by Michael D. Pederson
Lately, I’ve been noticing a recurring theme in my weekends. I seem to spend most weekends surrounded by gamers. Lots of guys (many on the heavy side) and a few women (more every year); several of them will hardly leave the room all weekend and quite a few forget to acquaint themselves with soap. Now, I know what you’re thinking—plenty of ink has already been spilled describing the habits of the American Role-Player—but they’re not the gamers that I’m talking about here.
I’m a poker player. I’ve been a fanatic about the game since the early Nineties so it’s interesting to see the new boom in the poker world. One of the things that I keep noticing is the similarities between poker players and Fandom. This really hit home for me this summer while Cate and I were on an Alaskan poker cruise. At the beginning of the week-long cruise it was obvious that most of the people there already knew each other. Many of them either played at the same local casino or knew each other from previous cruises or major tournaments that they had played in. Substitute “local science fiction club” for “casino” and “convention” for “tournament” and we could just as easily be talking about Fandom. The organizers of the cruise reminded me of some the best con committees that I’ve worked with; they were friendly, well organized, and loved talking about past events. The dealers seemed to fill the role that I (and other programming guests) usually take at cons—the professional that was there to work but who also wanted to have as much fun as possible.
By the end of the week we had made several new friends and a little money. I have been noticing the surface similarities between poker rooms and gaming rooms for a while now but at week’s end I was absolutely floored to discover how deep the similarities ran. The poker world is as much of a community as Fandom is.
Right now, poker is enjoying its highest popularity ever. Television shows like The World Poker Tour, Celebrity Poker, and The World Series of Poker have broadened the horizons of poker in ways that old-time players never thought possible. The main event ($10,000 buy-in) in The World Series of Poker has gone from 512 entrants in 2000 to a staggering 2,576 entrants this year. That’s an over 500% increase in four years and it’s directly attributable to television.
Which brings me back to science fiction. Or, more specifically, SciFi. As in the SciFi Channel. If poker players aren’t that different from Fandom and television can grow the poker field by such a large amount then why can’t we experience a similar growth spurt in Fandom? Would a letter writing campaign be successful in bringing science fiction back to the SciFi Channel? I, for one, would love to see con reports on television. They used to run them back when the network was still young. As much as I hate reality television I would even be happy to see a convention-based reality show. Or why not bring back the science fiction interview show that they used to run?
I’m greedy. I want both of my hobbies to be big. Write the SciFi Channel and let them know what you want to see.