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Club N3rd offers 'escape' and 'fun' for the geeky types and beyond
Geek culture has taken on a 'second life,' if you will. No longer are nerds tucked away in the backs of Internet cafes or left to sit around basement coffee tables playing Dungeons and Dragons.
Club N3rd has brought the nerds together to relish in all things geek: Magic the Gathering tournaments, cosplay (nerd speak for fantasy costume wearing, or "costume play"), anime, Dixit —you name it, Club N3rd caters to it.
"It's a place where people that are into anything geek-culture can join forces and not feel judged," says Dara Defreitas, the blue-eyed president and creator of the club.
"It's all of us just sharing our passion for things like video games and comic books —anything under that umbrella term, "popular geek culture."
Defreitas started Club N3rd as a Mount Royal University Student's Association club, and was pleasantly surprised to watch it take off like Starfleet starship, growing to over 400 members in only a year.
Every Thursday evening, the group congregates a Mount Royal University's Wykham House for an evening of Magic the Gathering—a fantasy based strategy card game that many of the members compare to poker.
Tonight, there is a group of 20 or so that come in spite of the summer heat wave that has infiltrated the heavy humid outside air into the building. And though there are mumbling complaints about the uncomfortable warmth, these folks are ready for a Magic tournament, complete with drinks and pizza that will carry on deep into the sweaty night.
Graham Coomb and Will Kwong are already set up at a table that is covered with what look like placemats that have elaborately (and erotically) painted fantasy warrior women on them.
Both Coomb and Kwong seem at home in the nerdy haven, and are more than happy to be called members of the club.
"This is a great place to meet friends," says Kwong. "There are not a lot of places in Calgary where you can meet a lot of people and have fun playing classic board games like Risk or Magic."
For Kwong, the term "nerd" is one he is not ashamed to identify with.
"It's a place where people that are into anything geek-culture can join forces and not feel judged"- Dara Defreitas
"It's someone that respects what they are doing and puts time into it," he explains.
Kwong describes his pleasure in having the patience for his side-project, Gundam modeling —a hobby that entails meticulously putting together "kit(s) of a a couple thousand pieces that have to be sanded down and painted" before being placed into dioramas.
"A lot of people don't have the patience for that, but I do," he says with pride.
Coombs agrees. He says that being a "nerd" means simply "someone who is committed to their craft."
"I look at it as a group of people that aren't afraid to be who they are," Coombs says. "We do things that a lot of other people wouldn't have the courage to do in public. A lot of people wouldn't be out playing games like Magic the Gathering together in a group with people screaming and having a fun time.
"But we are comfortable with that. So, I think it's a bunch of people that are committed to what they like to do."
One of Club N3rds earliest members, Adam Holloway, says that the group has been enlightening for someone like himself that prior to joining did not identify with geek culture in anyway.
"To be honest, before Club N3rd, I wasn't that nerdy," he laughs. "But when I gave myself a chance to see what (nerd life) is all about, I realized it is so fun.
"Magic the Gathering is so fun, I'm so addicted. It's terrible!"
Both Holloway and Defreitas say that Club N3rd strives to cater to the "spectrum of nerds."
Holloway lists off other N3rd activities that include: themed-movies nights, pub parties, cosplay nights, costume tutorials, tabletop gaming and video gaming to name only a few.
"There's a flavour for everyone. I've gained 30 plus friends here which is unbelievable," says the young man, who looks more like he might have fit in with the jocks during high school.
Defreitas says that she is determined to keep Club N3rd moving forward into a future that may surpass the confines of being a university club.
"I'm interested in seeing the club keep growing and expanding," she says. "We already have people that have graduated from school but keep showing up, and anyone is welcome to join."
As the night carries on and Club N3rd members become immersed in the evening's tournament, it is easy to see why one joins such community. The room is filled with laughter and heckling, and every kind of nerd represented appears to have found common ground within the club.
Maybe it is hip to be square afterall.
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