Written by Louie (Deuce) Gibson
To introduce myself, I am Louie Gibson, and I am a nerd. I am primarily a digital nerd, From the consoles of our childhood, and through their evolution, as well as PC games. I have only ever been on the periphery of the ‘analog’ scene. I played some Magic the Gathering and my board game experience is almost totally chess. I have been aware of the analog scene just never quite got to deep into it. But I always understood and respected it. So here in my adulthood (32) I have attended my first Gencon, And I must say it is quite an experience. As a nerd, digital or analog, you cannot help but recognize the amazing strength and vitality of this genre. Truly a testament to ‘Nerd Games’ and if you pay attention also overwhelming proof that This analog realm is far more vast and in many ways far more advanced than our digital equivalent. Being a gamer, I had always thought of digital games as the future, Who wants to do math, take measurements, and read cards all day? But as I went on throughout the day, and absorbed what was around me, I was inspired. I spent the rest of that night, and the next day thinking about the evolution of these games that we so love. I began to see so many parallels, and soon common sense and logic caught up to me. All these games I had been playing my whole life were based on the previous games of this analog medium, and those in turn were inspired by even earlier games, and lore. It is an entire nerd bloodline that goes back who knows how far. Where the wizards and witches of old just early nerds roleplaying? In this article I hope to show the connections between Digital and Analog. I hope to show that not only have we all been playing the same games in different mediums, but deeper still, that we are all the same nerds. We are all human, and the lust for a good game burns in all of us, nerd or not.
Whether your playing D&D, or one of countless MMO’s chances are you’d like to find a tasty weapon, +1, favorable magic properties for your class. If it’s a small glass bead sitting on a magic card, or a small icon next to your character portrait, it’s a buff, you can probably get multiple, and it will only last a turn, or a predetermined number of seconds. Or maybe you enchanted a creature to add to its power, or a barbarian let out a war cry that gave you enough armor to kill that champion. Sound familiar? Have you wondered why we roll digital dice in WoW to decide things? These are some common mechanics, they are used in analog games as well as digital games, and that is because every game you have ever played was inspired by a game that the creators used to play when they were younger. If you’re any kind of gamer, or you even owned a console, chances are you have sat through countless battles in Final Fantasy, Quest, or any of the endless RPG’s out there. Sitting through turn after turn of combat. Ever wonder why a computer game took turns? Not for the computers sake, it does make it a bit easier for the programmers, so monsters just react and don’t have to make decisions, but it is deeper than that. It is because the programmers used to take turns in games, to roll dice, measure things, read cards and lore, discuss exactly how the mechanic of this spell worked. These RPG’s are not as vast or complex as the games that inspired them, but still based on the same principles, fantasies, and mechanics. Humans have been playing games as long as we have been human. From sports that were developed from hunting and fighting instincts, to our games that were born from fantasy and imagination. We all want some similar things from out games. We want to be heroic, to pull off that clutch play in a big game, or to be the first to get a badass sword from some stupidly hard boss. We play to WIN. We play to be better than our competition, indeed we play to surpass our competition just to find better opponents. I spent many months lvling my barb on D2 LoD, gathering up the runes and items for him, searching endless trade games to find a perfect eth BOTD berserker ax, countless baal runs, just for a 45 second fight with the biggest nastiest barb I could find….just for bragging rights. You don’t have to be a jock, or aggressive to love competition. From gentlemen to ruffians, we love to compete. And the aspect that I believe compels us nerds more so than others is problem solving. We love to sit and wonder, to search for chinks in our opponents armor, sit lost in thought over a new strategy, or how to deal with a tactic that seems to beat us every time. Almost by definition we nerds are thinkers. From the inspiration that causes you to rip up a chaos orb and sprinkle it like death sugar on your opponents cards, or putting some sentries in a warp prism and locking you opponent out of their own base in a vicious turn maneuver. Unique problems force us into unique solutions, and that cycle puts a smile on any nerds face. I hope that these analogies, and references are ringing true with you. That if you haven’t already seen it you now recognize the similarities and common factors in our games. I say OUR games, because they are all extensions of this long line of fantasy based games. They are all nerd games. And they are all evolving. Mechanics become smoother, genres bleed together, evolution is not just for the living. (yes even you zombies can evolve!!) Analog is converted to digital, in turn it reaches someone who never would have seen it before, and draws them into the analog. Our fearless leader Mugumbo began playing MTG online, and when he got to Gencon he started shopping to build a physical deck. My 2v2 partner in SC2 (and fellow gamer from so many other games) just started an army in Warmachine. The principles are similar to the RTS’s that we love. What’s the difference in using prescribed amount of points to build your force in warmachine, and using a certain amount of ‘money’ to build your force for a battle in total war. Medium. It’s all about the medium we play in.
