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Roughly every month, dozens of “nerds” gather at Bows and Arrows for Nerd Night to play card games like Magic: the Gathering, board games like Settlers of Catan, and video games like Super Smash Brothers, as well as participate in a variety of social activities. What started as a small “prog night” (progressive rock night) was taken over by local nerd Drew Walker and has turned into a full-fledged community event complete with its own Reddit page and a growing local following.
(Image by: Sarah Hansel) Nerds are often stereotyped as antisocial shut-ins, but anyone walking into Bows and Arrows on Nerd Night would quickly rethink that description. The scene usually features several tables of people talking loudly, drinking beer and throwing down their best Magic: the Gathering cards, a group of gamers frantically pounding Nintendo 64 controllers in a Super Smash Brothers tournament, screens playing Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” and Walker at the center on the microphone, wearing a duct tape helmet with horns and making announcements or shouting out trivia questions.
The next Nerd Night will be held at Bows and Arrows on Halloween night from 7-11:30 pm, and will feature a “costume karaoke” theme which is sure to bring in a wide range of people. Walker’s friend “Barry'd Alive” is also putting together a tape of “gory/silly/badass” scenes from VHS horror movies to play on the back patio. And of course, nerds are encouraged to bring any games they’d like to play.
“It should be a pretty chill party for those who already got wasted and celebrated the weekend before, and who would normally just sit at home and watch ‘Friday the 13th’ on the weeknight Halloween,” Walker said.
(Image by: Sarah Hansel) Although many of the games people play at Nerd Night are several years old (Magic: the Gathering was started in 1993, and Super Smash Bros. was created in 1999), their popularity hasn’t died.
“I think a lot of new games are just building on those old ones, reinventing the wheel with better graphics or dirtier words,” Walker said. “Plus I think there’s the nostalgia factor, people want to chase that feeling they had the first time they played their favorite game.” These kinds of games are often thought of as only popular among small subculture, but Nerd Night’s popularity proves that the nerd community in Sacramento is quite large.
Stephanie Rector, recently crowned as the Sacramento News & Review’s “Queen of the Geeks” and a frequent participant at Nerd Night, is committed to keeping this community active.
“(Nerd Night) is a great way for people with like interests to get together and meet and have fun,” said Rector. “I think any event that gives geeks a way to socialize in a comfortable manner outside of the house is a good thing.”
Rector said that the geek/nerd community in Sacramento is definitely thriving--her organization “Sacgeeks” has more than 1,400 members and 100 volunteer organizers. The Sacgeeks.com calendar has about three or four events listed per day, such as game nights, movie screenings, conventions, cosplay parties, sci-fi club meetings, lectures, and festivals. (For the record, stereotypically a geek is someone who is highly passionate about something particular like Star Wars, while a nerd is more intellectual and excels at math and science).
(Image by: Addam Gourd) Nerd Night gives local nerds a place to play their favorite games and interact with each other, but the originality of the event also stems from the fact that many “non-nerds” participate as well, often simply by walking into Bows and Arrows while the event is happening. The open format of the games (as opposed to a more rigid tournament style) encourages new attendees to participate.
“Nerd Night (is) unique and accessible to everyone,” Walker said. He thinks it has a welcoming feeling you might not get from going to other “nerd” events like a tournament at a card shop.
A great deal of Nerd Night’s success seems to be based on the event’s accessibility to nerds as well as non-nerds, yet Drew is hesitant to put participants into any kind of category.
“Everyone considers themselves something of a nerd,” Walker said. “To me, being a nerd isn't about being good at one game or another, or being smarter or more experienced at something, to me a nerd is someone who has found a gem of fun and is holding it like a Smeagol with no care for the wider world's opinion on its coolness.”
Nerd Night will take place on October 31st from 7pm-11:30pm, at Bows and Arrows, 1815 19th St. Check out the Facebook Event page for more information and to sign up for karaoke.