It's a rainy October morning, and one of the highest-paid punters in the NFL is sprawled out on his living-room couch with a laptop, engrossed in an alien invasion game called X-COM. It's a familiar place for Chris Kluwe, a self-professed nerd who is so fond of video games, he once toyed with the idea of changing his name to "World of Warcraft."
At a Music for Marriage Equality benefit, Kluwe joined singer/songwriter Jonatha Brooke for the night’s closing tune
"He really loves the escapism aspect of it," says Andy Reiner, executive editor for Game InformerMagazine and guitarist in Kluwe's band, Tripping Icarus. "The empowerment of becoming a character, and going from rags to riches, so to speak, is kind of what games are all about."
Aside from video games — which he's been hooked on since the original Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt — Kluwe devours science-fiction books and graphic novels. He loves table-top miniatures, and has been known to arrive at the Vikings locker room hours early to work on the figurines he uses in a fantasy game called "Warmachine."
"He'll just pull up a table in their locker room with his paints and his paint brushes," says Reiner. "That's the type of guy he is. He just doesn't care."
Even the origin story of Tripping Icarus speaks to Kluwe's unabashed nerdiness. During his early years with the Vikings, Kluwe played the game Guitar Hero obsessively.
"I was pretty good at it," he says. "I went through a couple iterations of the game, and eventually unlocked an achievement that said, 'Buy a real guitar already.' And I was like, 'Well, I really should just buy a real guitar already.'"
So he did. After learning the fundamentals of the bass, he approached Reiner about starting an alternative-rock group. Reiner brought in his drummer friend Matt Marshall, who knew a singer/guitarist named Jesse Damien Revel. The band is now finishing its third full-length album, and preparing for shows at the Triple Rock and Hell's Kitchen to benefit the Vote No campaign.
"Our crowd will be people wearing Vikings jerseys, and then people wearing Halo shirts," says Reiner. "We definitely have a weird crowd dynamic, but at the same time, there's nothing weird about it."