There was some medium-quality banter occurring as the jousting set up at Ironfest, the MC smoothly entertaining the crowd with historical facts and medieval jokes, while two crowd rousers in motley bounced around and shouted the kind of zingers usually reserved for pantomimes or for when your less funny friends are playing Halo. After a particular clunker, Bob turned to me and said ‘where do they find these people?’ He paused, and then gestured to the entire crowd surrounding the jousting pit and said ‘I always want to know who the fuck are these people? Where do they come from? Why are there so many people at this thing?’ I nodded my head, but didn’t point out the obvious – he was one of these people. He and his family had been coming for the last three years. He was the them.
Bob and Danielle don’t really seem to be the type to go to Ironfest, and I suppose the ‘type’ would be the kind of person who owns a WW2 era tank and drives it around at festivals and tells new people that they meet ‘I own a WW2 era tank’. But their son Jack loves Ironfest with the giddy passion of a hyperactive four-year-old boy who likes swords and things, so he’s the easy one to explain.
Bob has been my friend for my entire life, and Danielle since high school. They are excellent people, but provide a project like this a delightfully stark juxtaposition between when Bob and I were teenagers playing Alleria together. Bob and Danielle own a house, have a son and have another child on the way and are able to talk about grown-up things with casual ease. I know that I am probably unrecognisable to my teenage self, but sometimes it feels like I am the same person but with added dogs.
Bob didn’t seem like the kind of person to play Alleria either – he didn’t do any other form of creative writing, he hadn’t read any books apart from Ice Station by Matthew Reilly – but for a fairly short period he played in this fantasy world as a normal human man named Alpha Numeric who liked stabbing things. I’m pretty sure I forced him to play at first, because when I’m obsessed with something everyone around me has to join in, but Bob became obsessed with it too. I remember one summer holidays we’d schedule our days – meet up for a swim in the bay, go to someone’s house for lunch, post on Alleria, get dragged behind a boat, go to the other person’s house, check Alleria. I remember Bob enthusing wildly during one giant siege plotline, where both our characters were surrounded by swarms of skeletons and we threw molotov cocktails into the throng, and Bob maniacally clicked the refresh button and said ‘why can’t everyone just fucking hurry up and post immediately!’
Probably because it was 4am in America where the majority of players lived.
Bob’s Allerian days ended when the site crashed and migrated to a new sturdier server, an event that lasted for around six months. I asked him about it at Ironfest, and he said ‘yeah, it’s the kind of thing where you’re utterly obsessed but then when it gets taken away, you don’t care at all, it just switches off’. I don’t think my mentality is like that, I nurture my obsessions, probably to my own detriment, but it made me realise that the passion, the overwhelming nerdery for something is what I value in life. I like to be enthused about shit, I like to be in a hot-sweat of massively interested in whatever stupid thing I am doing. For me it’s mostly been various writing things, and the things I read, and stupid games. I like that Bob was obsessed with this stupid game that I love, I like that he is obsessed with photographing glow worms, and before that he was super into looking at the moon. I love the people at Ironfest, who are obsessed with dressing up as things and going to the Blue Mountains and remembering really small details about big things. Yeah, I like it all.
This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.
*Ironfest photos taken by Robert Beazley*