From the Society for Creative Anachronism to Self-Propelled Electronic Armored Racks, Simon Rohrich is a True Renaissance Man
Simon Rohrich stands in his laboratory in east Mesa, talking about his latest invention: a 700-pound, 27-inch-wide blue aluminum box with blinking lights called the S.P.E.A.R.
He's excited. Rohrich walks around the machine, opening and closing panels to show the features — here's the hookup for cellular phones, here are the plugs for multiple computers, here are the power outlets, equipped for both U.S. and European electrical currents. This sleek, silvery-blue metal on the outer shell is "the threat level one aluminum armor plating."
Rohrich opens the main panel of the box to show all the shelf space inside. A Kryptonite-green glow illuminates his face as he bends down. "The S.P.E.A.R. also has electromagnetic shielding," he says proudly.
Society for Creative Anachronism
S.P.E.A.R. stands for Self-Propelled Electronic Armored Rack and, very simply put, it's a compact data center on wheels, capable of storing up to 1,000 pounds of computer equipment and built to withstand the worst weather — from floods to fires — as well as "a 70,000-pound crush," Rohrich says. "You could drop it off a two-story building."
So, the inventor continues, if a hurricane hits the Gulf Coast and knocks out all the power in the region (including external power for emergency buildings and data centers), you could theoretically wheel the S.P.E.A.R. into the heart of the storm and, all the while, the computers and communications equipment will be safe and running on their own power conductors inside the hermetically sealed box.
The box, not quite five feet tall, is completely mobile. There's a steering wheel on the top with a red button that propels the S.P.E.A.R. when pressed. "Yeah, you basically drive it," Rohrich says, "and anyone can transport it. It's got automatic regenerative breaking, so it stops when you take your hand off the button."
S.P.E.A.R. made its public debut last year on an episode of the Discovery Channel show Smash Lab. It also earned accolades from the prestigious Uptime Institute in New York, and the City of Avondale in Maricopa County recently bought one for its emergency operations center. The idea is that it will be the breakthrough invention for Elliptical Mobile Solutions, the Mesa-based technology inventions company where Rohrich works.
Rohrich talks like a nerdy Ph.D. candidate, or one of those pencil-necked geeks from Silicon Valley, but really, only the nerdy part is accurate. And if you think his day job is geeky, check out the guy's hobby.
Among the stacks of circuit boards, rolls of blueprints, and bundles of electrical wires laying about the lab, there's a pile of medieval body armor, complete with a five-pound, brass and steel carbon bronze helmet. Rohrich picks up the archaic-looking armor. He made that, too, and in a few hours, he'll be wearing it and thumping on other people in armor with a big stick, as a member of the Phoenix branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
By day, Rohrich is a self-professed "mad scientist," inventing futuristic data centers and computer accessories. It's a cerebral job, to put it mildly, so Rohrich says he offsets the stress by becoming a battling baron from the 15th century at night.
"I get into fights with armored baseball bats for fun," he says. "At the end of a long day in the lab, nothing beats a melee."
At 6-foot-3 and nearly 300 pounds, Simon Rohrich is (literally) a big nerd. He's proud of being the prototypical geek — digs the SCA and Renaissance Faire, loves science and computers, wears glasses, grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons. But he has tons of friends — and girlfriends. Some might call him an example of the new "geek chic."
"I feel like I'm changing the paradigm of what it is to be nerdy," Rohrich says. "From a lifestyle standpoint, I exist in a very un-nerdy way. I have no problem finding female companionship. That's not very nerdy. Being popular is not very nerdy."
"But I've never really changed," he adds. "I've stayed geeky, and I'm watching the world change around me, to where being nerdy is cool, which is very Ayn Rand-ian, you know — being the perfect man and seeing the whole planet align with you, rather than the other way around. It's been very satisfying."
Every Wednesday night, the Society for Creative Anachronism has a war in central Phoenix. The battlefield is Encanto Park, off 15th Avenue, and the warriors are everyday Phoenicians with an obsession for the history and culture of pre-17th-century Europe. Their "swords" are blunted rattan sticks, similar to those used for the Filipino martial art of escrima (stick fighting). Those swords can leave two-foot-long crimson bruises, especially when wielded by Rohrich, a.k.a. "Baron Josef Donnerbauch."