Medium, DnD is the most Epic, successful, in-depth RPG ever. it’s medium? a table top. Well one day a nerd put a computer on his table top and asked ‘why can’t I still play out my fantasies on here?’ Enter the MUD. *You enter the MUD, there are 4 walls and a door* Open that door and what do you win? An RPG with a hero you can SEE….’Whoa, Did I just watch my paladin chop that dude with a sword?’ ‘I need to get my friends involved in this.’ And What have we here, an MMO? You see where this is going? Muds were simple, but based on this incredibly detailed and vast world of their analog predecessors. It’s easy to just start out on digital games and think ‘We have come a long way. ’ but that is not the truth, digital games are just catching up to Magic the Gathering and DnD and countless other table tops, and card games all the vast amounts of rules, lore and structure. Like I’ve said before, we have all been playing the ‘same’ game, we are just using it in different ways, exploring different mediums. From the thinking of Hey, what if we made figurines of our heroes, and incorporate them into our game, to using text-based adventures to play out a game on your computer. It just comes down to the medium you play in. Gencon is a testament to the longevity of analog gaming, and trust me, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But now we are cramming more and more of this fantasy world into our computers. MMO’s and RPG’s are becoming just as in-depth as many self-respecting analog games. And the graphics are quite amazing. From MUD’s to 8, 16, 32, …ect bit games to this insane beast of a desktop I’m sitting at right now, its evolution, the game evolves, it spreads to new medium, and helps evolve not only the medium, but itself. No doubt some of the baby nerds I have seen at gencon will play these games on some holographic display, or via Augmented Reality. Explorers moved from foot to horse, to ship, and now we have a mobile chemical lab on Mars, poking at Mt Sharp, asking her the secrets of our red sister. It is in human nature to advance, to find new ways, to…….well You’ve seen the intro to Star Trek.
We are Nerds, always have been always will be. This all started so long ago no one can remember its genesis. An early human, exploring the new medium of a brain that can imagine. He sees shapes moving in the night, ‘What if it’s some monster I’ve never encountered before?’ ‘Can it bite?’ ‘Can it breath that glowing heat that shelters me at night?’ ‘What if my spear could pierce anything?’ ‘What if I made clothes from its hide, would I have its powers?’ Again I ask, were wizards of old just nerds roleplaying? I could write twice as much as I have written here in speculation of the root of fantasy gaming, my point is that is has its roots and there is no denying that they run deep into our psyche. I’m sure that if any of this made sense, it also exposed my ignorance to many aspects of nerdery. I know as much as we love games we love to be accurate, so I apologize for all inaccurate assumptions I may have made. This article was in no way a history of the evolution of gaming, nor was it meant to be an in-depth accurate appraisal of the world of ‘nerd games’ It was just my observation of the connections between these two worlds of analog and digital and hopefully to help bridge the gap between analog and digital. Even as our world contains so many gods and deities, game is not a religion and I see no reason why analog and digital gamers should feel separated as if we were Catholics and prodistants….the rules of their ‘game’ escape me. So even if you’re a diehard console FPS player, if you see some kids sitting in a circle throwing down some magic cards, know that they are brethren. If you’re a gamer and you have ever called someone a nerd as a derogatory term, shame on you. If you don’t like the game someone plays remember that you have no basis to critique them….you don’t understand their game anyways. This is our life, we love to play, we love to think, and we should all love to share. From playing with He-Man action figures with rules made up on the spot, to the strict, calculated, complex play we love today remember, in the end, it’s all a game. Hope you enjoyed this, my first article on GenXNerd. Please leave me feedback, and no matter what game it is your going to play next Good Luck, and Have Fun