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Showing 1-10 of 18 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 36 reviews
on December 13, 2009
I'm 40 years old, having been a gamer since I was 10. I'm also a husband, a home-owner, have held a professional job for over years, and I don't personally have any difficulty reconciling my love of fantasy and role-playing games with my normal, day-to-day life. It seems that the author has had difficulty in this, and this book seems to be essentially his rambling and occassionally awkward attempt to find out if it's possible to be both mature and have a love of geeky, escapist hobbies.

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.
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on February 25, 2011
In what could have been, with a little more work, a tremendous insight and very poignant look back at a life affected and in some ways effected by a strong, early exposure to fantasy fandom, Gilsdorf produces in a manner of speaking two books in this volume.

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.
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on September 14, 2010
Like Gilsdorf, I've often asked myself "What was I doing, a forty-two-year-old, single, and childless man, traveling on his own, sleeping in youth hostels, and playing with toys?" I'm also a writer (Halibut Rodeo) and professor of creative writing. "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks" had me from the opening page. The book is a mix of literary journalism and memoir, weaving together Gilsdorf's personal life and his quest to understand fantasy and gaming communities. He creates a nice balance between his own experiences as a child and investigative reporting. Much of my interest in the book stems from my obsession with "The Lord of the Rings." Before I bought the book, I was most interested in reading the chapters on Tolkien, and the author's visits to England and New Zealand. I've only played D&D once, and have never even attempted MMORPG, but I found myself equally interested in the chapters on gaming. Gilsdorf's final conclusions aren't necessarily surprising, but the quest itself is a blast.
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on July 29, 2011
I found this book to be interesting but very inconsistent. It went back and forth between being a study of "nerd-dom" and the subcultures related to it and the author's own personal memoirs, but it never managed to really link the two together in a way that was more than superficial. The book is worth a read, but be prepared for an uneven narrative that ultimately doesn't offer much insight.
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on November 25, 2014
This is exactly the kind of book I have been searching for.

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.*

Well Done!
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon September 2, 2010
I've been a gamer/nerd/geek for pretty much my entire life, and even though I haven't ever been particularly embarrassed by the fact that I like to play games - I can really identify with Ethan Gilsdorf's chronicle of his life in gaming culture.

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.
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on February 18, 2011
WHAT I THOUGHT THIS BOOK WAS: some guy who's been into D&D for years giving his extended, mature reflections on the advantages and disadvantages of having had such a nerdy, all-absorbing pastime for years.

WHAT IT REALLY WAS: Some guy who played D&D as a teenager, having just turned 41, decides to dust of his D&D stuff and investigate the culture of fantasy gaming. He goes to a Gygax convention, goes to some SCA events, plays some Wow, goes to a place in France where they're building a castle, travels to the New Zealand shooting locations of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, etc., all the while theorizing on why people are involved in these activities.
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on May 31, 2012
I picked up this book, this week, and had a hard time putting it down. For me the book was almost an escape on its own. I am somewhat of a closet geek myself and have often felt alone in my hobbies, as other parts of my life have been ruling over me. In the past year, I have enjoyably experienced new versions of what I was into in my youth, whether it be online or on a tabletop. This book gave me a sense of belonging, that had me reading page after page. In addition, I enjoyed that he did more than just look at DND and MMOs. He went into LARPing, as well as medieval reenactments, I had no idea existed. The stories struck a great balance of exploring fantasy from many directions.

Other than the actual stories in the book, which I enjoyed, the reading was easy and the length was under 300 pages, with decent size text. The stories were interesting, while not dragging on and on. The overall format seemed to make sense.

Thanks for writing this book!
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on May 6, 2013
The author's quest to explore the wide world of gaming & fantasy hobbies is well done & informitive, except he keeps interjecting his personal issues & insecurities again and again and again...! Really, I got all I really needed to know about THAT the first three times he brought it up! He also managed to pull off the trick of ending the book without really coming to any sort of conclusion about it's topics. It just sort of...ends. Anyway, you can discount the author's whining & self-pity and just enjoy the great tour through the worlds of alternate realities that make this book quite worth the reading.
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on August 27, 2011
Identified myself to the author, really wanted to like the book, but got bored one third through. Writing is OK but analysis is quite limited. Feels like a good 10-page paper spread thin over 200 pages...
Really too bad.
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