Monday, June 20, 2005

WPI SFS 3: Nowhere to Go

Read chronologically. This is part three.

Mike failed, even when he succeeded, for one simple reason: the generations in the SFS are, on average, four years long. Like any line of kings, Mike needs his successors to be able to continue the good and powerful government. Unlike any other line of kings, his successors frequently come every other year! Within ten years, his reign will be all but forgotten, his works lost to the sands of time.

In other words, there’s no staying power.

Worse, the things he used to gain power in the first place are fading. Undocumented Features, the legend which actually drew people into WPI specifically to become Wedge Rats, is fading. Not that the actual writing is fading, or even that the universe doesn’t continue to grow. But the universe no longer has anything to do with wedging, or even with college. It is rapidly becoming not applicable to WPI.

The ancients only stay in Worcester for so long. With few exceptions, most people are out of Worcester by the age of twenty six or twenty seven. So, while the Geeks Emeritus do extend the life cycle, they don’t last forever… and the current waves of elders are the GOTHS. That’s not going to help the SFS any. Also, the popping internet bubble drove many of them out, so our ancient population is lower than it should be.

The fur which Mike was kind enough to add – stories of the past – are by and large weak. This is because Mike stuck to reality. While they add to the value of the SFS if you are already an interested member, they won’t actually attract newcomers.

Even the socializing is ephemeral – how long until they close the wedge entirely, and geeks are left with no place to spend their late Fridays and early Saturdays gaming? And, if the student population continues further down the road of digitalization, nobody will have ANY interest in board and card gaming. Painfully, one of our major draws was Magic, the Gathering. Which was already dying then and is probably slated to have its thread cut within a year or two. With reduced draw to the Fridays, even if they continue to be possible, eventually we won’t have enough reaction mass.

Perhaps the most fatal blow to the SFS is that WPI is drawing a stupider crowd. Not more stupid. Stupider. Each year WPI ads are directed closer and closer to the lowest common denominator as they strive to shoot themselves in the foot as fast as possible. There are simply fewer SFS-worthy geeks to choose from.

No, I take that back. The most fatal blow is the administration, which hates the SFS with a passion and continues to make more and more short-sighted rules that make life impossible. Back in the old days, there were a lot of places geeks could gather and have a relatively good time. The wedge was three times the size it is now. Founders basement didn’t have a mandatory lockdown. There was no ‘closing time’ on the primary meeting place. There were labs and gweeperies. All gone. Now a geek’s only real choice is his room, with his computer. That’s pretty sad, and pretty destructive.

Either way, the end result is clear: the SFS could be in for a rocky road.

How can the SFS survive? I’m not entirely sure, but even more fervent socializing and event-holding couldn’t hurt. A new short larp each week? Great idea! New legends on the scale of Undocumented Features, but about the SFS. SFS-specific games and larps of uncommon quality.

But with the environment steadily growing more barren, I do worry for their future.

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