Monday, June 7, 2010

The Dork Olympics

If you know me well, you know I'm extremely competitive. If you don't know me well, you know I'm extremely competitive from reading the last sentence. So we're covered on that front. I bark at teammates, talk trash at opponents and generally make myself insufferable. And woe betide you should you ever enter the Smash ring with The Pika. Two men enter, one psychotic static-charged mouse leaves. But because I'm so competitive, I find myself measuring my own abilities against my peers' in every arena. Particularly when it comes to dorkery, something you may not be serious about but which I hold in the highest regard. Anyone can point to something and say "that's fucking dorky" (ex: your roommate buys special video-game glasses, then doesn't wear them while he plays his PS3 because they're "for PC games only." Second ex: coughing up for a lifetime subscription to either a porn site or Lord of the Rings Online, because "over years it makes a lot of sense") but dorkery is damn hard to quantify. This is a problem requiring my special attention. As a solution, I propose the inaugural Dork Olympics!

They will be held over the first two weeks of March 2012. This gives us some time to prepare without losing the public's valuable attention (they will be riveted) to an excessive run-up time. As for the date, March nails the sweet spot in between the NFL season (when dorks are busy maintaining a half-dozen fantasy teams) and the baseball season (when dorks are busy maintaining a half-dozen fantasy teams with EVEN MORE STATS). And the Dork Olympics will obviously be held indoors anyway, so who gives a shit what the weather's like? You could hold the Games--capitalizing the G gives me goosebumps!--in Boston if you wanted to. That's saying something, seeing as the typical Massachusetts Spring day involves 30-degree temperature swings, sleet and 80% humidity.

The location will vary year-to-year. This is an annual event, in part because dorks are impatient but mostly because we'll need the money. Ain't no "NBC throws buckets of money down a well" TV contracts here, though ESPN will probably pony up a bid. They show bowling on ESPN, so clearly the suits know what sets pulses racing.

Opening ceremony: none. Dorks hate ceremonies. No true Dork Olympics would include any kind of formal preamble. For one thing, any event billed as a "ceremony" is probably something you can't wear shorts to. For another, a legitimate opening ceremony consists of marching and dancing and celebration. All of these things require substantial energy and some even cause you to sweat. Not happening. Though honestly, the activities in the (hypothetical) ceremony are beside the point. Dorks would never reach that stage in the planning process, because labor in the service of Appearance is anathema to the dork lifestyle. This is how the entire conversation would go:
"Should we have some kind of opening ceremony?"

EVENTS! A partial list...
Standing Hot Pocket: Competitors are given a single regulation Hot Pocket (Pepperoni Pizza flavor, as it precipitates the least diarrhea), fully wrapped, and a regulation microwave oven (700W). They must open the package, extract the food item and cardboard handling sleeve, and place the food item INSIDE the cardboard handling sleeve. From there, the Hot Pocket (Bolsillo Caliente on ESPN Deportes, the channel with the most unintentionally funny name on cable) must be inserted into the cardboard sleeve, placed inside the microwave and cooked. Specifics of sleeve placement, in-oven orientation and cooking duration are left up the athletes themselves; this is where the skill and training comes in. Total time limit: 5 minutes. Entrants are scored on a two-tier system: points awarded for preparation speed relative to other entrants, and a judge score. Impartial observers will both examine and sample the submissions. Their ballot aggregates three factors: Sleeve Placement, Crust Integrity and Even Cooking. Any ties will be adjudicated by a special run-off contest: boiling water. The tied entrants are given a fully-equipped kitchen and 15 minutes. There are no points awarded in this special round; if you can boil water, you win. "But Tony, what if two guys can boil water?" Let's cross that bridge when we come to it. I'm not worried.

Gaming: Single Player
There have to be at least two gaming events. I'm sure you understand, as gaming is central to dork culture. If you don't understand that, understand this: I could have written like 400 more words on Hot Pockets, and for you I didn't. I've split up the events into Single Player and Multiplayer, since there are distinct skill sets and I've put more thought into this than I should have. In Single Player, the game will be some form of platformer. Some latter-day Mario title would be best, since the old NES and SNES ones would confer an unfair advantage to dorks who grew up during their heyday. We are all familiar with these dorks; the cousins who got impatient when we played Mario because we didn't constantly hold down the Run button. I'm not running because I haven't memorized the whole goddamn level because my parents aren't awesome enough to let me have an NES, asshole.

