Getting Geek Speak
“Hey, I’m getting drunk,” one of them interrupts.
During the school year, I was the furthest thing from a rule breaker. I kept quiet during class. I turned my homework in on time. If I wasn’t paying attention to the teacher, it wasn’t because I was pelting my neighbors with spitballs or hacking away at my desk with a pair of safety scissors; it was probably because I was just engrossed in a good book.
I’m not sure when or why I became obsessed with birds, but as far back as I can remember, Big Bird was my favorite Sesame Street character, Lugia was my favorite Pokémon, and Woodstock was my favorite Peanuts character. In kindergarten, I fancied myself a “bird photographer” and ran around taking pictures of robins and cowbirds in our backyard with the family camera. Since our camera was meant for cutesy family portraits rather than high-definition wildlife photography, the birds looked more like little black specks, but I kept on trying, convinced I just hadn’t gotten the hang of it yet. I nearly got in a car wreck once when I swerved into another lane, thinking I had spotted a rare bird species in my rearview mirror. As it turns out, it was just a mockingbird.
But there are always some ten-year-olds who wander into the shop, itching to play without knowing how. It is generally either mortifying or awkward when you are placed across the table from them. On the one hand, it looks bad for you (and your ranking) if you get beaten by a pre-teen punk. But on the other hand, you feel dirty using your 100-dollar deck of cards and five years’ experience to destroy them on turn two.
Though the name suggests a sketchy, get-your-degree-in-four-months-for-an-absurdly-inflated-price sort of institution, it turns out that Smogon University is an online community devoted to competitive Pokémon battling. I thought I knew all there was to know about Pokémon. You catch these cute yet strange little critters (which can eventually become very large critters), and you use attacks based on whatever your opponent’s weaknesses are. Most of these tactics are pretty obvious: water beats fire, fire beats grass, and so on. Its supersedes tic-tac-toe in intellectual sophistication—but just barely.