By Kyle Price-Livingston
In high school, the most common definition of the term “nerd” is “a smart person who doesn’t fit in.” Most high schoolers aren’t necessarily big into critical thinking, but if one were to ask why the nerds don’t fit in, one of the main indicators would probably be that they are either ignorant of or indifferent to “the trends”, these being behaviors adopted by a large portion of their peers because they’ve been adopted by a large portion of their peers. If that sentence seems baffling to you, you may have latent nerd tendencies. Don’t worry, we won’t tell if you won’t.
Anyone who reads these reviews with any regularity will recall that I gladly lump myself in with these nerds. As such, I feel it is my responsibility to refine this definition. Nerds aren’t immune to trends, we’re just engaged with the trends of a different community. Dungeons and Dragons was, in fact, a trend. Not every nerd played it, but many did, often because lots of other people were already playing it. As with trends in “regular” society, after a while people tend to get bored and look for either new trends to adopt or else variations of existing trends that seem fresh and exciting.
After several years of a market dominated, even saturated, by D&D, lots of other table top roleplaying games began to evolve. In order to differentiate themselves, many developed their own rules aesthetics. These were often spiritually aligned with works of fiction (in much the same way that D&D was connected with The Lord of the Rings). The work of H.P. Lovecraft spawned a Call of Cthulu game. William Gibson’s dark future-tech scif-fi/fantasy fusion is generally seen as either the inception or the popularizer of the concept of “cyberpunk,” and, by extension, all the related role playing games. But geez, that was, like, 20 years ago! What have you done for me lately?
These days, while fantasy RPGs have seen a sort of retro-revival (I never stopped playing D&D, but I’m not very cool) the trendiest nerd-chic is centered around “Steampunk.” The Steampunk universe is basically a romanticized version of what the Victorian period would have been like if H.G. Wells had been crowned King of England. Lots of cool technologies exist, but it’s all powered by steam. People where leather and bronze accoutrements attached to hilarious impractical old-timey garb. It’s lots of fun and attracts a broad cross-section of gamers, costume nerds, and history buffs. Whole conventions have sprung up in recent years, and steampunk inspired gadgets and jewelry sell like hotcakes at every convention I’ve been to in the last 5 years.
Progress embraces the tech and feel of the Steampunk universe, but adds some exciting horror and mystery twists. Picture this: a steam powered, state controlled internet exists, but its use is incredibly restricted. A young hacker realizes that Steampunk Jack the Ripper is posting things about his dastardly crimes, and that he may be the only one who can stop said nefarious villain (and save the love of his life).
Fantastically conceptualized, the show is a both a visual treat and a riveting mystery. Our hero, Oscar Lerwill (Ben Whalen) is smart, fun, and capable in the best spirit of Sherlock Holmes. The rest of the cast is filled with talented performers, and features several recognizable faces, including Kai Coffer, who I was excited to see again. Writer/Producer Armando Saldanamora and Director Nicole Wright have set themselves a monumental task with this mysterious and intricate universe, and have done a fabulous job in bringing it to life.
Check out Progress on their website or on the YouTube and find out what all those cool nerd kids are doing these days.