Shelves bristle with comic books, action figures stand fossilized in their original packaging, and obscure video games chirp cheerful anthems on loop. One patron talks to an employee about a figurine he hopes to trade or sell. It’s an ordinary Wednesday night at local comics, collectibles, and video games store NerdinOut … It’s the quiet before the storm.
On November 23, these unassuming games and collectibles will -- the owners hope -- become legendary weapons as the store erupts into glorious battle during the first-ever Nerdathalon. The Olympics-style contest will pit nerd against nerd in four carefully curated events that each test a different, uh, nerd muscle—Mario Kart, Magic: The Gathering, tactical laser tag, and LEGO speed building.
The only catch? Very few people, so far, have pledged to compete. Brad Vigesaa, co-owner of NerdinOut, hopes to turn some of those “interested” parties on Facebook into sharp-shooting, speed-building, Kart-racing supergroups this week.
Want to compete for the geek crown? Vigesaa equates it to the first act of a superhero flick where the protagonist assembles their allies for the ensuing fight. “You’re going to want to build your squad correctly,” he advised.
Only one member of each team can participate in each event, bestowing strategy on how teams choose their participants. Like job classes in Final Fantasy or specially trained members of an Ocean’s Eleven heist crew, would-be champions should diversify their A-team as much as possible for the cleanest shot at victory.
Gamers will play four high-flying heats of Mario Kart 8 for Nintendo Switch, where the titular plumber trades warp pipes for go-karts and fast-twitch reflexes are clutch.The overall fastest racers will cruise away with gold, silver, and bronze—leaving the remaining Nerdathletes to smolder on the virtual asphalt. Vigesaa believes choosing the latest version of the game will level the playing field, but nothing is stopping Switch-owners from stealing laps on their lunch break until they can almost taste the checkered flag.
Meanwhile, Magic enthusiasts will be whisked into a world of castles and capes, of demons and witchcraft, where guile and cunning are as sharp as any sword. In this battle of wits, players will open Magic card packs supplied by NerdinOut, build the best deck they can, and go for the gold. The tournament-style bracket will churn out a silver and bronze award, too, as do all the events.
Vigesaa recognizes Magic is niche—even for nerds—and not every squad will have a dedicated player. For that, he recommends visiting the store to enlist someone from the steady stream of regulars that frequent its card tables.
Each team should also bring a sharpshooter, who will step into NerdinOut’s Battlegrounds arena for laser tag laced with elements of modern warfare. Essentially Call of Duty in real life, players wield black blasters that mimic actual rifles and “have the same weight as a real gun,” said Vigesaa. Combatants even mock-reload their weapons after shooting 30 ‘bullets’ using functional controls for ejecting a spent clip, loading a new one, and chambering a fresh round (or laser, as it were).
In perhaps the most comical event, each squad’s final member will frantically race to build a LEGO set the fastest. When the timer starts, contestants will tear open the box, scan the instructions, and piece together their victory. Constructions will be submitted to a judge’s keen eye, who will send builders back to correct mistakes before buzzing in their time.
Scores of nerds will collide in this brilliant show of geeky bravado, but just one team will emerge victorious and claim the throne as the nerdiest of them all. Build yours right, and you just might take home untold glory, not to mention a hefty chest brimming with gold, mana, and EXP—okay, it’s a trophy and a $60 cash prize.
“The coolest thing will be rewarding whoever wins it,” said Vigesaa, adding that he hopes the event will help build Rochester’s community of nerds. “I just want people to embrace this because it’s not every day you get to come in and compete and have something for us [nerds], right? We’re usually competing at sports or work.”
He’s already swirling with ideas to expand and improve the core idea, like hosting a summer Nerdathalon at NerdinOut Con with real-life Mario Kart on actual go karts in front of a live audience. But for now, “we’re just trying to bring something to the community where people can come in and have some fun,” he added.
If you and your band of merry men believe you have what it takes, sign up on Facebook for a shot at unrivaled bragging rights. Or, if your cadre prefers to be entertained rather than embattled, Vigesaa plans to live stream the event online. Visit NerdinOut’s Facebook page for more information.