Rohrich, 34, has been active in the SCA since he was 19. With his helmet (complete with imposing face grille and horsehair ponytail), layers of red leather and bronze buckles, and five-foot-long stick sword, he strikes an intimidating figure on the battlefield.
Where others rush in screaming and swinging, Rohrich stalks, slowly lumbering toward his opponents until he's close enough to steamroll them. When three men run at him at once, he rears back like a Brahma bull and charges with his sword held sideways, bowling them over in a thunderclap of wood and steel. The trio bounces off him as if they'd smacked into a brick wall.
By the end of the 10-minute battle, Rohrich's one of the last men standing. He takes his helmet off to give his bald head a chance to breathe in the January night air. Park lights illuminate the steam coming from his sweat-doused dome. Rohrich's helmet is heavy and heavily padded — it's like a sauna in there.
"The battles are sort of like a cross between tug-of-war and a meat grinder," he says, before gulping down a cup of water.
Though it may seem a big leap to some to go from taking a whack in the pack in the simulated Dark Ages to conceptualizing futuristic gadgets in the Digital Age, for Rohrich, inventing new technology and being a baron in the Society for Creative Anachronism are linked.
"Role-playing games allow you to visualize an object or an environment and imagine its use, without it ever existing. Well, what do inventors do? People who invent things visualize an object and think about, 'Well, how would I use it and what does it need to have?'" he says. "But, of course, we discourage Dungeons & Dragons and role-playing, but we encourage overbuilt morons throwing inflatable leather around and give them millions of dollars and make them popular in school. It's ridiculous."
Another link for Rohrich between the SCA and technology is Bill Woodbury II, one of Rohrich's partners and co-inventors at Elliptical Mobile Solutions. Woodbury's a big blond guy with arms like tree trunks; Rohrich calls him "the pretty boy" of the pair. The two met in the SCA and have been close friends for more than 15 years now, but they initially didn't like each other.
"It was like, 'Oh, look, another alpha male. We'll have to split up the womenfolk,'" Rohrich says.
"He was a decent fighter and I liked that, but he was competition," Woodbury says of Rohrich. "We're similar size, so women who usually liked him liked me. But then we realized that together we could dominate an entire room, even if there were other men there that were normally competition."
In 2004, Woodbury approached Rohrich with an idea. He'd been working with two other inventors, Mike Chaput and Joe Robbins, and they needed someone to bounce some ideas off and do some additional work. Together, the group of inventors founded Elliptical Mobile Solutions (Robbins is president of the company). Rohrich found himself working about 60 hours a week for little to no pay, but because he had nothing more than a high school diploma and had left Northern Arizona University after only a year of studying computer science, he figured the company was his best option for building a career in technology.
Since its founding in 2005, Elliptical Mobile Solutions has created five products, all related to data management and computer productivity. Before inventing the S.P.E.A.R., the company made a power conditioner called the H.E.L.M. (Hardened Electrical Line Module), which provides AC power for computer equipment and will operate in temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit with no additional cooling required.
They also created the S.H.I.E.L.D. (Structurally Hardened I/0 Locking Device), a weatherproof connection panel for computers that provides locking doors for each connection and gives users a secure connection in even the worst thunderstorm. Elliptical Mobile Solutions' other products — the C-S.P.E.A.R. and the R.A.S.E.R. — are variations of enclosed, rackable data centers. The C-S.P.E.A.R. is a smaller version of the S.P.E.A.R., and the R.A.S.E.R. is a stationary electronic equipment rack.
The company's currently working on modular data centers that leave a "zero carbon footprint," developing racks and shelves that can be installed in metal shells to hold computer equipment and operate at about half the cost of a traditional data center (you can learn more details about these gadgets and machines at www.ellipticalmedia.com).
According to Dun and Bradstreet, a New Jersey-based company that provides credit information on businesses, Elliptical Mobile Solutions' estimated annual sales are $1.3 million. Rohrich says the company's total value is $20 million but admits his salary doesn't reflect that success yet. He says, "The game now is to stay afloat" until somebody purchases the product patents (he claims that one of the largest information technology companies in the world is currently negotiating with EMS to buy the S.P.E.A.R., but Rohrich's mum on naming them until the contracts are finalized and signed).
For now, Rohrich gets by on his meager independent inventor's salary and a bit of help from his friends and family. (He sheepishly admits he has girlfriends who help support him.) But being brilliant and broke isn't a new dilemma for him — he's been facing it since he was a kid.
