- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Lyons Press (September 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1599219948
- ISBN-13: 978-1599219943
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,184,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest For Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, And Other Dwellers Of Imaginary Realms Paperback – September 1, 2010
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Named a Must-Read Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards
“For anyone who has ever spent time within imaginary realms, the book will speak volumes. For those who have not, it will educate and enlighten.” —Wired.com
“Gandalf’s got nothing on Ethan Gilsdorf, except for maybe the monster white beard. In his new book, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, Gilsdorf . . . offers an epic quest for reality within a realm of magic.” —Boston Globe
“Master geek theater.”—The Times of Trenton
“A breathless adventure/quest/memoir that is uniquely contemporary.”
—Andrei Codrescu, NPR commentator
“Imagine this: Lord of the Rings meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road….”—National Public Radio’s “Around and About"
“What does it mean to be a geek? . . . Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks tackles that question with strength and dexterity. . . . part personal odyssey, part medieval mid-life crisis, and part wide-ranging survey of all things freaky and geeky ... playful ... funny and poignant ... It's a fun ride and it poses a question that goes to the very heart of fantasy, namely: What does the urge to become someone else tell us about ourselves?” —Huffington Post
“More fun than being a Dungeon Master to a group of high-level mages and thieves.”—A. J. Jacobs, author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically
“Gilsdorf is an engaging and personable guide. Like many who will pick up his book, he’s got one foot squarely in the real world, the other in the fantasy one. This is a journey well worth taking.” —Booklist
“Journalist and ‘avowed, out-of-the-closet geek’ Ethan Gilsdorf embraces his love of J.R.R. Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons and all things fantasy, embarking on a quest to discover what motivates those who devote significant portions of their lives to what many others dismiss as escapist fantasies. The book is also a journey of self-discovery.... engaging, occasionally poignant and emotional.” —Boston Globe
“Witty, downright funny, poignant, honest and ... well, wistful.”
—R. A. Salvatore, New York Times bestselling author of The Dark Elf Trilogy
“Gilsdorf rekindled his childhood fascination with Dungeons & Dragons as a launch point, and then proceeded to wander the country exploring MMOs, LARPs, and other non-acronym endeavors in order write his fascinating memoir/travel/geek-world exploration.” —The Onion A.V. Club
"Where there is a story to be found, Gilsdorf found it, talking to fantasy enthusiasts from all walks of life… [A]nyone with even a passing interest in fantasy games should pick this up. Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks provides a unique and affectionate overview of fantasy gaming from the trenches.” —Realms of Fantasy
“Considering that we are fantasy freaks, [Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks] feels right up our alley.” —Wizards of the Coast’s D&D Insider
"As much a personal quest for the author as an investigation in to the fantasy culture, Gilsdorf not only brings the readers along for the ride, but also makes gets them emotionally invested…. Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks,” shines a whole new light on the fantasy culture and explores it as only an insider can. … a great read. Funny and charming, he avoids all the negative stereotypes of gamers and instead paints a more realistic picture of the gaming community." —examiner.com
“This guy knows his fantasy and gaming cultures. Why? Because he has lived it. In Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks rather than mocking the world of the nerd he celebrates it. Bravo.” —City Pages (Minneapolis)
From the Inside Flap
―Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Notable author
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) has alone lured twelve million users worldwide. Even old-school role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) are still wildly popular.
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, New Zealand to France, 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. 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. He seeks out those who dream of elves, long swords, and heroic deeds, and mentally inhabit faraway 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.
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Top customer reviews
If you're someone who put the dice away a long time ago and are wondering whether it's okay to feel like dusting them off again...or if you never were involved in such hobbies and are wondering if it's okay for your significant other to be...then this book may be written just for you.
If you're still avidly into these pursuits, then you may come away from this book feeling a bit unsatisfied. I felt like I'd read a book that said "It's okay for you to be into this stuff", and I was saying, "Well...yeah. I knew that. Thanks." It's still worth reading the book, as he has a lot of enjoyable stories along the way...just don't hold your breath for any deep revelation at the end.
In the first and admittedly more readable piece, he outlines in tones of sad nostalgia the affliction of his mother, his escape from that and his marginalization at school, and the repercussions he feels now in his forties at choosing the easier road of escapism over trying harder to be there for a mother who was at the same time both suffering and very difficult to love. He provides through carefully chosen and striking imagery a potent glimpse into awkward adolescence in the 1970's even for a reader who wasn't alive then or did not experience the same difficulties, and is at once both emotional and objective. In this former part, he shows the roots of his entrance into fantasy fandom and much of his sentiment about how it affected him. It is, in and of itself, a touching memoir.
The second part, hinted at when he first speaks of going off to college and growing up past the phase of Dungeons & Dragons and J.R.R. Tolkien and begun at full speed after the near-cathartic moment involving the blue cooler, is rather like listening to a tape on a machine that's running out of batteries. The narrative begins strongly, connected through Tolkien to the world of fantasy fandom at large, but steadily slowing down and dwindling in energy and enthusiasm to the end, by which time we're left with the unfortunate impression of a grown man playing with toys in the woods and growing continuously more pissed off that he can't get a decent girlfriend who shares his interests. The latter half of the SCA segment and more or less the whole convention trip are pretty much disconnected from the rest of the work by an incessant, almost nagging theme of "I can't bed a woman." I found this to detract tremendously from the original intent of the book. In addition to that, the final chapter places the author in New Zealand (a thoroughly beautiful place), a journey "to Middle-Earth" which should be the culmination of a great personal and emotional journey. However, the entirety of the trip feels tacked-on, as if Gilsdorf didn't feel like he had enough to finish his book yet, but really didn't have anything left to explore. More than anything, the end of the work reads like the author gave up, shrugged, and said in a resigned tone, "That's good enough."
My recommendation is to pick up the book, to be certain. Read the first part, where he touches on some things that are universal to humans who have survived childhood. Read the beginning of his quest, on the pub crawl with the Tolkien society, as some of the people he meets and their insights prove equally relevant and wide-reaching. Read his adventure into LARPing. If nothing else, it provides some eye-opening examination of a world I had joined the larger society in snubbing. And then stop.
As an avid video gamer since 1987 (Ultima IV on a Commodore 64 computer), Worlds Away, Second Life, and, finally World of Warcraft since 2008 with 20 'toons (both Alliance and Horde) on 3 servers, I identify...
WoW *does* draw a person in to their character-and as an avowed 'solo' player, it does get lonely (but just a little bit)-because the high-level quests are so immersive and complex.
That aside, I offer a gentle correction on one aspect of WoW - the Horde is not *Evil*, nor is the Alliance *Good*.
Both factions differ vastly in customs and agenda and both share very similar life events in-game.
No matter what *trappings* are used in a game scenario, the real *game* evolves in the mind of the player, and one does not have to necessarily identify as a *geek.*
In a lot of ways, I think this is the book that I had wanted The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange to be. Not only does Ethan do a great job of keying in on why games like AD&D are so appealing - but he manages to capture a lot of the subtlety involved. Instead of overblown gaming stereotypes, we get a touching story of a man's lifelong struggle with his relationship with gaming and the separation of fantasy and reality.
I feel that this separation is something that many people deal with on a daily basis, and for a lot of people it can be a real problem. If you are a gamer, or have a gamer in your life, then you can almost definitely learn something from this book. The only reason I am giving it four stars instead of five, is that the last 25% of the book seemed to drag a bit - it wasn't quite the captivating ride that the majority of the book is. Still an awesome read though, and highly recommended.