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March 26, 2010

Geek Out!: Wheaton wows gamers

Posted: 05:21 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

"I was a weird kid," Wil Wheaton told the masses of excited, hardcore gamers at the Penny Arcade Expo (or PAX) Friday afternoon in Boston, Massachusetts.

While some kids were playing football, Wheaton said, he was delving deep into the world of fantasy gaming. The former "Star Trek: The Next Generation" actor turned geek icon gave the keynote address at the annual festival, which welcomes console, computer and tabletop gamers alike.

Wheaton's speech came from the heart, from someone for whom gaming has been a major part of his life - something he described as the foundation of some of the best friendships he's ever had.

"This small red box [of Dungeons and Dragons handbooks] was the first step onto the path that led me right here," he said. "In the '80s, I didn't have the Internet to tell me that carrying around character sheets and 'D&D' books wasn't weird."

Wheaton said the advancement of gaming platforms has been a hallmark of his generation. "In my lifetime I have had a front row seat as games have gone from Pitfall! to Portal," he said.

He said that he realizes how special games have been to his generation, because when he tells his children about gaming, they aren't nearly as interested as he would hope.

He had harsh, and off-color, words for "elitists" who criticize games like "Rock Band" because they're not the same as playing a real instrument.

He went on to say, "When we play 'Rock Band' we are creating a world where we get to be the rockstars we can never be."

This was the second time Wheaton has spoken here. He said he loves the festival so much that he separates his life into two columns: "pre-PAX and post-PAX."

[CNN's Henry Hanks in Atlanta contributed to this post.]

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Filed under: Geek Out! • pop culture • video games

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J   March 26th, 2010 7:18 pm ET

Should probably clarify that this was at PAX East. The main PAX convention is in Seattle in September.

Kelly   March 26th, 2010 7:25 pm ET

Wheaton posted a correction to twitter. Should be "pitfall to portal" not "panel to portal". He has also "spoken" at more than two, but this was his second time giving a PAX keynote. Also, probably worth noting this is the first PAX East, and it has previously just been in Seattle, and will continue there as well.

OK, that's all. 🙂

C. King   March 26th, 2010 7:27 pm ET

Also, the quote is "Pitfall! to Portal", referring to two video games, not "panel to portal", so says @wilw in his Twitter feed.

Vanessa   March 26th, 2010 7:27 pm ET

And that quote should be "Pitfall! to Portal." Otherwise, yay @wilw!

Milerky2   March 26th, 2010 7:27 pm ET

From Wil's Twitter:

Holy balls. My #PAX keynote is on! But the quoted word "panel" should be "Pitfall!" So it's "From Pitfall! to Portal." #nerdsnort

erong   March 26th, 2010 7:29 pm ET

The correct quote is:

"In my lifetime I have had a front row seat as games have gone from Pitfal! to Portal"

(a comment on the long, technological and plot-driven course video gaming has travelled)

Jim Pook   March 26th, 2010 7:31 pm ET

Wheaton is a great role model for geeks and gamers. His writing on geek subjects is not to be missed. Check out his audio book "Just a Geek" for some real insite into this man.

I look forward to some day meeting him in person at a similar event.

Amy Marie   March 26th, 2010 7:34 pm ET

This is brilliant – 5 comments, and a four of them are corrections from Wil's Twitter. =)

So...I thought I'd go with the flow....
@wilw has mentioned that it was supposed to be "From Pitfal to Portal".

David Brooks   March 26th, 2010 7:34 pm ET

I had the privilige of playing Magic: The Gathering with Wil on Xbox LIVE this past November, & he's one of the nicest, most humble celebs I've ever interacted with. It's refreshing to see someone come from the Sci-Fi genre & still maintain his unabashed love for all things geeky.

katemckinnon   March 26th, 2010 7:39 pm ET

The truly interesting thing in the Tweet was not the correction (we all knew that it was Pitfall anyway, right?) but the use of the expression "Holy Balls!"

Wil, this is truly a glorious day. You brought the awesome.

Jim Pook   March 26th, 2010 7:49 pm ET

Wil Wheaton's blog site:

Thomas1OF12   March 26th, 2010 8:04 pm ET

I really enjoyed his appearance on "The Big Bang Theory".

USAF IDMT   March 26th, 2010 8:50 pm ET


Wil will be on TBBT again on April 12th in a new episode.

Brin   March 26th, 2010 9:37 pm ET

Its not the second time he was there exactly.. he was at PAX Prime and was now at PAX East.

Two different locations completely...

glenn   March 27th, 2010 7:16 am ET

I'm still waiting for Captain Wesley Crusher to be on the big screen and revive the Star Trek franchise. It would be great!

sally   March 27th, 2010 7:47 am ET

I love wesley! i mean wil! what is TBBT??? i loved reading his column in my boyfriends Dungeon a few years back. toy soldiers was just on tv the other day too!

javier   March 27th, 2010 11:52 am ET

TBBT=The Big Bang Theory

Sam   March 27th, 2010 8:58 pm ET

Very sad ... a big part of this man's life is his escape from it into fantasy ...
enough said ...

Benny   March 28th, 2010 9:48 am ET

Sad? Have you not seen his wife?×240.jpg
I think his "real" life is going just fine.

evelyn   March 28th, 2010 12:58 pm ET

Sam, what's sadder is you leaving comments on a CNN article about some you don't know and about something you obviously don't get. Don't mess with will and ....wait for it......don't be a dick.

evelyn   March 28th, 2010 1:05 pm ET

Previous post edited to someone. And people, please don't call wil wheaton, Wesley. I'm a huge trekkie but wil is real person with a family, an author and actor. Calling him wesley 20 years later just perpetuates the stereotype that we geeks can't seperate fact from reality. Check out wil at Wootstock this summer in Portland or Seattle.