When Simon Rohrich was 3, he caught a cold. His mother took him to a doctor in their home state of North Dakota. The doctor used a tuning fork to conduct a reflex test on him, and he asked the toddler if he knew what the tuning fork was.
"Yes," Rohrich replied. "That's sound energy."
That's one of many stories Simon Rohrich's mother, Helen, likes to tell about her only child. She says that he's always managed to pull off the impossible, starting before he was even born.
"I think my own primitive inclination is that he was oppositional and defiant from conception," she says. "The doctor said I wouldn't be able to conceive anymore because I had lost so many children. I had 13 pregnancies and he's my only chick. And when the doctors tried to deliver him, he was sideways. He was neither breech nor normal; he had to be sideways. That's Simon."
When Simon started school, he had trouble getting up in the morning. So, Helen says, he built his own solar-powered alarm clock in the first grade.
"He was always very observant and curious," she says. "He always wanted to know everything. You couldn't describe 'hot' to Simon. He had to know exactly what it was and why it was. Before Simon even started first grade, he could take a Commodore computer program and rewrite it to work on another computer."
In 1981, after what she describes as a rough marriage, Helen Rohrich divorced Simon's father and took her 7-year-old son to Minnesota.
As a single mother, Helen worked full-time while trying to put herself through school. She's now a family counselor, but when Simon was growing up, they were very poor. Still, she did her best to nurture his enthusiasm for science. She would reward him for cleaning his room with a trip to the local library, where he would pore over books about Ronald Reagan's space defense program and computers.
"I credit my mother for my brain," Rohrich says. "She bought me Legos — the fanciest Technic Legos with gears and motors . . . She would save up for months. She never told me 'just because it is' to any question I had. She would give me the hard scientific facts. I was a latchkey kid, but instead of watching TV, my mom would drop me off at the library."
When he was 13, Rohrich baffled teachers by not doing a single homework assignment but acing all his tests. The school counselor asked Simon what it would take for him to do his homework. He told her he wanted to take an electronics course at a nearby junior college. The counselor agreed, so Simon did all his homework in exchange for getting to attend the college class.
He was somewhat of an outcast in school because he wore glasses and had big ears and played Dungeons & Dragons. He got bullied. "When I was a kid, if you were a Dungeons & Dragons nerd, even the band geeks beat you up," he says. "But whenever I got picked on or something, I would just think, 'The jock asshole, when he gets older, and he turns on the light at his trailer house because he can't get a good job because his knees are blown out from playing football — when he turns the lights on, the electricity he's using is made by the nerd he beat the shit out of in high school."
Though he consoled himself with his "revenge of the nerd" fantasies, Simon says, he reached a point where he hid his intelligence from other students. He stopped participating in the science club and joined the wrestling team.
"I found I could actually get a date if I was on the wrestling team," he says. "I suddenly had more friends, too."
He also showed more attitude as he got older and bigger, Helen says. "He thought he was going to be man of the house and make the rules," she recalls. "He was a wrestler, and he learned from life that if you're the biggest, you can push people around. I knew the longer I accepted that behavior, I was teaching him to dish it out. And I kept telling Simon, if he kept behaving and acting like his dad, he could go live with him. He didn't think it would happen."
But on July 4, 1990, when Simon was 16, it did happen. Helen put him on a bus to Phoenix to live with his father. "Sending him away was the hardest thing I ever did," she says.
He wanted to come back after two weeks. "Living with my father was kind of like having a roommate," Simon says — and not in a good way. "I paid the propane bill every month in our trailer house."
He went to Red Mountain High School in Mesa, where he joined the wrestling team and worked at Shoney's as a dishwasher. He also threw house parties for profit, buying kegs and charging $2 admission from partygoers.
Soon after graduation, he moved out of his father's trailer and found a roommate. He says that roommate was Sean Delaney, a Tempe-born record producer who worked with KISS throughout the '70s and early '80s and had fallen on hard times in the '90s, suffering from diabetes and strokes and working with unknown country and a cappella groups. Delaney was almost 30 years older than Rohrich. He died in 2003.
Rohrich says Delaney encouraged him to take up boxing; he thought Rohrich's size and strength would make him a good no-holds-barred fighter. But Rohrich says boxing wasn't for him.
"I found that I had a problem being violent without being provoked," he says. "In boxing, when you hit a guy good and hard, you know it, and I didn't see the point in continuing to pummel someone after already dealing a devastating blow."
