The opening ceremony of BlizzCon 2010 was a virtual call-to-arms for geeks everywhere, united under a single battlecry shouted and re-shouted from the mainstage: "Geek is…" And after each excited repetition, an image would appear on the ever-present, looming screens. Some small bit of nerdy nostalgia reminding us all where we've been and why we're here now, gathered under one sprawling roof to celebrate some deeply held aspect of ourselves. I connected with almost all of those pictures -- Thundercats, Star Wars, action figures, toys -- but the small handful of images that failed to stir my spirits were the ones that seemed somehow most important to the crowd around me.
I could identify, but feel nothing for, a screenshot from Everquest. I had held, but never played with, a pair of multi-sided dice. Announcements about Diablo's latest class; hints of things to come for StarCraft; mere mentions of WarCraft: Cataclysm, these things summoned a resounding, room shaking response from the thousands of gamers that had swarmed into the auditorium, making me only a very small droplet in a very large sea. And for the first time in a long while, this non-RTS, non-MMO, non-top-down gamer felt some sense of loss at the genres he'd never explored, suddenly aware of the online, digital roads not taken.
My PC gaming experience ended with the death of the classic Sierra adventure games, a genre over whose metaphorical, rain-swept grave I would gladly salute proudly each year. After King's Quest; Space Quest and Hero's Quest, Gabriel Knight, Sam & Max, Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle, purchasing the next best graphics card and continually updating my RAM for the sake of some second-rate shooter simply didn't make sense. It wasn't economical. I just didn't get it. I looked at my friends with their ultra-modern rigs, housed in translucent, fluorescent-lit, sci-fi cases, and it seemed somehow like a waste. So I traded up for console gaming, embraced the new generation of RPGs to substitute for my love of puzzle-solving and story-telling. And somewhere, somehow, the world of Blizzard passed me by.
From the outside looking in, it's easy to be snobby about it. Even geeks can be cultural elitists, fueling console wars and hiding their secret tech envy. And if I held, in all truthfulness, some stupid misconception, it was that MMOs were a place where passive people retreated from active life; or that RTS games were pointless exercises in strategy; or that Diablo consisted entirely of clicking the left mouse button over, and over, and over again. It wasn't that I truly believed these things, you see, so much as I was looking for excuses to justify my inattentiveness.
And now as my time at BlizzCon comes to an end, I've played Diablo 3; I've watched a live raid in WarCraft; I've been schooled on the leagues and ladders of StarCraft 2.
I had hoped that I would come here and discover what so many of my friends and colleagues have told me I'd been missing for years…And in truth? I haven't. I'm no more inclined today to pick up a copy of StarCraft or brave the lower levels of WarCraft than I was when the week first began. They're simply not my thing. But what I have discovered -- which is perhaps, in some sense, more important -- is a deep and abiding respect for the fans around me, and a better understanding of their emotional connection to these titles they so adore.
I've attended countless Comic-Cons and equal E3s, and while I always feel a kinship with my fellow geeks, it's a very non-specific nerdiness. A collection of people with varying passions which connect as often as they clash. But at BlizzCon, there's nobody here, except maybe for me, who isn't in some sense bound by their love of a single, uniting thing. It's an impressive sight to walk the floor and see complete strangers recounting their successes and opining their defeats; and even moreso when the license plates on their cars in the parking lot read Nevada, Michigan, Florida, Massachusetts. Or when the departure line of their plane tickets reveal England, Germany, Korea, South Africa.
It's my hope that if we do anything in this world, we do so in the pursuit of either love or art, and in my short time here at BlizzCon, there's a real sense of both. A palpable energy of discovery and devotion, curiosity and creation. Make no mistake, the convention floor looks like the punchline of so many jokes -- stereotypical "geeks" that are utterly awkward and occasionally gorgeous; housewives and tweenage girls; sons perched high on their fathers' shoulders -- sharing a common passion, discussing and consuming the nuance of a virtual world. And I can say this, absent judgement and with an excess of love, because these are my people.
I may never meet you on the hills of Azeroth. And you may never find me amassing an army on the servers of StarCraft. But at the center of our common geek experience, I'm there somewhere. As I write this final sentence here in the BlizzCon press room, the monitors in front of me are filling the room with sound, with names and terminology that I'll never understand, and yet, somehow, it's a language that I speak.
Because geek is...us. And together, we are geek.