Last year, not too far off from this time, I wrote to you about my experiences at Camp Nerdly (see 5/7/07 & 5/8/07), the weekend excursion for people who enjoy role-playing and story-telling games. It is true to its name, and is a brilliant excuse for people who are "old enough to know better" to go out into the woods and play pretend. I was hesitant to attend last year. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but it took Expatriate Dave keeping an eagle's eye on my ever-changing schedule to get me suddenly signed up and ready to go. I was all, "I'm going to Italy then; I can't," and he was all, "Are you still?" and I was all, "Well, no, not then, but--" and he was all, "Hey, you're signed up and paid and do you need me to bring camping gear?" I couldn't help a sense of dread. I stopped playing that sort of game in my later teen years because I found it started inhibiting -- instead of hosting -- my social life. And now I act for a living (well, for certain periods of said living) and why would I do that, in effect, without pay? I couldn't conceive of feeling comfortable, much less having fun, at the event. Nevertheless, I attended, because time with Dave is invariably well-spent, and because at that moment I needed a little quiet time to myself with some trees. Boredom be durned.
Boredom be durned indeed. I ended up having an incredible time. It was like a renaissance of creative wells I had plum (get it?) forgotten about over the years. Hence my return this year. Well, that, and the fact that Childhood Friends Davey and Mark are going to nerd-out there, too.
Last week I found myself in conversation with Friends Adam and Geoff at Rodeo Bar, when I brought up my return to Nerdly. Adam naturally resorted to our glib repartee vis-a-vis (all this, and not a day of French class) "rolling 20s" and "+1 to attack," but Geoff, being of a somewhat less nerdly sort (he watches [and understands] organized sports) did his best not to mock me. Which I congratulate him on: A for effort. Instead, he tried to understand why in God's name I would ever spend time and money on such a pursuit. Having to explain myself in terms a fellow actor could understand proved to be an interesting challenge. I'm not sure how successful I was, though Geoff seemed satisfied enough to not follow up with D&D jokes.
Why? Why why why? Well, to begin with, let me dispel a few misconceptions. Camp Nerdly is primarily adults, so I'm not going in relishing the idea of appearing as a God (or, as a rather pathetic 30-year-old) to a bunch of pubescent SciFi/Fantasy types. Nerdlians have jobs and lives, generally speaking. They do this for fun or, in many cases, it is their job. They get paid to work on games. Also, Nerdly is not a huge LARP (Live-Action Role Playing [the ones you fear, who costume themselves and have sword fights in public areas]) festival. I've got nothing against that kind of gaming per se, but if it was the dominant form at Nerdly I probably wouldn't be interested. Finally, when you read "role-playing games," you have to think past bedroom secrets and children getting overly excited over rolling dice. Think, as well, of story-telling.
I get naturally high (booze and drugs are banned) off of attending Camp Nerdly, because it's three straight days of creating unpredictable stories with very intelligent and creative people. When I was all done last year, I rode a wave of creativity for weeks. Creativity is like one's physical muscles, in that the more one works with it, the stronger and more adept it becomes. And, similar to physical training, adding elements of competition and/or teamwork (gaming & collaboration [which, together, you might as well term "improvisation"]) heightens and specifies the exercise. Camp Nerdly allows me to bounce off game designers, writers and even some fellow performers, who all compel me to stretch and strengthen my imagination. Plus, I dig fantasy, man. Everyone does, in their own way. I'm just a little less limited in my appreciation than some ... and way more limited than others, most notably many of the attendees and game-hosters at Camp Nerdly.
So I'm looking forward to it. Now all I have to do is not get acting work that conflicts. My friends might kill me. It can be hard to help people understand how having a freelance career means it trumps almost all other plans. It's all just a roll of the dice.