Just another day in class, talking about the Odyssey, watching a couple of students hacking at each other with lightsabers while talking about George Lucas’ signature blend of cinematic combat and how the Star Wars stories drew inspiration from classic literature’s mythological archetypes.
You know, that old saw.
Two members of the Society of Lightsaber Duelists, a UNLV club dedicated to — well, you can probably guess — dropped into one of assistant professor Jarret Keene’s English classes to tie together notions of how pop culture and classic lit intertwine.
“There’s a lot of Achilles in Luke Skywalker,” Keene said. “And there’s a lot of Hector in Han Solo.”
As a co-sponsor of Geek Week, Oct. 31-Nov. 4, along with the gaming club Mario Party Wars and UNLV’s student engagement & diversity office, the society is ready for its moment in the Tatooine twin suns.
“My mom pointed it out to me at new student orientation,” society member and Sith lord Celeste Zanone said. “She said they have a Star Wars club. I said, ‘Don't make fun of me. That's not funny.’ She came up to one of our members, Zack, and said ‘Tell her what you told me.’ I was instantly hooked.”
Smoothly slotting in on Halloween like Lando Calrissian at a Bespin nightclub, Geek Week kicks off tonight with the Meet the Geeks Mixer & Costume Ball from 4 to 10:30 p.m. at the Student Union A and B ballrooms. You don’t have to be a hardcore cosplayer to make the scene; just put in the bare minimum by turning a UNLV tee you already own inside-out, cutting a Starfleet insignia out of construction paper, and going as a Star Trek redshirt.
On Tuesday in room 218 at the Student Union, it’s Intro to Nerd 101, with workshops and panels on topics ranging from lightsaber fighting to roleplaying games to cosplay to Star Wars live-action roleplaying.
Wednesday gets going at noon with Mario Party Wars Live, an offshoot of the Mario Party Wars club with live-action versions of Mario Party minigames. Students can play for one of four characters (Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Yoshi), with each character corresponding to a charity (Operation Supply Drop, Opportunity Village, Child's Play, and the Nevada SPCA, respectively). Proceeds from the event will be donated to the winning team’s charity.
A game night, with various video and board games is at 5 p.m. Wednesday at SU 208. ILater that night at 8:30 p.m. at the Philip J. Cohen Theatre, where Kirby Krackle (a.k.a. nerdcore musician Kyle Stevens) kicks out the geeky jams with tunes like “Zombie Apocalypse,” “Dancing Baby Groot,” and “Up, Up, Down, Down.” And if you get why that’s funny, you belong at Geek Week.
For the dedicated hardcore with 15 hours to kill — or anyone who wants to pop in for just the good ones — there’s a Star Wars movie marathon from 8:15 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday at SU 208. Note: “The Phantom Menace” won’t be shown. Sorry, all three Jar Jar Binks fans. That same day, a character creation creative session, “The Colors of Justice — Putting Diversity in Your Stories” will be held at the Student Organization Resource Center. at 5:30 p.m.
Finally, on Friday, Geek Week culminates with a LAN party, where computers are networked together for gaming, courtesy of 8-Bit, UNLV’s resident eSports squad. “League of Legends” and “Super Smash Bros.” are on tap for anyone who wants to get into competitive gaming, and also pizza.
“Since we don't want to shy away from the less-than-competitive players, the casual players, we randomize everybody,” Milo Ocampo, 8-Bit’s president, said. Everybody signs up as a single player. We group them up in groups of five and have them play against each other. Best friends can't play with other best friends. Everyone is always included. Rivalries start, friendships start. It's a really great thing. Then everyone has pizza and we all have fun.”
Aside from the sheer joy of binging out on Star Wars movies and Mario-centric video games, Geek Week is about bringing the nerdy of all stripes together in one big celebration of all things superhero, sci-fi, fantasy, and video game.
It’s something Mario Party Wars President Salvador Villa, one of the event’s co-organizers, hopes can become something even bigger to champion on campus.
“This year we're trying to show that nerd and geek culture does exist,” he said. “It's not just someone playing games, or someone enjoying Star Wars. It's a whole unique culture of its own. We want to spread awareness to around campus and then hopefully with that bring a lot more diversity and a lot more involvement to that style of culture here at the university.”