You’re a new nerd in town. You want to roll some dice, cast some spells, kill some orcs. Or you want to leverage your fandom for good, not evil, in the so-called “real world,” whatever that is.
Let it be known, verily and forsooth, that Our Fair City and its environs is a kingdom replete with every variety of nerdery known to man, woman, halfling, and beast. Boston is the undisputed center of the nerdverse — a mothership for dweebs, techies, trekkers, weirdos, and gamers.
“Our mainstream is geeky,” said Kevin Harrington, who runs an annual comedy festival called Geek Week. Because most audiences in Boston understand obscure pop culture references like “natural 20” (a Dungeons & Dragons reference) or “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” (from “Star Wars”), he can “inject geek” into his shows.
The number of area colleges and universities, the many centers for research and technology, and their annual influx of new blood doesn’t hurt.
“Boston geeks are today’s Boston Brahmins,” said Tim Loew, executive director of MassDiGI, a center that supports video game development in the Commonwealth. “We are a brains and innovation city and geeks rule the brains and innovation world.”
Plus, to declare one’s nerdy predilections is easier now than ever. “It seems like geekdom in general is on a growth trajectory, and that’s especially true around here,” said Nat Budin, who helps run Intercon, which calls itself the “premier multi-genre live action role playing (LARP) convention in the world.”
There is overlap. Enter the world of Harry Potter fandom and you’ll meet players of Dungeons & Dragons or Mass Effect, Portal, or World of Warcraft. Or people who design games. Or people who dress as their favorite avatars from their favorite games. A Mobius strip of nerd activity.
“The geek community in Boston is like a Venn diagram,” said Cathy Leamy, a comic book artist from Cambridge. “I see the same people everywhere I go. I love this city for that.”
And, you’ll find, these groups will welcome you with open arms. Herewith, whatever your brand of geekery — be it playing games (video, tabletop, role-playing), reading science fiction or fantasy, dressing up like your favorite character (a.k.a. cosplay), attending conventions, medieval reenacting, programming video games — our (incomplete) guide to the major genres and breeds, and how you, as a neophyte or old wizard, can best get your game on. Or get your tunic on.
If you’re into D&D, Magic: The Gathering, Settlers of Catan, or Warhammer 40k, get thee down to your local game shop. Pandemonium Books and Games (www.pandemoniumbooks.com, in Central Square, Cambridge) hosts nightly game nights. You can also get your game on at Comicazi (www.comicazi.com, Davis Square, Somerville), which hosts gaming several nights a week. Join the Role-Playing Fellowship of Greater Boston, a Meet Up group (meetup.rpfgb
.org), whose purpose “is simply a vehicle to help new gamers connect with folks already engaged in the hobby,” said Christian Loidl, leader of that group plus the Boston Dungeons & Dragons Meetup Group (www.meetup.com/Boston-DnD). “Anybody can join, as long as they are respectful to everybody and are genuinely interested in giving this great hobby a try.” Boston’s The Compleat Strategist (www.thecompleatstrategist.com) is another worthy game shop.
If you’re hankering to don a costume and portray a character, LARPing is your game. Nero Boston (www.neroboston.com) runs its games in “The Duchy of Volta,” “a harsh and wild land filled with danger, magic, and intrigue.” If steampunk is your preferred genre, try Steam and Cinders (www.be-epic.com). Middle- and high-school kids can “larp” at the Arlington Enrichment Collaborative (www.arlingtonenrichment.org). “We hold each other to the idea of ‘doing awesome things,’ ” said Eric Love, director of the LARP Adventure Program (www.larpadventureprogram.com). They host an open house on Oct. 18. Intercon (www.in
teractiveliterature.org/M) is the annual LARP convention held in March.
Swordplay and medieval reenactment
The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) exists “to research and reenact all the best bits of medieval and Renaissance history,” said Shana Heller of Cambridge, known in the SCA as Lady Agnes Godolphin, chatelaine of the Barony of Carolingia (www.carolingia.net), the local Boston chapter. “We skip the Black Death, keep modern plumbing, and indulge in all the fun stuff: dancing, singing, fighting, fencing, archery, cooking, calligraphy.” Kids and adults can indulge in sword games, NERF Nights, summer LARP camps, and “weekly classes in swordsmanship and adventure” at Guard Up (www.guardup.com) in Burlington. They’re currently offering a free two-week membership.
