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A Geek in Exile

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For about 7 years I worked in video game stores. To put that in perspective, my first week on the job saw the release of Halo 2 and my last week on the job saw the release of Dance on Broadway (even if that’s not quite as fortuitous or funny as I was hoping). Most of my days were spent talking about video games, Captain America, playing around on the internet, and selling the occasional video game.

Yes I have had arguments about Darth Vader fighting Captain America that came close to physical violence. So yeah, it was a pretty sweet gig while it lasted, but as all the economic indicators were pointing to the fact that the store I was working at was in the midst of financial implosion, I decided to leave to find work elsewhere.

I ended up working at a bank as a Business Banker. Needless to say, it was a fairly big transition going from jeans, a video game t-shirt, and a sweet Viking beard to a suit and tie. It was an even bigger change going from hanging out talking about the merits of Spider-Man versus Ultimate Spider-Man to working for a monolithic corporation where people talked about interest rates and variable annuities.

It was nearly a month before someone even mentioned Batman. I don’t think I had ever gone a full day at the video game store without someone discussing Batman. My new coworkers and customers were all nice, but they were more interested in talking about their children or their husbands or girlfriends than they were about the new Elder Scrolls game.

"And how come Batman doesn't dance anymore?"

For a while it was liberating. I didn’t have to worry that some snot nosed little 12 year old was going to talk trash because I didn’t know about some new game that was coming out. I didn’t have to check Kotaku and Joystiq and IGN everyday to see what was coming out next. I was too busy helping business owners figure out cash flow to spend time downloading the latest demos and trailers. It was like I had taken a step back from the gaming world. I would go to the store and there would be games on the shelf that I knew absolutely nothing about. I would stare at the box art and wonder how they snuck that one by me. They never used to sneak by me. It’s like I didn’t know what was cool anymore.

I would mention a game at work and people would look at me like I was discussing something weird and childish. Sometimes I would want to scream, “You just got done talking about how much you liked ‘Two and a Half Men’ and I can’t talk about Portal 2?”

As much as the video game industry likes to think it’s gone mainstream, it was surprising how little they understood or even cared to understand the video game world. It was like there was still a stigma attached to gaming and gamers.

And maybe all this got to me a little bit. I found it was harder and harder to write about video games. This is going to sound like someone that is in a failing relationship, but I felt as though my passion for gaming had dwindled. Maybe it was the simple fact that my job no longer revolved around gaming, or maybe it was Two Worlds II but I just didn’t seem to care like I used to.

I still enjoyed gaming. I still spent way more money than my wife would like on Steam sales. But that need that used to consume me was gone. I don’t feel as though I need to rush out to the store at 12:01 am so that I can be the first person to play whatever new blockbuster people were excited about this week.

I finally decided I should play all those Steam games I was buying in bulk,that I should maybe actually take a minute to enjoy myself for once without all the pressure to move on to the next new thing. And as I finally started beating some of those games that were languishing on my shelf and on my hard drive, my Pile of Shame began to dwindle and my love of gaming was rekindled.

One other thing, did you guys realize Duke Nuke’em Forever came out?

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