Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
by Ethan Gilsdorf
I started out really enjoying this book. Ethan Gilsdorf’s personal story of being an awkward and unhappy teen who found refuge in weekly games of D&D was honest and resonated with me even though I’ve never played D&D. I liked that with each chapter he explored all the various permutations of fantasy fandom from Tolkein society meetings to D&D gamers to on-line MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, to the people who are building a castle in France using only Medieval materials and methods. It was an honest and affectionate, if sheepishly uncomfortable look at all of these groups of people and activities.
And yet it wasn’t as satisfying a book as it could have been. He never got past his own deep embarrassment of his geeky D&D playing past. He swung between being a star-struck fan-boy of the Lord of the Rings movies and being incredulous of adults who spend weekends deeply involved in role playing games. His chapter on on-line RPGs like World of Warcraft sounded the stereotypical alarms of adults who give up on real life in favor of their on-line avatar. He ultimately couldn’t settle on whether the book was about his own unresolved issues or about the burgeoning fantasy and gaming industries.
I think the book would be best for people who know little to nothing about all these different fantasy worlds but have children, siblings or friends who are happily immersed. It explains different games, and groups, and profiles normal and well adapted people who love their spending their weekends deep in fantasy mode.