Shortly after giving up amateur boxing, Rohrich found a new hobby that allowed him to capitalize on his size: battling in the Phoenix faction of the Society for Creative Anachronism. There, he says, he really grew up.
The SCA took root in Berkeley, California, on May Day 1966, when a medieval-studies graduate named Diana Paxson threw a "Grand Tournament" party, in which people battled with plywood swords in homemade costumes and then paraded down Telegraph Avenue singing "Greensleeves." Today, SCA worldwide membership is around 32,000, spread throughout 19 "kingdoms" in the United States, Japan, Australia, Africa, and Europe.
Arizona falls into the Kingdom of Atenveldt, which also includes parts of Utah and California. The SCA kingdoms have full courts (including kings and queens), officers, and a distinct, unifying culture. Members create "personas" tailored to a particular place and time within the SCA period (roughly 600 to 1600 A.D.). In addition to the battles, members also practice the costuming, cooking, crafts, and music of the period.
"The fighting is just the most visible aspect," Rohrich says. "A bunch of fat guys in leather beating the crap out of each other makes a lot of noise"
New fighters are "squires" who must study under the tutelage of a "knight." Rohrich says studying fighting and history with an older, experienced SCA member was a great experience for him. "I didn't have a father, growing up," he says. "In reality, the sense of honor and fair play and how to treat other people, for myself, [SCA is] where I learned it. I sort of grew up and emotionally matured in the SCA."
When Rohrich becomes Baron Josef Donnerbauch, he's a vicious warlord, larger than most other fighters and very hard to knock down. After all, his last name means "thunder belly" in German. But he's taken his knocks, too. In fact, he suffered one of the SCA's more legendary injuries. It's a story the SCA uses to convince new fighters they are required to use groin protection.
Rohrich was 20 and had been a fighter in the SCA for only about a year. He went to a tournament in Mesa, but was so enthusiastic to fight that he forgot to bring the jockstrap for his protective cup. So he duct-taped the cup to his boxer shorts and went out to fight in the scorching summer sun.
"So, as I'm fighting, of course, you get warm and there's moisture, and the duct tape sort of lost its adhesion," Rohrich says. "Well, I got swung at toward my left leg with his right arm, and I stepped my left leg out of the way and took it right into my cup. The problem is, when I stepped back, my cup fell down my pant leg. So I took it right in the nether regions, and it shot my testicle through my abdominal wall."
Doctors gave Rohrich two choices: He could have a $10,000 operation, or he could lie on his back for a month. "I had no medical insurance," he says. "So I said, 'I can lay on my back for $10,000.'"
Men aren't the only fighters in the SCA, either. There are several women who don armor and charge into battle, and they can be as brutal as the men.
"One time, I got speared in the bladder by a chick," Rohrich says. "I was coming at her full sprint, and she put her spear on her hip and popped me right in the bladder. The reason I wear that big belt buckle on my armor now is because of that. I got stabbed in the bladder so hard I almost pissed myself right in my armor. If I ever pee myself in my armor, I have to move. I gotta go somewhere else."
For the kid who says he grew up building space ships with Legos and dodging his father's fists, the SCA's become a metaphor for the man he is today.
"I like the SCA so much because there's a certain . . . football-ish aspect — basically, it's rugby with clubs and armor," he says. "But then there's arts and crafts and the educational part of it. I'm high-tech and into education and knowledge, and then I do the medieval thing, and the SCA is split that way, too. There's the medieval, athletic, foaming-at-the-mouth part, and there's the refined parts. Just like me."
Rohrich's group of friends in the SCA extends around the globe, and his social circle in Phoenix includes a handful of pretty women who don't seem to mind picking up the tab on the extremely rare nights he goes to a bar. Rohrich's work with Elliptical Mobile Solutions consumes most of his days, and he says he doesn't hit the clubs much at night because it costs money — and he's careful with his money.
"I drive an old beater Toyota truck. I don't eat out much, because I can cook," he says. "I live with girlfriends. I can survive on $150 a month."
The one thing he doesn't mind spending money on is his SCA hobby. There's a $35 annual membership fee and there's the cost of materials for his armor and weapons, which can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars. His costume took several years to assemble, piecemeal.
