Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms
By Ethan Gilsdorf
ABOUT THE BOOK
Fantasy. Science fiction. Role-playing games.
Tens of millions of people around the globe turn away from the "real" world to inhabit others. Movie fan-freaks design costumes and collect Lord of the Rings action figures. Some attend comic book conventions and Renaissance fairs, others play live-action role-playing games (LARPs). The online game World of Warcraft (WoW) alone has lured twelve million users worldwide. Even old-school, "pencil-and-paper" role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) are still wildly popular.
Who are these gamers and fantasy fans? What explains the irresistible appeal of such "escapist" adventures? And what could one man find if he embarked on a journey through fantasy world after fantasy world?
Both a travel memoir and a pop culture investigation, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks was described as "Lord of the Rings meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road" by National Public Radio’s “Around and About." The book's journey into fantasy and gaming subcultures, the Huffington Post continues, is "full of encounters, both funny and poignant." Wired proclaimed, “For anyone who has ever spent time within imaginary realms, the book will speak volumes.
In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former D&D addict Ethan Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worlds—from Boston to Wisconsin, France to New Zealand, and Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar. On a quest that begins in his own geeky teenage past and ends in our online gaming future, he asks gaming and fantasy geeks how they balance their escapist urges with the kingdom of adulthood.
Delving deeper and deeper into geekdom, our noble hero plays WoW for weeks on end. He travels to pilgrimage sites: Tolkien’s hometown, movie locations, castles, and archives. He hangs out with Harry Potter tribute bands. At a LARP, he dresses as a pacifist monk for a weekend. He goes to fan conventions and gaming tournaments. He battles online goblins, trolls, and sorcerers. He camps with medieval reenactors—12,000 of them. He becomes Ethor, Ethorian, and Ethor-An3. He sews his own tunic. He even plays D&D. What he discovers is funny, poignant, and enlightening.
He questions Tolkien scholars and medievalists. He speaks to grown men who build hobbit holes and speak Elvish, and to grown women who play massively multiplayer online games late into the night. He seeks out those who dream of elves, long swords, and heroic deeds, and mentally inhabit far-away magical lands. Gilsdorf records what lures them—old, young, male, female, able-bodied and disabled—into fantasy worlds, and for what reasons, whether healthy, unhealthy, or in between.
"What does it mean to be a geek?" That's the question The Huffington Post said Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks answers.
A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR
Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks is my story, and the culture's story. As a kid and teenager, I used to play a lot of D&D and video games, and read a lot of fantasy and science fiction. Then, as I grew older, I gave up my escapist ways and entered the so-called real world. But what had I left behind by pretending I wasn't a geek anymore? What would I learn if I went back?
As an adult recovering Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) player and J.R.R. Tolkien fan, I hit the road on a quest to find out.
I speak with D&D players and journey to the hometown of its founder, Gary Gygax, to play the game for the first time in 25 years. I go on tour with Harry Potter wizard rockers.
I dress in costume to participate in a live-action role-playing game (LARP), I visit medieval re-enactors called the Society for Creative Anachronism and their annual Pennsic War, and I mingle in the massive fandom convention DragonCon.
I journey to a French castle-building project called Guedelon, play World of Warcraft and make a pilgrimage to J.R.R. Tolkien's hometown of Oxford, England.
Finally, I geek out on a mission to see as many of New Zealand's Lord of the Rings filming locations as possible.
I ask game-players and fantasy fans—old, young, male, female, able-bodied and disabled—what attracts them to fantasy worlds, and for what reasons.
Along the way, I come to terms with my lifelong (and at times ambivalent and twisted) relationship to fantasy and gaming.
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