This past weekend in Dallas, Texas, a gamer known as Chris "Fukubear" stepped away from the PC he had hauled to the cavernous Bring Your Own Computer area of QuakeCon 2013. When he returned, his computer had transformed into a multi-colored display of human nature.
Chris' computer was parked almost directly at the entrance of the BYOC area, where hundreds of show attendees couldn't help but see it. Before he left his PC, Chris left a few Post-it notes on the side of his PC case. He left a colorful stack of unused ones nearby.
With its owner gone, people would wander by or do an actual double-take, then take a sticky note, write on it, and place it somewhere on his case. "A social experiment," he would come to call it.
Soon, Chris' PC didn't look like a PC. It looks like a piece of bright, vivid, complicated art.
A lot of people wrote curses and drew penises on their Post-it notes, of course. There was a particularly impressive phallus drawn across several Post-its that spanned the width of the computer case. One admirer described it in glowing aerospace terms as a "multi-stage rocket of a penis."
The low-brow approach wore out and visitors began to leave messages from the heart.
"I've never seen anything like it," Chris said. "After six years of coming to QuakeCon, I've never seen people do anything like this." Some contributors left greetings from other parts of the computer-laden warehouse. A few went meta and pointed out that they were not drawing genitalia, and others proclaimed their love of QuakeCon. A lot of people wrote poems.
Then the late-night emotions began to settle in. Messages like, "Hyuna was here! Find me!" (accompanied by a smiley face and a heart) and ones with room numbers and phone numbers started to crop up. One female fan from across the aisle took the time to detail, across several sticky notes, that Fukubear does indeed rock. Several scribblers took a PostSecret slant. A few notes apologized for nothing in particular. Others finished the sentence started by one that began with "Death is..."
"I want to collect them all, frame them, and hang them on the walls of my room," Chris said as he gathered them up into neat, adhesive piles, careful to leave his fan-made Fukubear banner on prominent display.
Many people still came up long after he'd run out of space and Post-its. His computer was drawing attention in the BYOC even when there was a pizza box tower looming nearby. A few showers even suggested he enter the case modder competition taking place the next day. But with a $400 case holding $1,000 of hardware, the sticky notes were the most valuable thing on there.
As for whether he'll do it next year, "I don't know," he said. "It just sort of happened."
Would he want to be known as the Post-it guy given that this started as such an organic thing? He offered a sheepish "maybe" before settling on "but I doubt it." Perhaps he'd absorbed the idea crystalized in a quote from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1. The quote had been left by one well-read visitor. It made a salient, iambic point:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
Tim Poon is based in Dallas, Texas and specializes in perfectly adequate handshakes and chunky salsa. Find him on Twitter at @mockenoff.