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Archive for Thursday, April 15, 2010

Night of the Living Nerds: Super Nerd Night gives the geeks among us a chance to socialize and compete

Amy Lukima, Joe Noh, Joel Pfannenstiel and Shea Reinke (from left) are four who will be attending Super Nerd Night on Monday at The Jackpot.

Amy Lukima, Joe Noh, Joel Pfannenstiel and Shea Reinke (from left) are four who will be attending Super Nerd Night on Monday at The Jackpot.

April 15, 2010

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Past Event
Super Nerd Night

  • When: Monday, April 19, 2010, 8 p.m.
  • Where: The Jackpot Music Hall, 943 Mass., Lawrence
  • Cost: $3
  • More on this event....

It's time to throw down and separate the nerds from the n00bs (pronounced "noob," as in "newbie," meaning an inexperienced and uninformed person. So if you have to ask, you are one - PWN! FTW! OMG! LOLZ! And so on and so forth). And "throw down" in this instance is literal, because at Super Nerd Night, you'll be throwing down a variety of items: gamer dice, collectible cards, Atari controllers (in anger at a poor "Donkey Kong" performance) and empty pint glasses (for refills).

Super Nerd Night is the monthly gathering of the geeks at The Jackpot Music Hall, where the usual bar crowd is replaced with a mini-convention of comic book, video game, role-playing game and general nerd culture aficionados. Began last year as a joint venture between Replay/Jackpot bartender Travis Pesnell and Astrokitty Comics owner Joel Pfannenstiel, Super Nerd Night has mutated from a simple tournament of fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering into an all-encompassing meet and geek.

On top of the original card and board games, art supplies were added for a Drink & Draw competition, video game retailer Game Guy stepped in to help organize competitions ranging from old school consoles to Wii, and the whole thing is sprinkled with comic books and collectibles.

"People really dig having stuff to do while they get their drink on. Plus, it's a very laid-back group, and the Jackpot staff seems to appreciate the non-obnoxious nature of our inebriated nerds," Pfannenstiel says. "I definitely think we've stumbled onto a void that needed filling here. We're doing our best to fill it with dorky goodness."

The next Super Nerd Night promises to be the biggest dork-gasm yet. It cannily coincides with the Adult Swim Block Party, a downtown carnival to promote the Cartoon Network's late-night programming, which will shut down Eighth Street between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets.

Since there's a natural overlap between the Cartoon Network and Super Nerd Night constituencies, Pfannenstiel and company are hoping to herd the carnival crowd down the street to the Jackpot and make a seamless night of massive nerdistry.

"It's going to start later than normal, at 8 p.m. vs. the usual 7 p.m., and we'll be doing our Magic event at 10 p.m. instead or the usual earlier time because of the Adult Swim Block Party just a block or so over," Pfannenstiel says. "That's the right demographic, so I'm going to promote via handbill at that thing, then wander over to the Jackpot to set up. I encourage anyone who wants to make a whole night of it to come to both, if possible."

Even though it's at a bar, Super Nerd Night is an 18-and-over event. The organizers promise that while a good time and a few drinks will be had, it won't get too rowdy.

"You've got to understand, when it comes to nerds, we don't settle disputes with our fists. Instead, we'll complain on message boards or a comments section online," says Joe Noh, Astrokitty Comics employee and Super Nerd Night go-to guy.

"There are a large amount of people that return every month, and I get the feeling of, 'At last, it is that time of the month where we get to take over one of the bars downtown.' Not everybody that comes drinks, but we're all there for the same reasons. We're all into the same things, so the sense of community is inevitable."

That opportunity for the geek to inherit the Earth, if even for one evening a month, is a driving factor behind the success of Super Nerd Night.

"I go back because I like people, I like beer and I like games," says Nerd Night regular and Kansas University student Matt Mendoza.

"There is definitely a strong sense of community, especially among the Astrokitty regulars. Super Nerd Night is important because it places nerd culture in an atmosphere that isn't considered nerdy at all. Who knows? Maybe you'll come and discover you're a nerd, too, just like everyone else."

And lest you succumb to stereotypes and envision a desperation-soaked bachelor-fest of sweaty Trekkies on that rare excursion out of mom's basement, ladies are welcome and frequently attend.

"I go because it's fun and, yes, I love to drink and geek out," says Kara Holcombe, Super Nerd Night staple and bona fide female.

"Even if you aren't interested in the video games and Magic, there are people and booze. So, unless you are completely socially awkward, you have plenty of opportunities to socialize. Also, what kind of girlfriend am I if I don't cheer for my boyfriend while he plays Magic?"

In fact, all of God's creatures - geek and non-geek and the day-walker hybrids of the two - are welcome.

"A lot of the people who show up are actually flipsters - who are hipsters who can easily flip into full geek-mode whenever required - or just college kids who don't limit themselves based on a label," Pfannenstiel says.

"I think the boundaries are being eroded as geek culture starts to seep into the public consciousness more and more. Video games and anime are now mainstream, for the most part. I do feel a sense of pride, though, in helping organize an event people seem really stoked about, have fun at, and want more of as the months pass. We'll keep doing it as long as people keep showing up."

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