Boston Rated Sixth Nerdiest U.S. City

Miniature figures used in the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game. (AP)
Miniature figures used in the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game. (AP)

When Randy Nelson crunched the data for the nation’s nerdiest cities, Boston’s comic and games stores, its science museum and its renaissance fairs helped earn the city sixth place on his list.

Nelson had a hunch the city had to be in the top 10. He says he knows a lot of nerds in the area and “had a gut feeling it would score pretty high when it came to renaissance fairs and LARPing,” or live action role playing.

But in the end it wasn't the Museum of Science or the nationally renowned conventions like PAX East that earned Boston its rank on the list. It was plentiful tabletop games, like Dungeons & Dragons, and the comic book stores. Boston ranked fourth and fifth on those two items.

Nelson published his results and his nerd haven criteria on the realty blog Describing the process, he said his first step had been to “search my feelings like a Jedi Master in order to come up with the criteria.” Then he had to find, process and check his data using tools like Yelp, Wikipedia and Google Maps. Compiling the list took him about a week.

A quick search of confirms the popularity of tabletop game in the Boston area. There are board game groups spread across the city, including the North and South shore groups and the Boston Dungeons & Dragons group, to name just a few.

While Boston ranked fifth on comic book stores, the endurance of comic book stores in a digital world is something Nelson noted across the country. “It’s amazing how many comic stores there still are,” he said.

And how did Atlanta grab first place? Nelson attributes the city’s success to “a huge number of conventions that are either science fiction, fantasy or anime related.” He says Atlanta also does well on video game stores, and its awesome secret power: 15 registered LARPing groups. “It’s a very nerdy place,” Nelson said with admiration.

When the celebrations settle down and nerds go back to their day jobs, there will no doubt be questions and concerns about Boston’s sixth place on the list. Asked how scientific the process was, Nelson says “not very.” He adds, “We’re not scientists, but we love data.”

If there’s a message here for Bostonians, perhaps it’s this: If we want to make it to the top of the list next year, we better get LARPing.

Here’s the list:

The 10 Best Cities for Nerds:
1. Atlanta, Ga.
2. Portland, Ore.
3. Seattle, Wash.
4. Sacramento, Calif.
5. Minneapolis, Minn.
6. Boston, Mass.
7. Las Vegas, Nev.
8. Miami, Fla.
9. San Jose, Calif.
10. Denver, Colo.

This program aired on April 12, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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Robin Lubbock Videographer, Photographer
Robin Lubbock is a videographer and photographer for WBUR.



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