Geek Fest

Recently, my friend Scott invited me to witness a special event for privileged participants. Sensing a great story, I asked permission to bring my camera and voice recorder to document what he calls Geek Fest. What a treat this experience was!

The common perception—or misconception—of overly indulgent computer enthusiasts (commonly known as geeks and nerds) as isolated misanthropes, is challenged for a few weekends every year when a small gathering of dedicated computer gamers convene for Geek Fest.

This is no casual crowd of computer clunkers, but an assembly of highly skilled game players (about 8 to 12) who play via online networking throughout the year and then congregate to socialize in the first person nearly non-stop for the entire three day festival. Geeks and nerds they openly and affectionately call themselves.

If you are reading this on an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, you won’t see the slideshow because it uses Flash. You can download the mp4 video version of Geek Fest here which is designed to fit iPhone/iPod — 480×320 — 24MB]
Click anywhere on this image to start the slideshow.

Some have become nerds through the association with fellow gamers. The geeks build their own computers, while others buy “right off the shelves.” This is a diverse group, with sundry careers and backgrounds. The core group attended high school together, and later expanded when computer networking evolved. After that, online gaming came into its own, which allowed their group to expand and to include a larger gamut of friends who might be interested in having a great weekend with lots of fun. This core often socializes outside of Geek Fest.

Overall, today they are highly computer literate, but they weren’t always so. According to Mike, their origins go back to high school days and the popular board game, Dungeons and Dragons. Starting with a small group of friends, they expanded in number, and then the concept itself expanded with the advent of technology and computers.

Their first forays into computer networking found them spending the better part of the first day of the fest just getting their network to well, “work.” Then the marathon began—they were younger then, but their enthusiasm and endurance has not seemed to wane. Doom II (created by ID Software) was the first successful game that they used —one that actually worked. It’s a first-person shooter video game, which won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1994. Blizzard, the company that made and Diablo, now has the World of Warcraft series and Starcraft, which is currently popular at Geek Fest. About 29 million users worldwide pay $9.00/year for the right to play these games online via Blizzard. One of the reasons these games are so popular is that Blizzard does not release a game until it is fully functional, without error, and without need for patches and updates.

Geek Fests are held on three-day weekend holidays. You can count on Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day for sure, but definitely NOT over Christmas and New Year’s. They are reserved for family time and the group avoids “wife-agro”—game-speak for drawing another’s aggravation.

Each player brings their own complete computer setup, including computer, monitor, mouse, special game controls, headsets, speakers, etc. Each contributes with food and drink to share with the others and Scott labors most of the day preparing wood-fired, slow-cooked tri-tip. This has proven to be a great opportunity for both extended and extensive game playing AND socializing. Typically, each Geek Fest runs continuously for the entire three days, including set-up time, playing, and socialization.

The Geek Fest functions under the aegis of a guild.

Guilds are “private” game playing options where a group of online players who know each other to some degree form a small group with whom to play and compete. Otherwise, gameplay is a world-wide phenomenon with total strangers. Guilds also provide an opportunity to get to know the other players better because of less or no anonymity. By playing within guilds, players can be less competitive, helping and teaching the newer members. Typically, players use headsets with microphones, allowing them to intermingle on a social level while player.

Gotta go—another three-day holiday is coming up soon!


P.S. You may view all of the photos in the Geek Fest show at my special SmugMug gallery,
where you may also purchase prints and merchandise

AND, you can download the mp4 video version of Geek Fest here
[Designed to fit iPhone/iPod — 480×320 — 24MB]

3 thoughts on “Geek Fest

  1. Well done Bob, I look forward to reading future posts. I work with several Greeks so I opened your Geek Fest video expecting to see the Sacramento Greek Festival that is also Labor Day weedend. Still a foriegn culture but not as much food and dancing.

    I went to elementary school with a Paul Estrabrook, do you know if he is from our neighborhood?

    • Thanks Brett,
      Looking forward to some interesting stories for everyone. Say, that Sacramento Greek Festival sounds great. Maybe we can get them to join with the Geeks for a cross-cultural food and computer fest 😉

      Have you taken a look at the PORTFOLIO page? On The Express slideshow I have an environmental portrait of Paul Estabrook–with no “r”. Might be the same guy?

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