In the first two minutes of the film Geekin’, the love interest Meredith provides ample warning, stating “Alright, this sucks.” Make no mistake about it: Geekin’ sucks. It requires a Fortitude check to make it through to some of the better parts at the end of the movie. Watching it two times was once too many. The framing of shots is bad, the picture quality is inconsistent, and the acting ranges from horrible to merely tolerable. Skullduggery was a pretty awful movie, but is many times more entertaining by comparison. To give Geekin’ some credit, it was in the vanguard of gamer films, released in 2006 by Digitribe Productions, and is most likely a first-time effort for most of the parties involved. Geekin’ bills itself as “Love, Jealousy, and Twenty-Sided Dice”, but the most accurate part is the jealousy. Geekin’ is a romantic comedy without any love and short on the laughs. If you like high school drama though and gamers squabbling, Geekin’ packs it in.
The plot of Geekin’ centers around childhood best friends and current twenty-somethings Morgan and Brown. Gamers Morgan and Brown come to odds over Morgan’s online friend Meredith. Besides his ponytail and leather jacket, Brown is a douche because he immediately starts hitting on his best friend’s love interest shortly after Morgan’s met her in the flesh, as well as putting Morgan down. Morgan is a whiny loser, “timid” in Meredith’s words, and behaves like a jackass during the middle portion of the movie. Despite being the film’s main character, Morgan has no strengths or likable qualities. At one point, he postures himself as though casually reading a book in the dark in a parking lot. His one trait seems to be that he likes soap operas. There are several references to this as the movie develops, but this never goes anywhere because the fantasy soap opera sequence featuring Geekin’s characters was cut. Watching it on the Deleted Scenes is telling because the actors’ humorous melodramatic soap opera acting isn’t far off from their acting in the actual movie. Watching the director and some of the cast explaining why it was cut is also more engaging than the actual movie as well.
Plot B involves the four other guys who round out the group, specifically the relationship breakdown of another set of BFFs, Austin and Mooney. Trench coat wearing Mooney learns that Austin dated his high school girlfriend (but is unaware that Austin is also into his mother). This and several other parts of Geekin’ serve as evidence of director John Morehead’s Kevin Smith fandom. There’s an expletive-laden invective against Morgan delivered by the feisty Penny (Briana Westmoreland) that could have been ripped straight out of Clerks and then when it comes time for the various groups to attempt resolution, Brown denies the possibility of a threesome a la Chasing Amy. What Morgan devises instead is a pretty unique use of role-playing in cinema; Morgan will GM the feuding parties, including Brown and his confirmed girlfriend Meredith through a special adventure in order to reconcile them. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but the climax of the movie basically is a tabletop session spoiled by the character Wes.
The Good in Geekin’
By far the best part of Geekin’ is the earnest character of Wes, played by Jason Von Stein. Wes is something of a munchkin, plays Gump the Gnome, and is ridiculed by his fellow players, who call him Captain Twink and “Gnome Boy”. He also gets the best lines in the movie as the dorky doofus that the rest of his friends have to keep in check. He drifts off in a diner having fantasies of Gump the Gnome and then uses an RPG book to cover his lap in embarrassment when Morgan intrudes. When Morgan is unsure of whether he can trust Wes with some relationship drama, Wes holds up his hand saying “You have my Arwellian Oath of the Gnome Clan,” before Morgan interrupts his nerdy oath. There’s really not enough Wes in Geekin’, but he’s the best reason to see or get the film.
Besides Wes there are a few other laughs in the film. The first party member is introduced as having been trained by a blind swordsman, his parents murdered in a bandit raid. Saurlin the Wizard’s parents were murdered and then there’s “Gump the Gnome, a powerful warrior in his own right, despite his birth race. His parents were murdered.” That got a chuckle from me. There are attempted jabs at X-Files and Jennifer Garner in Elektra. The non-Wes comedic dialogue tops out with “It’s creepy. It’s like kissing Crispin Glover,” though watching it the second time around, the line “Morgan is a great guy,” is also a contender.
One of the few redeeming things Morgan does in the movie and probably the only touching moment is when he makes a stop animation video of lawn gnomes coming to a truce in an effort to win over the girl he wants to sleep with in order to make Brown jealous. The sole romantic gesture in the movie is undercut by Morgan’s attempt to spark Brown’s jealousy. The gnome sequence is also one of the better uses of music in Geekin’, which at times seems like a showcase for local musicians or band member friends of the director. The soundtrack is one of the better parts of Geekin’ with “Everyone Thinks I’m Special” by The Down Ten a notable standout. However the soundtrack is poorly mixed with the dialogue, creating odd contrived moments in the movie.
The Gaming in Geekin’
While there’s two segments involving comic books, most of the geekery in Geekin’ does center around gaming. It’s a surprise then that the gamers fake-play Xbox. While there are multiple tabletop sessions in Geekin’, most of the plot takes place away from the gaming table at Brown’s house. While there though, a Ravenloft poster haunts the wall and Austin wears his Storm of Chaos T-shirt, while another wears a Nosferatu clan shirt. There’s Mountain Dew, junk food, miniatures in the distance, and a bookshelf bursting with sourcebooks. The gamers do their shopping at The Wizard’s Staff store, a huge gaming store with sparsely populated shelves and two store clerks who dismiss Morgan’s exuberant dancing through the store because he’s finally slept with Meredith as “Gay.”
The RPG that the group plays appears to be called “Farmers and Homesteaders” and takes place in the world of Tir Sidaj. In Farmers and Homesteaders, there’s an attribute called Wits and players make opposed rolls to hit enemies in combat. There’s a repeated joke revolving around playing a “healing bind witch”, which seems to an undesirable yet necessary class or role akin to the treatment of clerics in some circles. When new girl Penny shows up looking for Brown, the players leap at the chance that Penny might play one, vetoing her idea of choosing Archer or Merchant for her Class. In the fictional RPG of Geekin’ there is also a Severed Knight class, which is usually restricted, but which Morgan gives to Wes to win him over, also giving him a “Fury Blade”, a +5 weapon with the Ripping effect. There’s also Blood Wizards, Thieves, Monks of the Third Awareness, and Bard/Scholars.
There are also several classic tabletop RPG gaming dilemnas that the film explores, such as players interrupting the GM, the occasional unpopularity of GMing, taking back actions, and the role or roll of attributes and rules in storytelling. Even as Morgan tries to narrate a wizard’s magical infusion of a map into the PCs minds to help them on their task, munchkin Wes is once again stealing the show by trying to resist the magician’s intrusion into his mind, “I’m rolling to save against magic. What?! I don’t want any wizard messing with my brain, I’m rolling.”
As tedious and excruciating as other parts of the movie can be, in its portrayal of role players Geekin’ is spot on. It does capture what life can be like around the playing table, especially when players and GMs argue. As funny as Wes can be though, every single game session I’ve ever played in was much more entertaining and had more laughs than Geekin’ manages to elicit.