At one time in their life, every gamer has done something incredibly nerdy to perpetuate their love of video games. For some it might be camping out overnight to get a special edition game. For others it might be braving 20 degree temperatures to wait in line for a console that they’d have to wait another month for.
In my time as a geek, I’ve done many nerdy things for my hobbies. I’ve dressed up for the last Star Wars movie. I’ve camped out for a Wii that Best Buy didn’t have in stock. I’ve camped outside of a Toys R’ Us waiting for their newest shipment of rare action figures. None of these events can come close to the nerdiest thing I’ve done for video games.
Back in the 1980s, 1988 to be precise, I was just a novice gamer. My family had picked up an Atari at a garage sale and I’d spend hours playing Dig Dug, Mario Bros., and Joust. So tech savvy was I that I’d listen to my boom box headphones while trying to master whatever had grabbed my attention at the time. I guess it helped me concentrate.
Around this time, my dad brought home our first computer. I hadn’t played much in the way on computers, but was at the perfect age to start exploring a whole new collection of games. After wasting hours on low rent versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, one of my friends passed along a pirated copy of The Bard’s Tale. This bootleg was so pathetic that our photocopied version of the manual would often lose pages that clued us in on how to cast magician’s spells. Without those pages, our character was left to fend for himself without magical armor or flame to light his way!
I became obsessed with Bard’s Tale. I spent hours charting out the city of Skara Brae on graph paper, memorizing trivia questions, and being killed by menacing orcs and stone golems. For a 10-year-old, this was the life! Despite my dedication to the cause, I continually got stuck in Harkyn’s Castle battling the Jabberwock and made it to Kylearan’s Tower on a few occasions. No matter how hard I tried, beating this game was well beyond my reach.
This led me to the ultimate decision, I was going to beat this game even if it meant that I resort to cheating. Well before the prevalence of the Internet or GameFAQs, I was left with purchasing a clue book. Unfortunately, I was a ten-year-old kid with zero money and parents disinterested in aiding my fight with Mangar. This lead me to one of the strangest and nerdiest events of my life.
Back in those days, middle schools where I lived had little marketplaces run by kids. In my school there was Tiny Town and Warner Corner (my school was named Warner Middle School). I was lucky enough to be on the side of the hall known as Tiny Town and when the marketplace opened up, I was in business to make money. You see, every kid owned and operated their own business selling knick-knacks, gizmos, food, or entertainment (as an aside, I remember one kid making a boatload off of bringing in his NES with Duck Hunt). To this day I have no clue how I made my money, but I walked out of this Tiny Town with a stack of Tiny Town bucks.
With this fake currency, we couldn’t purchase things normally. We had to buy real world items via auction. Somehow, I was smart enough to convince one of my teachers to buy The Bard’s Tale Clue Book for the auction. When the auction started, I was more nervous than Kevin Arnold trying to make moves on Winnie Cooper. “Would someone bid on my Bard’s Tale Clue Book?” I wondered. As time wore on, I grew more and more nervous. Finally, after tons of stupid items like markers and My Little Pony, the Bard’s Tale Clue Book came up for bid. And, like Mikey in Swingers, I went all-in without even thinking. After I bid, I looked around for counter offers; scared to death that someone else would scoop up the prize.
But, I’m sure that you’re smart enough to deduce, I was the only f**king nerd in this class playing Bard’s Tale. There were no other bids and I walked home with my prize. In retrospect, why in the world was that teacher even buying a clue book like this one… what if I was sick? Was the whole auction a scam so that every kid got what they wanted? How were we supposed to learn anything about the real world!
That, people, is how I successfully earned my nerd cred in 1988. I was the all-powerful owner of a Bard’s Tale Clue Book and was then prepared to take on Mangar. Too bad that I was unsuccessful, even with the clue book in hand. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I fired up Bard’s Tale again, GameFAQs in tow, that was I finally able to beat it. It’s kind of sad, really. And that folks, was the nerdiest thing I ever did for video games.