[mks_dropcap style=“square” size=“115” bg_color=“#f6f7f5” txt_color=“7d6f65”]I[/mks_dropcap]f somebody told you that 20,000 nerds, cosplayers, furries, and musicians had been annually descending upon a five-star, billion-dollar Maryland hotel for a decade just to play video games, you’d hesitate, wouldn’t you?
In believing it before considering it, perhaps. I don’t know much about the healthy mind, but I’d think the convergences alone would heft some serious consequence.
If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of it, that’d be its relative egalitarianism in today’s calendar of events, organized by institutions that usually maintain unapologetic proximity to the titanic industry that feeds them.
But aside from a $14 shot of Tanqueray, I survived the National Harbor — cordoned Music and Gaming Festival’s entire weekend without a single in-house expense. They have a .org domain and everything!
We were there to meet a lot of people in person for the first time — both friends and staff — but to “cover” the event as well. Thanks to your support, I basically got paid to drink and scream. The crux: I don’t play video games and I don’t make music anymore, so I (and a few of our supporters, I’m sure) spent a good amount of time wondering why I was there.
To capture and absorb the culture? Originally.
Perhaps dysfunctionally, I osmosed into this world of new, yet familiar ideas. My friend group — with whom I do not belong, but am treated as if I do — did not particularly belong there. We were something like critics in our flailing rage against the established silence, but — in painful self-awareness, as always — found it difficult to legitimize ourselves in what we did. And that’s the essence of punkness, I guess. A lot of laughing about a lot of screaming. A lot of inside jokes. An excess of all manners of internal suffering.
Nobody else was there to work, which is disappointing, but expected. (Production Editor Emily Waters spent twelve straight hours playing Rockband, for which she should be criticized immensely.)
[mks_dropcap style=“rounded” size=“65” bg_color=“#7d6f65” txt_color=“#f6f7f5”]A[/mks_dropcap]fter sleeping off the blizzard and my amphetamine deficit for 14 hours, we snatched coffee from a bizarre mall filled with petrified-looking men before again steering the Sonic East. We passed the NSA Headquarters exit, which was unexpected and amusing. Though everybody else (for the most part) had actually crafted macros to score Gaylord rooms months in advance, our Red Roof exile ended up proving fruitful in twice treating us to the cozy majesty of the Potomac’s bedding, opening before us as we emerged from the hills on I-95.
The condensed spectacle we were subjected to makes it difficult to remember much detail. The little waterfront city is really just a gradually-descending moat to its Gargantuan Gay Monolith, and the whole scene is framed in my memory — with vague mirages of heavy industry in the distance — in a near-apocalyptic light. Not that it was distressing in any way. The practiced accommodation of the staff culture was absolutely unbelievable, and as I passed the ornamental HENTAI Aston parked in the six-lane circle drive in front of its astonishingly-inbewildered five star hotel doorman tipping his peaked cap at an arriving gaggle of no-BS Fire Emblem cosplayers, the contrast began to resolve itself through one not-so-perplexing realization:
nerds have money, now.
What assumptions I’d brought with me lent toward a high probability of catching a maid hysterically sprinting and screaming from a shrugging, shit-smeared furry in his doorway, or something. And yeah, I heard a few stories on the floor, but the professionalism of our hosts and discouraging, through-and-through decency of our fellow festgoers prevented the event from developing even the slightest tension of a filthy, perverse occupation.
If I’m honest, some juvenile edginess deep within me had counted on the conflict.
I wanted to correspond from an all-out cultural war, like a real reporter, but my hunger for camaraderie in the fantastical & shocking upheaval of all moralist power (read: a good party) would remain unrequited, though I found enough in our repeated, cacophonous assaults on “The Soap Box” (the free-for-all TEDx room, if you will,) to satiate my more prehistoric frustrations. (These are the singular elements I actually managed to account onsite in my Day One & Day Two entries.)
Once again, I had misjudged culture and counter-culture’s timeless dance and wound up — crowdsourced — in the well-mannered playground of 25,000 reasonable people…
But I was there.
I don’t play video games or make music, really, but I had to do something.
I didn’t bring a single milligram of adderall with me to the East — mostly because of procrastination on health insurance details, but in part because I wanted to use the opportunity to prove to myself that I could still at least maintain the minimums of human function without it in such a setting. I think I’m glad I didn’t, actually. I doubt I would’ve been able to absorb the atmosphere as passively as I did. Too much more exuberance, and I very well could have done something worthy of kicking me out.
Criminality proved exceedingly challenging.
Somehow, every single one of the fuckers was in on some joke… some reference to a legendary Poking Man who’s party trick is a protracted vocal emission of extreme agitation — from belly-bellow to banshee-howl in a linear upswing.
When in a sans-amphetamine, intellectually-compromised state, screaming has long been my go-to for a quick and easy punking. But in this place… this billion-dollar luxury labyrinth… my screams were no nuisance at all, but instead a horrid siren call to the trachea behind a thousand foul neckbeards, regardless of the hour!
And with the effectiveness of my once-dependable core lunacy utterly nullified,
I found myself hopelessly-equipped against the earnestness of this…
oppressing, sincere, and enthusiastic species.