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Mike Sugarbaker

The undiscovered country club

3 min read

So there are these guys calling themselves the Verne & Wells Society who are setting up a “country club for geeks” in the Seattle area, as an alternative to mere hacker spaces or gamer pubs. They seem a little obsessed with their own story; they’ve been posting a lot on G+ about the evolution of their brand and their frankly very simple concept (I already told you the whole thing) instead of showing much of what they’re actually going to build, be, or do. It may be that I have them wrong, and they were never planning to actually build a physical club, although the occasional event seems like a lot to ask $300 a quarter for. But the whole deal is at least potentially interesting.

While I was reading about these guys, my girlfriend was over in the living room watching classic Trek on Netflix, specifically “Amok Time,” the first episode that was ever performed by Portland’s Atomic Arts “Trek in the Park” troupe. So I’m listening to Spock, Kirk and Bones while I read the Verne & Wells brand philosophy of “science, technology, escapism and play”… and then I think not just of Trek in the Park, but of the old Star Trek Experience in Vegas and how it dumped you into perfect Enterprise hallways that seemed to just keep going… and I think, is a swanky LEGO night the best we can do for escapism? Is the throwback to Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and the fakey steampunk aesthetic that will inevitably follow, the best way to honor science or encourage play?

The problem with the “geek country club” concept is “country.” If you want wealthy geeks to pay $1200 every year for someplace nice to eat and drink, build them the fucking Enterprise.

Think about it: you check in at the front desk, step into the “airlock” to get into uniform, then step into that corridor (or a near enough facsimile that avoids infringing copyrights) and head for Ten Forward, or perhaps you report to a mission on the bridge, or a shuttlecraft – one of several spaces devised for a relatively simple digital game along the lines of Artemis. After all, a country club needs something to do. We ought to be able to beat golf pretty easily.

You wouldn’t need the $70 million in starting capital that it took to build the Vegas attraction. It wouldn’t need to be substantially nicer than what LARPers have been known to build themselves, especially since members will feel more pride of ownership than a tourist would. You could start small – the above is fairly unambitious – and grow slowly. San Francisco would be the perfect location, not least for its fictional connections to Starfleet.

If I were a bigger Trekkie, I’d be on this already. As it is, I’m waiting on the upper-class marketers of the world to expand their vision.