Fortunately for Rohrich, the City of Avondale's purchase of the S.P.E.A.R. went through a few days before the SCA's annual Estrella War, a weeklong campout in February at Canyon Moon Ranch in Florence. So he and Woodbury got a paycheck just before leaving and were able to drink as much beer and swing as much wood as they wanted.
Though he's often a sweaty mess at SCA battles, Simon Rohrich's office at Elliptical Mobile Solutions is tidy. There are no posters on the wall, no fingerprints or smudges on his flat-screen computer monitor, no dust on the keyboard, nothing stacked on his computer tower. There's a place for everything, including the giant battle-ax propped up against the wall in the corner. "I got that for my birthday this year," Rohrich says with a grin.
Behind the offices and laboratory, there's a deluxe RV parked along the back wall. It's got all the amenities of a regular RV — bathroom, kitchenette, couches — but this vehicle is more advanced than any RV on the market. In addition to a high-definition TV that rises from the floor and provides satellite TV and GPS, the RV also has its own Wi-Fi connection and can store multiple computers and data systems onboard.
The RV was the predecessor of the S.P.E.A.R., designed to show potential investors how well a mobile computing and data system can work. The company procured 36 investors for the S.P.E.A.R. project by touring the RV around Arizona. "The technology we had inside it was so advanced, and the RV was so amazing, that no one questioned us," Rohrich says.
Conceptualization of the S.P.E.A.R began in 2004, and its creation took almost three years. It was an intensive process for everybody involved. Woodbury made the parts, and Rohrich conducted much of the research and worked with the company's attorney on filing patents.
"My business card doesn't have a title because I do so many different things," Rohrich says. "But my favorite title is 'technology evangelist,' because I sort of evangelize people to the methodology of saving energy and how we're doing it."
Rohrich studied computer science at NAU for a year but got bored and didn't feel challenged. That was the end of his formal education. He and Woodbury are both self-taught inventors. They don't have science or technology degrees; what they have is five years' worth of toiling, trial, and error.
"We never went to school to learn that we couldn't do something," Rohrich says. "If you're creative or non-conformist, you'll probably never reach the upper levels of college because you're not good at jumping through hoops. So we find solutions in very creative ways."
John Robertson, a professor of engineering technology at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus who's worked with companies like Intel and Motorola, says an invention like the S.P.E.A.R. could be invaluable in protecting and moving data, especially with technology moving at such a rapid pace.
"If you had told me five years ago that I could have a terabyte [1,000 gigabytes] of data on my desktop, I'd say you were crazy," Robertson says. "But now, it's easy to use it up. One [college] course on my computer can take up that much space. So we could always use more space, and moving quantities of data is quite difficult — it takes a lot of time. I imagine a lot of small businesses would like it because you could easily wheel it from machine to machine or room to room."
Protecting data in any environment — which the S.P.E.A.R. purports to do — is vital, Robertson says. "The value is not in the computer; it's in what you've got on it — the data," he says. "If you've got a computer with three years of work on it, multiply your salary by three and that's the value of the computer. Anybody who's lost files or data on their computer knows that it can be disastrous. It can wreck everything. So any product that can minimize the risk of data loss is important."
In the beginning, Rohrich admits, he didn't know what he was even looking for most of the time. People would say they needed a part for the S.P.E.A.R that did a certain thing, and they'd try to think of something else that did that same thing. Even if they didn't know what to call it, Rohrich would scour the Internet until he discovered that particular thing and the mechanics that made it do what it did. Then he'd give the information to Woodbury, who fabricated the parts — all 14,282 of them.
Once a S.P.E.A.R model was created and the patents were granted, Rohrich created PowerPoint presentations to deliver to potential investors. So far, response to the newly debuted invention has been good.
The Discovery Channel filmed the S.P.E.A.R for an episode of the show Smash Lab, in which a team of engineers takes everyday technology and tries to use it in revolutionary new ways. The episode with the S.P.E.A.R aired in February 2008 and focused on the fireproof insulation, Aerogel, that Elliptical Mobile Solutions uses in the S.P.E.A.R.
On the show, engineers attempted to create a "fireproof house," with an Aerogel shield that could withstand the heat created by a forest fire. To work, Aerogel had to be able to endure temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The experiment was almost a success, but loose threads from the carbon-fiber blankets the engineers used caught fire. A lab test showed that the S.P.E.A.R. could withstand 1,900-degree flame from a blowtorch and remain cool to the touch. (You can view video excerpts from the Smash Lab episode featuring the S.P.E.A.R. at www.youtube.com/ellipticalmobile).
