NSO brims with planeswalkers, collaborators, nerds of all sorts

For most, Saturday is a day of recovery— nursing hangovers and the week’s pain in time to party again that night, or to just chill with friends. However, for the members of the No Such Organization (NSO), Saturday is a day of play.

At one in the afternoon, (“morning for college students,” one member declares) approximately 15 students sit around three card-covered tables in Main’s CC204. They are members of No Such Organization (NSO), one of Vassar’s largest student organizations. More specifically, they’re part of its Magic: The Gathering subgroup. Every Saturday, members play the popular card game for three to five consecutive hours. Thankfully, free pizza and garlic knots from Bacio’s, provided by the club, sit within easy reach.

As a card game, Magic: The Gathering requires a “large financial investment,” as NSO Vice President Davis Fitzgerald ’22 described—approximately $100 USD for eight people. Thus, Fitzgerald elaborated that the NSO “lend[s] out decks every week…so even if you don’t have a deck, you can come play for free.”

However, the NSO does a lot more than just Magic. “We try to see ourselves as a place where students can come and…find something that interests them [in] geek culture, whatever that may be,” Treasurer Maia Thomas ’20 explained. Sub-organizations under the NSO banner include Mafia, Dungeons & Dragons and Video Games, along with others. While most are run by NSO members, some are effectively separate clubs. If the NSO doesn’t lead an event, they can still support by purchasing materials (e.g. food, equipment, consoles) and safekeeping them in their office. In a sense, the NSO is the VSA for several small organizations.

This in mind, it’s not surprising that the NSO was created specifically to rival the VSA. “People were dissatisfied with the creation of the VSA,” explained NSO President Max Dubois ’20. “So the NSO was created as like, ‘We can offer funding, we can offer support for events.’” NSO was originally termed the Non Human Organization to express disillusionment with the VSA (mocking the VSA constitution, which declared its services for “the humans of Vassar”). They still support smaller clubs, but now focus specifically on nerd culture and maintain a positive working relationship with the VSA. Several decades after their initial clashes, the NSO also has one of the largest org budgets provided by the VSA.

In years past, the majority of the budget went to the annual No Such Convention, a cosplay-packed celebration of everything nerd. However, a slowly declining audience and the immense workload involved in hosting the event lead them to cancel this year’s convention. “I watched for four years, whoever the [leader] was, they would be so totally drained,” Dubois said. “All of the NSO’s focus would go into the con and then after…there’d be like three weeks where everyone was still recovering from it.” This year, the group plans to focus on other ventures, before reviving the convention with better plans and less stress. To use the budget and time previously allocated for the convention, the NSO is organizing a smaller No Such Fair and catering all of their programs.

Monday’s weekly board games night is one of the easier events to run. “Board games night is definitely where I’ve made most of my friends…it’s a very social setting,” Thomas explained. Friends play board games together in Raymond’s MPR, exchanging jokes about wizards as they play nearly-unheard-of board games. Vassar’s nerd culture lives and thrives in the den of the Rat King.

NSO has done many great things—bringing talents like Dante Basco, voice actor of Prince Zuko in “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” onto campus, entertaining thousands at once, and managing thousands of dollars for a litany of small projects—but those lofty achievements fail to encapsulate the true purpose of all that hard work. The calm in Raymond’s MPR, punctuated by laughter and games, is the core of what the NSO seeks to achieve.

Between regular events, the NSO teams up with other on-campus entities such as the ALANA Center and the LGBTQ+ Center to make nerd culture more accessible to all. “In geek culture, [diversity is] a huge issue. I go to a lot of [conventions]…and so I really notice the lack of women or lack of people of color,” said Thomas. Fitzgerald added, “A lot of nerd culture ends up being for white dudes, right? And that really shouldn’t be the case. It should be for everyone. That’s really what the NSO stands for.” Some recent efforts to be more inclusive include seven-hour sessions of the game Be Gay, Do Crime, organized in association with the LGBTQ+ Center.

The composition of the NSO membership is highly queer. The org also strives to appeal to people with marginalized identities of all kinds. As DuBois put it, “I don’t know why, maybe queer just attracts queer.” He further noted,“Queerness is something we’re good at and proud of, but we’re majority white by a pretty large margin, which is something we have been trying to work on.”

Even without the added stress of No Such Convention, organizing and overseeing the club’s high quantity of events is difficult. “It’s definitely a lot of work,” said Thomas. Or, as DuBois put it: “I just suffer. I just get really, really sick. I work myself to death.” Every officer is in charge of several events per week. The club requires two secretaries, focused on crafting emails that are, as Fitzgerald asked to be put on record, “the best written on campus.” (A recent general email subject-lined “One THICC Weekly” was 1230 words long. Unique emails are sent at least once a week.).

However, the effort appears to be worth it—when talking to any of the executive members, it’s clear the group has made a large impact on their lives. “It’d be a lot harder to find people with common interests,” noted Thomas. “I might be something of a hermit,” added Fitzgerald. It doesn’t fill in a gap left by VSA anymore, but it still fills a gap for semi-regular members looking for their niche. Adonis Mateo ’22, a frequent member of the Magic: The Gathering sessions, described their events as “everybody having fun.” He went on to explain, “The NSO does a pretty good job … It’s a pretty good deal. And they get food sometimes.” With the smiles ever present through the whole five hours of Saturday’s session and every other event they put on, it’s hard to disagree.

All photos courtesy of Rohan Dutta.

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