I originally had this post wrapped up with the CraigCon 6 post, but I decided to break it out in its own separate space. I didn't want it to get mixed up with the great fun that was had there.
While hanging around outside discussing a game with some of the folks at CraigCon this year, some people drove by and actually screamed "NERDS!!!" out their window at us.
Now, being almost 29 at this point, I figured it wouldn't bother me.
But I saw some of the folks, old and young alike, clearly wince a bit. Obviously they laughed it off with some remarks, but you could kind of tell that it still stung to hear the word, to be called a name for no reason by somebody you didn't know.
It would actually happen a few more times during the weekend, including one tirade that was checkered with plenty of profanity.
I continued to maintain it didn't bother me until I started writing this.
One of the things that makes tabletop gaming fun for me is the idea of crafting stories, keeping your imagination in shape. When you're a kid it's very easy and natural to use your imagination, but as you grow older it really takes some work. I like tabletop games because the rules exist to help put you in that space mentally, the same sort of space you need to be in for any creative endeavor.
However using your imagination to "play" starts to go out of style at a certain age. Playing real sports starts to take the place of playing Cops and Robbers. Hanging out at the mall (or whatever it is kids do) takes the place of getting together and pretending to slay dragons.
The moment you step onto a basketball court and don't say "I'm [insert favorite player]" is the moment you have irrevocably grown up, gone to a different headspace. And once that happens it can be hard to get back, to go from serious to play, from malls to spaceships, from offices to castles.
Somewhere along the line the pursuit of dragons changes you from just another kid to a "nerd". And when you're a kid it can really hurt to get made fun of for something you enjoy, because it's difficult to understand why it's happening.
Now of course we're older and wiser. Those old barbs don't hurt like they used to, don't open up fresh wounds.
But sometimes they can remind us of the old ones.
So let me conclude by saying this: I'm Michael Jordan.
Update: Almost uncanny in its timing, but Penny Arcade has a story today about entering a Pokemon tournament after intense preparation... and finding a bunch of little kids who just like to play. It's the post called Pokemon, second one down, and I encourage you to read it.