The Single Player scoring system, like that of the Standing Hot Pocket event, is bifurcated. The player's performance in the game is one element of the score, and the other is his behavior while he plays. See, dorks have oddly twisted egos and while they lack the self-confidence to approach even a homely young lady, they are quite convinced that nothing bad that has ever happened in a video game is their fault. As they play the platformer and (inevitably, because this is the Dork Olympics and we'll make it hard) fail at the occasional jump, protests of I HIT THE FUCKING BUTTON and BULLSHIT will reverberate throughout the empty middle school gymnasium where we're holding these events. It doesn't matter that the dorks know they can score points by holding back the kvetch. They won't be able to help themselves because they reject, on a deep psychological level, any and all blame for these failures. When I worked on the same QA team as Rob, he would routinely shout these things while we worked on the game in a quiet room filled with our co-workers. This will work.

Gaming: Multiplayer
This event will proceed triathlon-style. Three games, to mix up the skill sets and to mitigate regional advantages (I'll explain in a minute). First game is Counter-Strike. It's gotta be; this is a universal fixture of dorkery and no dork made it out of high school without at least one month-long CS binge. For the competition we'll use the updated Counter-Strike: Source. Anyone complaining that 1.6 is better will be severely beaten and removed from the arena. That version is older than my car. I'd have somebody blow glass dust into my eyes if I wanted them to bleed. Since this is an individual event and CS is a team game, scores are simply kill counts. You shoot somebody, you get a point.

The second event is StarCraft 2. It will be out and beloved around the world by the time we host this event, so we're covered on that front. Entrants compete against all other entrants in a round-robin format (everybody plays each other once). This is why we need to eliminate regional advantages, by the way. If it was just StarCraft, the Koreans would win every time. Just Counter-Strike and white high schoolers dominate. If it were just The Sims, lactating housewives dominate. We need to keep it fresh. The winner of the StarCraft 2 portion will receive a child-care gift package from Huggies, so he can take it back home to Korea and feed his neglected starving children...whom he neglected and starved to play StarCraft. (Cue Elton John) It's the ciiiiirccllee of Korean liiiiiiifee.......

Final event: Soul Calibur 4. This Japanese fighting game has the benefit of being slow and easy enough for non-Asians to actually interpret what's on the screen. Also, the female characters are so "architecturally unsound" (if you get my drift) that some of them actually require scaffolding. I picture miniature construction workers hanging on for dear life as Ivy's Jovian melons sway to and fro. Fighting games are a good choice here because they play out mano-a-mano in a way that most games don't. When you defeat somebody in Soul Calibur, you have metaphorically placed your balls all over his face. It's a bit like dunking, but (again) without all the sweat and exercise.

Closing ceremonies: This will just be a party. Pizza and soda and free T-shirts. We'll have beer, too, because there will be European and Asian nerds. American dorks don't drink much because it triggers the I'm Breaking a Rule psychological response. In less repressed cultures dorks are less repressed too. Incidentally, this is an excellent reason to live abroad if you are an American dork. That, and people will think you're cool just because you're American. How little they know. The free T-shirts are really the glue that holds the closing ceremonies together, because dorks NEED free T-shirts. They need them because, as clothes wear out, they must be replaced by new clothes. You're not about to go out and buy clothes for yourself and your mom can't anticipate ALL your wardrobe needs, so free clothes are crucial to a balanced life of dorkery. Worst-case scenario, you can't get any free clothes after college and settle for ordering """""hilarious""""" gaming shirts online. I started out with "hilarious" in one set of quotes, but these shirts are such ass that I needed to keep adding them until achieving the desired effect.

So that's my big idea from the weekend--it took a little longer than I expected to hammer out the crucially important details, but you don't need to thank me for the effort. I does it all for yous adorables little goofballs. Polish your dork skills, because the inaugural competitors will probably have to be my personal friends. You'll all come, right? Did I mention the T-shirts already?

And finally, as a postscript, a track from the upcoming Parkway Drive album (released on Jun 29). It is my jam. Disclaimer: management takes no responsibility for whiplash or any other injuries suffered as a result of this song.

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