In the episode, when Smash Lab engineer Chuck Messer (chairman of the Shared Design Alliance and founder of the Open Prosthetics Project, an organization that promotes free sharing of prosthetic designs "for public benefit") wheels the S.P.E.A.R. into the team's lab, he marvels at the machine.
"This thing is great," he muses. "This is a super-high-tech mobile server station. It's like a whole IT department rolled up into this box. It's pretty amazing."
Avondale is the biggest purchaser of the S.P.E.A.R. so far.
"We have implemented a disaster program that requires about 22 terabytes of disk space, and it requires quite a bit of effort to move," says Kevin Hinderleider, the city's director of information technology. (To give an idea of the size of 22 terabytes, the Library of Congress announced in May 2008 that it had collected more than 82.6 terabytes of data). "[The program] basically locks us in one place, and if we need to move it, we have to bring in a truck and a lift, have guys load the equipment on the truck, transport it, and then unload, power up, and reconfigure the whole thing when we get it to another location. The S.P.E.A.R. gives us the capability to roll it in, install the racks, and plug into a power connection in about a third of the time it would otherwise take."
Rohrich hopes other cities — and even the military and federal organizations like FEMA — will follow Avondale's lead. Buying a S.P.E.A.R. outright costs about $100,000 (EMS offers financing options), but the units can be leased for six months for $20,000.
In addition to Avondale, Rohrich says Elliptical Mobile Solutions is also talking to other cities and counties in Arizona. But Rohrich says the organization that really needs it is FEMA.
"They would have had instant communications," Rohrich explains, using Hurricane Katrina as an example. "They could have had it on pontoon boats, they could have had it on trucks — satellite communication, computer, telephone systems, and backup power supply, all in one place. So you would have had radio and police communications, data, Wi-Fi, etc. People wouldn't have been stranded for two weeks with no communication."
Rohrich says market acceptance is one of the biggest challenges for independent inventors. He likens trying to sell the S.P.E.A.R. to government agencies to trying sell a plane that can fly without propellers to Boeing.
"They've never seen anything like it before, and it's so revolutionary that they don't understand how it could work," he says. But with the S.P.E.A.R., he adds, "we basically built a UFO."
It's another Wednesday night at Encanto Park, and Simon Rohrich has gone from progressive to aggressive. After sitting in front of a computer monitor for 10 straight hours, squinting at fractions and percentages, he's ready to kick some SCA ass.
Rohrich digs through his box of armor, pulling each piece out and laying it on the ground. Then he shows off the new rattan sword he made. Holding the purple suede hilt in one hand and the blunted tip in the other, he bends the five-foot-long stick to demonstrate its flexibility and its effects on the human flesh. "I hit Bill so hard once his skin exploded," Rohrich says of his friend and business partner, Woodbury.
Several women walk by and greet Rohrich with, "Good evening, my lord." A few of his fellow fighters come up and give him a fraternal smack on the back. Everybody here knows him.
"Bill and I are like rock stars here," Rohrich says. "But I don't do it for the hero worship . . . Okay, I do it for the hero worship," he adds with a grin.
Despite being picked on throughout his formative years, Rohrich really does appear to get the last laugh.
The night he debuts his new sword at the weekly SCA battles, he also brings a very attractive, busty brunette onto the battlefield. She's wearing a fine yellow silk top, a gam-flashing skirt, and heels. Her hair and makeup are meticulous, and she speaks with a foreign accent. Is she Rohrich's girlfriend?
The woman shifts slightly and folds her arms, boosting her ample bosom even higher. "I, um, I'm . . . one of them," she says then giggles. "One of his lady friends."
After the battles, Rohrich and Woodbury hunker down at the George & Dragon in central Phoenix. Rohrich's with his "lady friend." Woodbury's with his girlfriend, Ginger Mortis of the AZ Derby Dames' Coffin Draggers. While the guys drink beer and talk tech and armor, the ladies sit quietly beside them, smiling and occasionally rolling their eyes or giggling at the pair's battle boasting.
"I'm still a geek," Rohrich says. "But things are changing. Now, all the hot chicks are running around in [costume play] outfits. There are all these girls with glasses and pointy ears that are built like supermodels at conventions going, 'I like video games!' And I'm like, 'Yes!'"
Rohrich smiles. "Being geeky is now very in."
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