, such as in LARPing, he seems to unconsciously limit himself like with the silly shirt he did a bad job on as his costume so that he can remain separate from the actual geeky stuff going on.Although Ethan is supposedly exploring various facets of geekdom DD, LARPing, SCA, WoW, etc , this book is of a look at his personal journey from a messed up child teenagerhood to his unfocused, disjointed single life as a forty something man who wants to reconnect with how he felt when he was playing DD with his friends Either book could be interesting on its own, but I thought this book was too unfocused to really be good reading Ethan would jump from a scholarly look at the history of roleplaying games to a personal recollection of how his girlfriend wouldn t let him play with his Lord of the Rings figures and back again.I think it s silly I don t think geeky stuff needs analyzing any differently than various other forms of entertainment or hobbies do I think if you enjoy something, you should do it, whether it is dressing up for Rocky Horror Picture Show nights or dressing up to run around in the woods and bonk people with foam swords Everybody has their own personal reasons for choosing their own hobbies and I don t think you can make blanket statements about the escapism that roleplaying affords because it doesn t work the same way for everybody.Even then, when he is trying to make blanket statements, Ethan is really wishy washy, and doesn t really come to a conclusion It made me wonder why he wrote a whole book on it if he wasn t going to actually conclude something about his journey This is not as geeky as it sounds In my town they still manage to imbue a certain white trash sensibility on even the Renaissance Festival It mixes well with the hemp and dreadlocks of the employees But not the bookcases in the hallway Those are currently covered in the small collection of bears reading books statues that I didn t even know I had till I unpacked a box from my childhood bedroom.