Little bits of polyhedral plastic rule my world. Ok, maybe that is a bit hyperbolic but only a bit. I am a gamer, a rare breed indeed…a gamer girl in the world of table top role playing games of Dungeons and Dragons, Savage Worlds, Champions and the like. Trying to explain what we do is nearly impossible to those who don’t get it. I’ve received blank stares, asked if we sacrifice goats, been made fun of, and sometimes met with true curiosity when trying to help people understand. It has gotten easier over the years, or maybe I have made it so. But to those of us who game, it is a big part of us, that common thread of the creative. We aren’t scary, we aren’t sacrificing live animals at a table. We play pretend and live in worlds of make believe, usually on weekends. We are a Nerd Herd, we are a weird bunch indeed.
For over 20 years, almost every weekend I have been sitting at a table with a coffee stained character sheet and dice in hand. I’ve popped the heads off of vampires and zombies with a crack of a whip, saved monuments from destruction as the villain flies away to fight another day, and died a thousand deaths. I have slayed dragons, crawled through dungeons, resurrected friends, severed the head of the Queen and held hands with benevolent Gods. The worlds I have inhabited are now a part of me. The characters I’ve played have developed, enhanced or embodied a piece of my very own personality…truly part of the draw of the games. You can be anything, even if you could never dream it in the real world. An angry fighter, a frustrated pacifist, a seductress or a lethal monk, a loyal sidekick or the sweet but highly distracted thief. A hero. The ability to play any character, has given me the ability to embrace every little part of me…and know when or if I need to borrow a trait. Yep, I am a huge nerd. Now proud.
The Nerd Herd in many, many ways is collective hive of creative underdogs and educated misfits. Most of us are pretty damn smart, socially awkward overgrown kids who embrace dry, dark and dirty senses of humor. More importantly, we all have a desire for community in a world where we don’t always feel like we fit in. But the herd is stronger together and we know it. We quote movies and argue about super heroes and fight scenes in a language only we truly understand. Typically we will burst into song at some point too, it happens. Our dice explode, we roll crits, we botch things, level up, argue spell components, make saves and occasionally die too. We play. We laugh. We imagine. We eat more. But that’s just it, the nerd herd is real. A community unlike any other I know. As part of the herd, we are able to come out of our shells, finally, and escape from our daily grinds while sitting at a table full of dice and Doritos. A junk food filled thing of beauty.
Being a gamer girl has opened my eyes too. I am again, proudly part of a community that happens to be predominantly male. I’ve never been made to feel like anything other than a player at a game…once the surprise wears off. I’m sure I could find actual data, but I won’t. I can say that I have usually been the only girl at the table. I never really thought much of it until someone asked me what it was like to be a gamer girl. I always thought of myself as a gamer, the girl part never occurred to me. Then again, that crap doesn’t usually cross my mind, I find so many other things to worry about. What I can say in response to being the girl in the group of guys is that it has in a strange way given me thicker skin, insight into another group of people and a much dirtier sense of humor. That’s never a bad thing. Besides, it fits my tomboy nature quite nicely.
I have finally fully embraced the herd, but it took me a while to recognize that I was actually a part of it. I took for granted that there was a whole world of people like me out there, that we gather in large groups and that I could be a part of it. Yep, we have Nerd Herd conventions where we all come together to get our game on. A even broader group of the herd all in one place at one time reppin our fandom with T-shirts, maybe a costume, playing games the non-herd has never even heard of with junk food in tow to share at a table. Community. A long long time ago I was afraid to play at a Nerd Herd convention. Yet again, I listened to the Bitch talk me out of trying something new. I was afraid that I would play wrong, that I didn’t know all of the rules, that I wasn’t a resident expert. I was afraid I would have wrong fun. That Bitch can be brutal, even interfering with my love of a game. But I knew the herd, and I hoped that there would be others like me, in all our awkwardness and anxieties. I channeled the courage of my characters I had loved for years who are never afraid, I borrowed their bravery, I played. I came out of my shell, a tiny little bit.
The herd embraced me completely, really. It was then that I realized a wee little truth, we are all crazy insecure little kids at times, and when you finally let that shit go and let your freak flag fly, you can find some of your people. I know I have.
The Nerd Herd is weird and wondrous and I wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, we weirdos need to stick together in this world… and all of the others too.
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