Geeked Out

5 Meetups in Houston for the Inner Nerd

Find you people.

By Jeff Balke March 2, 2020 Published in the March 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Gamers play Dungeons & Dragons at Ettin Games & Hobbies. 

If you have an interest, there’s a group here for you somewhere, not of pixels but of actual people. Here are 5 meetups to try, depending on what you’re into, of course.

Houston Gaymers

This decade-old nonprofit organization is for video game enthusiasts in the LGBTQIA community. “The organization all stemmed from a small group of friends that, through their united love of gaming, wanted to build an environment where other LGBTQIA members could make new friends, play games, and support one another,” says Eric Hulsey, the group’s president. Today the Gaymers boast 3,000 members and 50-plus events per year, and they’ve provided more than 60 gaming consoles to area children’s hospitals and community centers. “We believe that ... using gaming as a common ground helps pave the way for trust, healing, and growth,” Hulsey says. And despite the stereotypes, he adds, the group is quite social. “Many members have made friends and even several lifelong partners—two more weddings in 2020.” 

The USS Zavala 

The early conventions for fans of iconic series Star Trek gave birth to an entire industry. In Houston the group representing Starfleet International, the largest organization of its kind in the world, is named for Lorenzo de Zavala, one of the founding fathers of Texas. Now nine years old, the 54-member USS Zavala is active at conventions such as Comicpalooza and works with charities like the Houston Area Women’s Center and the Children’s Miracle Network. The crew, explains Admiral Lucy Franck, raises money in some uniquely Trekkie ways. “We have Tribble adoptions,” she says, referring to the famous furry creatures featured on an episode of the original series, which were sort of like the Baby Yodas of their time. “We produce Tribbles and have adoptions for five dollars, all proceeds of which go to our charities.”  

Magic: The Gathering at 8th Dimension Comics & Games 

If there is an unofficial geek headquarters in Houston, it might be 8th Dimen- sion. The Near Northwest shop is one of the best sources of comic books, cards, gaming accessories—essentially, everything a nerd could want. And every Friday it’s home to Magic: The Gathering ... gatherings, where fans play the collectible card game with a rabid following. And if you’re a beginner? Don’t be nervous. “We were all newbies once,” proclaims 8th Dimension’s website. “As Wil Wheaton once said about the greatness of geekiness, ‘Find the thing that you love, and love it the most that you can.’” 

Dungeons & Dragons at Ettin Games and Hobbies

The epicenter of Houston’s D&D community is located in a little strip center in Humble, where Ettin has been hosting the fantasy roleplaying gamers for six years now. “Most players play in a regular game on a weekly basis,” says shop owner Dave Donohoo, “but we also have games for new players or folks who can’t play consistently.” Despite the rise of video games, D&D has maintained a loyal following ever since its 1974 release. “A lot of people who played D&D when they were younger are rediscovering the game,” says Donohoo, “while younger generations are discovering D&D for the first time.” They might be serious about their gaming, but the players also come for a good time. “They are a bunch of friends, family, and like-minded people getting together, having some laughs, and enjoying some fun and adventure.” 

Alamo Drafthouse Film Club

Film buffs have adored the Austin-based cinema chain since it first opened in 1997. From that time forward, the Alamo has been a go-to resource for film lovers, hosting screenings and generally serving as a gathering place. In Katy the club meets every Wednesday and Sunday for screenings of independent, arthouse, foreign, and documentary films followed by group discussions and, sometimes, chats with special guests. The group has more than 2,000 members on Facebook alone. 

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