Once upon a time, gaming was about the games. Do you remember that time? I do. Hell, it wasn’t even that long ago. Mike is, after all, a Serious Gamer™. Games pervade our lives, and many of the things that other people might see as “somewhat weird” are pretty normal for us. Last-minute trips to Best Buy to pick up the latest release? Adding titles to the already-twelve-page-long list in our GameFly queue? Late-night drive-by Pokémon downloads from the nearest GameStop without actually going into the store and purchasing anything? We like to call that a “typical day” in the Ridgaway house.
Plus, I like games. I do. Not all of them, to be sure—but enough that I had really started to enjoy the “gamer” lifestyle. It was a good life. It was a happy life.
Then Mike started to make friends.
Now, I’m not saying that having friends is a bad thing, or even a particularly unusual one. Mike is a pretty social person; and he has friends in quite a few different circles. Of course, most of them are nerds and gamers in some respect or another…but that’s normal, right?
Actually, I think it was the nerd factor that threw me off in the beginning. It all began so innocuously. Mike started to toss a few new names into conversation. Person A had been hanging out with the Poképals. Person B was someone he had met at a party. Person C liked to go to the same concerts he did. No biggie.
Then the same names started coming up in conversation more often, and I began noticing odd connections between them. It turned out that Persons A and B worked at the same gaming development company; Persons B and C were in a band together; Persons A and C were roommates, and so on.
And then it slowly started to dawn on me…they all knew each other. All of these people who were randomly involved in the Baltimore videogame scene were in some way connected with one another. This was bad enough, but it was soon followed by an even more alarming revelation: not only were they involved with the Baltimore videogame scene, they ran the Baltimore videogame scene.
They were the goddamn Baltimore Videogame Mafia.
From then on, it was different. Gaming wasn’t just about the games any more. All of a sudden, Mike was plunged into a world with a life and culture that was all its own. Instead of staying home every night and wading through the GameFly queue, Mike was in high demand for all sorts of events. Mega Man-themed D&D on Tuesdays. Nerd Dodgeball League on Wednesdays. Helping renovate the new theatre for the Baltimore Rock Opera Society. Running the console room at the Bit Gen festivals. Concerts. Parties. Cookouts. All with the same fucking group of people.
For me, it was hard not to get drawn in—although Lord knows I tried. I never wanted to be part of an underground nerd subculture. Before Mike came onto the scene, if you had asked me what I thought about videogame cover bands, or D&D webcomics, or Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series, I would have just stared at you blankly. And then laughed. And then stared blankly again.
I guess it’s my own fault, really, for being so “open” to things. I probably should have been more condescending and bitchy about my husband’s interests right from the get-go. Of course, if I had done that, he probably wouldn’t be my husband; but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, in spite of everything, I have come to…enjoy…much of what Mike has exposed me to. I like listening to The Protomen and The Megas. I read Penny Arcade and Ctrl-Alt-Del and Order of the Stick. I still refuse to play Pokémon, but I have come to consider many of the Poképals to be good friends. Goddammit, WHAT HAVE I BECOME?
All of this recently culminated in MAGFest 9—aka the Music and Gaming Festival, aka the social event of the year for all of Mike’s gamer friends. This year, the convention attracted about 3,000 people and consisted of five days of concerts, panels, and non-stop gaming. For me, it was quite an experience. I had actually been the previous year, but that was before Mike really got “in” with the BVGM. Back then, they might have been the Baltimore Videogame Construction Co. for all we knew. This year, though, we were in. Really in. “Made Man” in. So, I figured, why not take advantage of it?
And indeed I did. Over the course of five days at MAGFest, I did the following:
- I attended the panel for “Hey Ash Watcha’ Playin’?” (an online series of short parody videos made by a brother-and-sister team), and then proceeded to stalk—ahem, “randomly run into”—them for the rest of the convention;
- I watched The Megas play live for the first time;
- I rocked out to The Protomen, Acts I and II, also for the first time;
- I sat through 20 minutes of late-night trivia with Mike before vowing that we would never go again unless we were the ones running it;
- I got my now-famous Panda Hat;
- I completely missed the Child’s Play charity auction where they raised $700 by auctioning off the right to beat a guy with his own Nerf weapons; and
- I posted updates about the whole damn thing to Twitter. With pictures.
OK, so maybe it’s not such a terrible thing that gaming isn’t just about the games anymore. I mean, it’s not like we stopped playing the games. As we speak, Mike is battling his way through Costume Quest and I am resisting the temptation to stop writing and pick up Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. It’s just that the world has gotten a little bigger, maybe a little more complex, and definitely a whole lot more bad-ass. Because now if you mess with us, Big Adam will cut you. Ha ha! Just kidding. Maybe.