Robert Kent   March 28th, 2010 1:54 pm ET

And he still can't fix his forum! You'd think he'd have a backup, right?

Doug and the GeekDads Go to Pax East 2010   March 28th, 2010 9:28 pm ET

[...] Geek Out!: Wheaton wows gamers on CNN [...]

Blue Craze   March 28th, 2010 11:15 pm ET

I have been watching NextGen.S03 on DVD. I used to hate every time WC came on the set and lectured to the crew. In Menage a Trois he was due to leave but then missed his flight to the Academy so Picard offered him a "field promotion" to ensign.

In retrospect, he wasn't that bad, only some times.

PSP Man   March 29th, 2010 8:45 am ET

How can you not like this guy? I wish they would put him in a game.

nelson   March 29th, 2010 8:54 am ET

Only the Anal world of Gamers would go balistic over the word 'Portal', who really cares!

PAX East 2010 | WiiNintendo   March 29th, 2010 10:47 am ET

[...] 6:21 PM: wilw RT @jimgoings: Link to CNN article about #PAX and @wilw [...]

SciMajor   March 29th, 2010 11:21 am ET

I love it. Like Wil I have trouble with people who see video games as a "waste of time". These same people see activities like mindlessly shooting a spherical orange ball into a metal circle over and over and over as far less of a "waste of time". Certainly a little physical exercise is good for your body but nobody can deny that exercising your mind is necessary also. Personally, if I have to choose between mind and body it’s a “no brainer”(pun intended) … mind.

Eric Roberts, Aurora, IL   March 29th, 2010 2:27 pm ET

Is it just me or does he look like Dennis Miller's love child? LOL

I started playing D&D back in 1980 and have been hooked on RPG's ever since.

dwighthuth   March 29th, 2010 3:30 pm ET

When are going to see Will in the command of his own starship? Hopefully the Abrams Paradox hasn't ruined that either.

Hamburgler   March 29th, 2010 5:04 pm ET

Nerd Alert!

andrew chaffin   March 29th, 2010 5:31 pm ET

ive played games my whole life including d&d and magic the gathering(by the way thanks david brooks never new u could play magic on xbox live) anyway this guys been my idol almost my whole life other than bill gates of course (god bless that man lol). well guess i better get to the point i know most of you have proably watched the movie hackers with angilena jolie. well to be honest with u there could quite possibly be at any moment a nerd takeover of the whole world. hackers are more of a threat in my mind then bin laden. because of the fact that bin laden at least has the decsinsy to kill evryone before he takes controll. hackers will bankrupt a country in no time at all and mess up most all of anything electronic, and sit on the sidelines watchin and laughing as an empire falls and not knowing what happend, and let u live through the whole thing.

Joseph H   March 30th, 2010 1:46 am ET

He plays a gamer in The Guild season 3. Very funny web series.

PAX East 2010 – Live Blogging (archived) - 1650th Edition | Wii Paradise   March 30th, 2010 7:40 am ET

[...] 6:21 PM: wilw RT @jimgoings: Link to CNN article about #PAX and @wilw [...]

cb1   March 30th, 2010 10:51 am ET

I am a fan of RPG's and set my hands on a D&D starter set in 1979 shortly after seeing an article about it in (I think) People Magazine.

However – this quote irks me. "He went on to say, "When we play 'Rock Band' we are creating a world where we get to be the rockstars we can never be.""

My kids play real instruments and formed their own real band. This is ridiculous to think millions of kids are pi**ing their time away trying to be great at a game of pretend.

If kids would invest half the time at a real instrument that they do in a fake one – they may actually realize 1 – they can play their favorite tunes and 2 – they may have REAL talent.

Wil, for as great as you are – you need to stop pandering to the lowest common denominator.

DVanceJr   March 30th, 2010 12:50 pm ET

Sorry cb1. He's not saying NOBODY can be a real rock star. However, I'm willing to bet there are quite a bunch of us out here that lack the talent, motivation and opportunity to attain that level. That's what he's referring to – not a blanket statement that NO ONE can attain, but for those that can't or don't it provides a level of enjoyment.

Wil Wheaton is one of those people whom I feel my life is less rich for not being able to know personally, and I'm thankful I've had the opportunity to learn more about him through his online work. I'd consider it a great honor to have him at one of my gaming tables.

cb1   March 30th, 2010 2:45 pm ET

DVance – Wheaton may just be an easy target for my ire. I live in suburbia and see kids spending countless hours on video games, they don't interact anymore as much as they "text." It's indeed a strange new frontier.

You claim to lack the talent, motivation, and opportunity – but DO claim to have the talent, motivation, and opportunity to reach the higher echelons of pretend. For the $400 spent on XBox – you can be a crankin electric guitar. You have a computer connected to the internet (or you wouldn't be seeing this) essentially connecting you to the largest available community of FREE lessons.

As much as I don't want to start a sparring match – and this will be my last entry here – you really arent making much of an argument.

Read the early history of Black Sabbath. You can't get much further removed from opportunity the Osbourne, Iommi and the like as teens.

It takes less time to learn the chord riffs on Iron Man than it probably does to learn the whole song on Rock Band.

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Thomas1OF12   April 1st, 2010 7:49 pm ET

USAF IDMT -> thanks for the scoop that Wil Wheaton will make another appearance on "The Big Bang Theory".

evelyn   April 20th, 2010 2:07 am ET

Check wil out on eureka on syfy too.

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