Tap into the local video game development scene at the Boston Festival of Indie Games (www.bostonfig.com, Sept. 22), a debut celebration of local, indie game development. Also, Oct. 20 is “Extra Life: Be a hero for kids” (boston.
extra-life.org, a video game marathon to raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital. The MIT Enterprise Forum’s Games SIG (www.negamessig.com) sponsors regular talks by industry leaders. And the “big tent” operation, Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (www.massdigi.org), sponsors an annual Game Challenge for developers or students, among other events. Dig theme music to Final Fantasy? Check out Boston-based Video Game Orchestra, live at Symphony Hall Oct. 7 (www.vgo-online.org). Want to play? “We do audition a few new musicians often,” said creator Shota Nakama.
Indie comics fans will want to swing by the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (www.masscomics.com) Sept. 29 at Lesley University, a free event dedicated to alternative comics, webcomics, and ’zines. Top comic book shops include Comicazi (www.comicazi.com), which hosts a graphic novel book club and an annual Halloween party (this year, Oct. 20). There’s also Comicopia (www.comicopia.com) in Kenmore Square; Hub Comics (www.hubcom
ics.com) in Union Square, Somerville; and for more obscure indie fare, Million Year Picnic (www.themillionyearpicnic
.com) in Harvard Square. Aspiring artists and writers should swing by the Thursday Boston Comics Roundtable (www.bostoncomicsroundtable.com) meetings in Cambridge. Bigger comic and pop culture bling can be found at Boston Comic Con, held in April. (www.bostoncomiccon.com).
Science and nerd idea events
With well over 100 events, the Cambridge Science Festival (www.cambridge
sciencefestival.org), in April, makes tech, engineering, and math “fun for everyone,” said Ben Wiehe, manager of the Science Festival Alliance at MIT. “Anyone with a kernel of an idea for an event or program can make their pitch to be a part of the festival.” (Applications now open.) Another event is “Could This Happen?” (www.couldthishappen.com, Oct. 15) to discuss robots and artificial intelligence. For presentations of “topics [that] cut across the nerd subscultures,” organizer Jeremy Kay said to check out Nerdnite Boston (www.boston.nerdnite.com). “I heard some rumors of nerd romances” emerging from the gatherings, he said. In fact, the Sept. 24 Nerdnite event also features speed dating. Join the Boston Nerd Fun Meet Up (www.meetup.com/NerdFunBoston) to do stuff with like-minded types.
Conventions and organizations
The hub of all things science fiction is the New England Science Fiction Association (www.nesfa.org), which runs a Somerville clubhouse and library for socializing and gaming. In February it will be throwing its 50th annual convention, Boskone. Rival convention Arisia (www.2013.arisia.org, January) also hosts sci-fi/fantasy-themed panels, dealers, an art show, and more. If you dig Japanese animation and comics, Anime Boston is your ticket (www.animeboston.com, May).
Several social activist organizations have sprung from area geek/nerd fanbases: the Harry Potter Alliance (thehpalliance.org), and its umbrella group, Imagine Better (thehpalliance.org/imagine-better), unites fans of Harry Potter, “Doctor Who,” “Firefly,” “Star Trek,” and “Glee.” “We use the power of story to change the world,” said founder Andrew Slack.
After only a few years running, Pax East (east.paxsite.com, April) is now the biggest gaming convention on the East Coast — some 70,000-plus attend. A showcase for major video and board game companies, the event also includes “nerdcore” performances and panels on such topics as “raising the next generation of geeks.”
“Geek Week can be summed up in our
tagline and ethos, ‘Comedy by people who get you’,” said festival founder/producer Kevin Harrington (www.geekweek
comedy.com, date TBA). He wants performers and volunteers: “I love new blood.” Harrington also hosts a monthly “Comedykazi” comedy event at Comicazi in Davis Square (next show: Friday).
King Richards’ Faire in Carver is the area’s big “ren faire” (www.kingrichards
faire.net, weekends now through Oct. 21). Watch jousting as you munch on a roast turkey leg.
Readercon (www.readercon.org, July, in Burlington) is an annual conference for lovers of imaginative literature; past guests have included Peter Straub and China Miéville.
Movie buffs, teleport to the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival (www.
bostonsci-fi.com) in February.