Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Reluctant Geek - Spoiled rotten

Since moving house and turning thirty, I’ve discovered a previously unknown love of gardening. I know what you’re thinking. Next stop radio four and the shipping forecast and before you know it, I’m holed up in the corner of some godforsaken nursing home rambling about the good old days when the Tenth Doctor was in charge of the TARDIS. But far from this being further evidence of some kind of unstoppable slide into the realms of the elderly, I’d quite like to make the argument that gardening can be, in its way, a bit rock and roll. All of that rubbing the earth between your fingers, pulling up enormous vegetables and spreading your seed all over the place. It’s practically a porn movie waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, it has also brought about a new manifestation of one of my absolute worst habits. I can be a tad impatient you see. Thumbing a tiny mottled seed into the earth and waiting for it to grow is all very well and good, but once it’s down there it’s kind of hard to see what’s going on. And that moment when the first sign of a shiny green shoot thrusts its way out of the ground is so utterly, childishly thrilling that sometimes I just can’t wait for it. So I’ve taken to, um, peeking. Raking the soil over in the hope of uncovering what’s going on beneath just a tiny bit early.

Really, this should be no surprise. I’ve always lacked fundamental self-control when it comes to spoilers. (Or should that be, "Spoilers, sweetie.") And for a geek - reluctant or otherwise - this is a bit of a character flaw. In my mid-teens, mad for Buffy and vampires and the end of the world, I took to loitering about a website called Spoilerslayer, where rumours, hints and tidbits about forthcoming plot lines were posted daily. Like a crack addict in denial I would then watch episodes with my friends, gasping along at the latest death/romantic entanglement/big bad, whilst guilt and smugness gave battle for my soul.

I wish I could dismiss this as the folly of youth, but since then the same pattern has repeated itself. If I love a TV show, or a series of comics or books sufficiently passionately, then I care about the characters. And if I care about the characters then I want to know what’s going to happen to them. Who *is* River Song? What will come of Daenerys’ desire to come home? You could almost dress it up as altruism with the right PR.

There is a darker side though, and it’s the side that knows that knowledge is power, and acts accordingly. Whenever I begin to doubt the idea that I am in any way geeky, I run up against the brick wall of my recent romantic history. The GM of truly brilliant roleplaying game called Orpheus Gaze, the first in command of my LARP faction, and most recently and wonderfully, a referee from the same LARP system. (There are one or two ‘normal’ boys in there as well, honest). When faced with not just a game where I don’t know what will happen, but a close relationship with a person who *does*, it’s very hard not to seek out some real life spoilers. Luckily all three boys have been upstanding and virtuous enough to resist the pleas of my weaker moments, and I sometimes think I know less than a regular player rather than more in an over-compensatory insistence on spoiler silence. The point is, left to my own devices, or entangled with lesser men, I’m not sure that my desire to ‘know’ things could be kept in check.

And actually, this would be a real shame. Because as much as I crave spoilers, as much as I’ll chase an internet forum thread all over the place in pursuit of them, I kind of know they aren’t really good for me. To know what was going to happen would ruin my role-playing experience utterly, and in LARP as in life, it’s usually more fun when it’s unscripted. Even with TV shows, there is nothing really quite like the unexpected punch in the stomach that comes with an unexpected character death, or the adrenalin rush of a plot twist that leaves you breathless and squealing incoherently at the screen. Almost all fictional experiences, whether books or films or games, seek to emulate a version of real life with a greater concentration of intensity, and in real life, the next step is always uncertain. The pavement could be there just as we expect, the ground could give way and crumble beneath our feet leaving us freefalling through space, or we could walk ourselves right into the path of that handsome stranger. Therein lies the beauty, and the horror, of the whole thing.
And as someone pointed out to me recently, if I’m not careful, the impatient raking of my seedlings might just stop them from growing at all. Sometimes the magic only happens when you let it.

This week Kate is checking for imaginary burglars.

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