I am a self-professed nerd. I blame (or should I say credit?) my parents, whose family vacation plans alternated visits to educational destinations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Washington, DC (No cruises to Aruba or trips to ski resorts for us, thanks. One spring break, my dad took my two brothers and me to a coal mine.) I devoured stacks of books from our town library each week—after completing my homework, of course. My school’s honors program generated plenty of extracurricular activities to keep our buzzing teenage minds occupied. I regularly skipped study hall or stayed after school to rehearse for mock trial, build a papier-mâché castle, or participate in a SimCity competition. Outside of the honors program, though, I tried to stifle my eagerness to skip ahead in our history textbooks and griped along with my classmates about difficult French assignments. I had watched enough ‘90s sitcoms to realize that being a nerd wasn’t “cool” and that I should attempt to blend in.
My younger brother Bob, however, had no such qualms; he embraced his own kind of nerdom, freely advertising his hobbies of fencing, partaking in Civil War reenactments, and playing Mage Knight (a collectible miniatures wargame). Bob crafted elaborate tablescapes for Mage Knight, deliberately positioning the tiny figurines on moss-covered rocks or under tiny trees. This miniatures wargame utilized figures called “warriors” which had pre-assigned points and statistics, eliminating the need for in-game reference books. Bob became so adept at combating enemy armies that he competed in—and occasionally won—Mage Knight tournaments in the Pittsburgh area. By the time I left for college, Bob had moved on to playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with his gamer friends.