Damn this awkwardness. But then I remember where I am.
Sara Nguyen, the owner, sees me and before I know it, I’ve got a pint in my hand.
This is See-scape Bar at Dundas and Keele in Toronto, and it’s for us. Finally, we nerds have a home.
“I forgot that I could be myself here,” I say. The words as comforting as the cool draught as I glance at a sea of video games stacked up to the ceiling.
“I just wanted a place where I could do cool stuff,” says Nguyen. “Just a place where people that have the same interests as me, because I’m into a lot of different things like; learning how to build combat robots, burlesque shows, video games, sci-fi, and horror.”
A smiling stranger. “I come here to write my Dungeons and Dragons campaigns,” says Craig Bucther, “and people say, ‘oh, cool.’” He tells me he can’t do that at other places. “We should be able to be ourselves.”
We’re all here; the nerds, the dweebs, the lonely, the freaks. See-scape has a wall of themed booths, I gravitate towards the Hellraiser inspired gorefest, but I hear something out of the Poe inspired library booth and I come running.
“I stopped playing the game and just farmed the auction house and got literally the best gear in the world.” It’s a video game. His name is Max, and he was one of the top ranked wizards in Diablo 3 in the world.
“I sold my character for $2500,” he tells me.
The talk is a blur of games from the past. This isn’t some place for the Johnny come latelies. This is for the people who grew up nerd, lived it, and still do. No, we aren’t on party drugs, we are too busy doing homework. “I’m doing a master’s degree in design,” says Goran Matic, who comes to the bar to relax and do homework. His favorite video game is Knights of the old Republic.
Bah, Star Wars, Picard laughs at your laser show. We laugh at the reference and cheers glasses of pan galactic gargle blasters, the signature drink from the book The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy. We have found each other. “I’ve found it difficult to find a place with a really nice atmosphere where the people are nice and you can actually do some studying or even watch people play video games,” says Matic.
I’m in my cups, and so is everyone around me. The couple playing Street Fighter cuddle together. “It’s our date night,” they say.
Manager Adam Kolanski showcases the coolest booths in the city, a tribute to classic storytelling. They have magical properties. “You’ve got horror right beside high fantasy, a classic adventure story and doomsday post apocalypse. All close together but also tied to one another,” Kolanski says.
“It’s almost like a holodeck,” Nguyen says. Star Trek references get a round of high fives here.
There’s a heavy dose of comic books littering the back wall, and cosplay art hanging all around. Monica. “It’s Monica,” says Kolanski.
Monica, the ever doting server drops another signature cocktail at the booth, “I classify myself as more of a dresser-up-erer than a cosplayer-er,” she says. I can’t help but smile at the accessibility of conversation with the staff and most importantly, with the customers. This isn’t a scene, it’s a family, and adoption is as quick as a drink order and a hello.
I take half the drink in one gulp. I don’t know how many this makes, somewhere between fun and a good time. No one is judging, we can get weird. This is not your usual bar and we all relax, knowing we can let our guard down.
“At a regular bar you’ll have someone get into a fight because they’ve had too much to drink. Here, we’ll have disagreements over plot twists in a comic book. It’s cool to see what our kind talks about,” says Monica.
After a lifetime of endless babbling about inane TV shows over god awful techno music, finally, I am home. Tomorrow I have to go back into the polite world of the normal. But tonight, I am myself. I am nerd. I am free, we are the freaks and this is our home. See-scape.