There are times when I ponder just what it is that sets this column apart from the cords and cords of driftwood that wash up at my personal site each week. Well, there's legitimacy, and, of course, its annoying best friend, accountability. The Maisonneuve brand asserts that this content is safe, and reaches a wider audience than my personal site. In exchange for these valuable traits, Vanessa and I must produce a thousand choice-cut words every other week. And when those words enrage, please or confuse, our Comments section is where we hear about it. Yes, letters. In the spirit of letters, we at NerdWorld now pause to open up our mailbag in the hopes that those who have commented are more likely to read a new column than check up on a comment they posted to an old one.
On the one hand, you fear the remarks of your readers, since, as often as not, they take exception to things that you typed on a whim and may or may not care about. On the other hand, they are tangible evidence that somebody, somewhere, is paying attention. And who doesn't like attention?
Okay, remember when you started that art-noise band in high school (Anti-Itch Crème, wasn't it?) and just your friends and your mom came to the first few shows? Us too! Our first comments came from a couple of co-workers, a cousin and (ha!) our editor. "Finally, my love of the Internet and my love of plucky prose have been smashed together and turned into NerdWorld," he wrote. "I will never read anything else." And to him we said, "We're hoping real people will read it too."
Yes, we waited with breath a-baited for those real people to show up. Eventually they did and we, in turn, cringed. This comment section is a slippery thing. On the one hand, you fear the remarks of your readers, since, as often as not, they take exception to things that you typed on a whim and may or may not care about. On the other hand, they are tangible evidence that somebody, somewhere, is paying attention. And who doesn't like attention? J. D. Salinger and puppy-killers, that's who. Hrm, irresponsibly conflating Salinger with child-murderers-bound to get some feedback on that!
One of our neatest early comments came from Australian gaming blogger the Torps in answer to our column about the difficulties of securing review copies of games (specifically The Transformers) and other swag. Zaph wrote,
I can sympathize with you on the swag side-and I can't help, despite the fact that I was the Technical Producer for the Transformers game (you are right, all the swag is controlled by marketing departments-probably rightfully so!). I don't think there's as much swag around as there used to be-I used to get rained upon with gaming swag (in the late 90's) but these days it's a lot harder to find! Still, you can keep trying, and one day the swag will start flowing faster than you can eat it :-)
Like plankton, the swag was going to flow into our waiting mouths. It never did, but if I get nothing else out of this whole NerdWorld experience, I'll get to say that a producer responded to an article I wrote about how I couldn't review his game. PS: Are you possibly Zaph of "Zapp" & Roger?
-Dave and Ness
Brushes with greatness come in many flavours, however, and not all of them are mint-chocolate chip. Some are Rocky Road! Such was the case when we posted a piece around the deranged asceticism that has developed out of the online indie-craft scene. After making an ambiguous point about an article by one Jean Railla (founder of getcrafty.com), we swiftly received a correction from Railla herself:
I understand if you don't like getcrafty, glitter or supernaturale (I have nothing to do with the two latter). One other correction: the academic journal I wrote an article in is called Radical Society-and it's anything but neo-conservative. It's clearly leftist and features articles about social movements, poetry and workers. The article I wrote was called 'The real dotcom bomb,' and it recalled my days working in new media.
Dear Ms. Railla,
Once again, I submit my apologies and thank you for your comment. I find the sentence "It's clearly leftist and features articles about social movements, poetry and workers" to be particularly haw-haw funny, mostly because I can imagine the fume lines rising from your forehead as you typed it with the angriest fingers in all of New York City.
So you see, the life of the columnist isn't all free-flowing Châteauneuf-du-Pape and autograph-signing. And the limitations of the comment format mean that our only real chance to answer you is in fabulous mailbag columns like this one. The group owed the greatest response of all is the hog heap of Kingdom of Loathing players who wrote in to offer support and insights following our column about this excellent game. There can be only one, so here it is:
Black King wrote,
I love it! In this site, I'm no longer the "know-it-all" I actually am. I'm a weirdo with a turtle on his head. And you know what? I love it!
Dear Black King,
Us too! The great thing about having a turtle on your head is that even if it makes a break for it, you've still got some time to staple it on. That's an idea I got from another KoL player, proof positive that it's the player community that makes Kingdom such a great game. The past few years have seen the development of some super complex, multiplayer online games. I've played none of them, but I'm going to go out on a limb and state unequivocally that Kingdom of Loathing is a million times better than all of them put together, and that community is the reason. Also, because I absolutely can't resist keeping my ridiculous experiences later in the game under my turtle-hat, I hereby declare Son of Column About Kingdom of Loathing to be in the works. Gauntlet: thrown down!
That's all the time we have for today's show. Let's review what we've learned. Swag is hard to come by. The surest way to keep a turtle on your head is staples. And you can say whatever you want on the Internet, you just can't expect anyone to like it. Talk to you again real soon, fellow nerds!
David and Vanessa currently live and toil in Toronto-for, respectively, a large technology corporation and a large eCommerce vendor. They met via their blogs and were married in the winter of 2002. They have a hamster and two dogs, but no yacht. NerdWorld now appears alternating Mondays.