I sort of have this long-running argument with myself: What, precisely, is nerdier than RPGs? I have used RPGs* as the ANSI Standard for Nerd for a long time. It’s not so much that it’s fantasy or science fiction and people sitting in a basement pretending to do fantasy and science-fiction things as much as the sheer pointless bookkeeping. Books and stats and monsters and endless rules discussions down to hyper minute.

Now a days, RPGs have taken a step away from that nerdy brink. The rulesets are getting cleaner, the adoption getting wider, and zillions of people play them online in MMORPGs. Popular RPGs are based on even more popular mass media. Even the uninitiated no longer finds that hand of Satan, D&D, to be frightening any more. After all, the ruleset has been streamlined into the core of kill things and take stuff to the point where it is reduced on convenient character class cards.

I began to reposition myself to the definition of ANSI Standard for Nerd (much like NIST I must, about once a decade, revisit my published definitions) and began to settle on a deeper, more grognard activity: Fantasy Baseball. I cannot even begin to fathom the depths of Fantasy Baseball. I can only admire its shining contours: the many websites, the pages of statistics, the arguments over pitching styles, the battle.** I was content that Fantasy Baseball encompassed the dark beer-spilled smells of deep blackness of the Internet forum while RPGs crawled forth from the sewers and burst into mainstream heralded by Big Bang Theory on Prime Time.

Then I hit the dehaired llama yarn review.

Okay, so. It is not enough to shave a llama and make a sweater from its hair. No, one must first shave a llama, harvest its delicious undercoat (and perhaps its meaty brain pods) and then fuse the delicious undercoat with strains of cotton grown on a certain plantation during a certain time of the year to blend to create just the right softness to use in that single skein that cannot produce even a full pair of socks. And the hair must be knitted with just the right steel — not wood, as wood will catch — needles of the tiniest width to create a garment just so. And for added goodness we’re going to throw in strange beasts called cables which no one quite understands except for the cabal that lives in the basement among their walls of books and gear and who cackle in the night and then launch themselves upon internet BBSs to argue for the greatness of the dehaired llama who is, by this time, really cold. This isn’t a hobby — this is a plot of a neo-post-Lovecraftian horror story wherein the dehaired llama hair with cotton blend is used to break through the ether that separates the line between reality and a composite reality full of awesome.

And when knitters come together knitters speak a strange language of nuance and jumbled letters and comments incomprehensible by those on the outside. They squat among their piles of books full of arcane languages of fibers and fibercraft and spinning and dyes and needles and hooks and techniques and stitches all to make, in the end, probably nothing because, much like RPGs, if the pattern is boring it is abandoned for the newer, the stranger, the front page of this season’s Vogue Knitting.

After a year of concentrated researcher and thought, I now can follow the basic flow of conversation on a single knitting forum. And even then! After the initiation of correctly executing a heel turn, even then I can only follow the basic contours! I dare not post to be exposed as… still… a mere newbie.

Much like RPG stores, knitting stores have their own bizarre personalities. Their own lines of yarn, lines of tools, locals who hang out on the couches day in and day out and knit (often the same sock over and over), who either APPROVE of your knitting style or DISAPPROVE of your knitting style and will FROWN at you until you flee with a new book and a skein in hand. Either you pass through the initiation of walking through the door or you do not; but what you never do is ask after crochet because the end of that road lies only doom.

I have been told Quilting is a deeper abyss than even knitting. Quilters are mad, they tell me. They roam the landscape in herds going to shows and symposiums and seek out quilting shops full of odd machines and strange bolts of fabric. I lower quilters below the ANSI Standard — they are beyond comprehension, even beyond dehaired llamas and Fantasy Baseball and even the odd Traveler campaign.

Frankly, I think I own about par of knitting “gear” (skeins, books, bags of tools) as I do gaming “gear.” They both take up about the same amount of space (a shelf on a bookcase, a big basket of stuff under a table) physically and mentally. And I find it about the same talking knitting and gaming — often to the same audience.

But whenever someone tells me gaming is nerdy, I flip through a knitting magazine and say… “If you think so, you should see some of this.”

* Role playing games, not Rocket Propelled Grenades. Although Rocket Propelled Grenades are pretty nerdy, too!
** “It’s all about the battle.” — Sports Night