I started thinking about writing this editorial because of a recent slew of articles, editorials, and twitter arguments involving what a geek is and what a geek isn’t. As a self proclaimed geeky girl and definitely a supporter of geek/nerd culture, I feel the need to weigh in on the subject.
First of all, I’m going to focus on American society because it’s what I’m most familiar with. Many things I’m sure can be expanded to other cultures, but some appear to be pretty specifically an American mentality sort of issue. I could start the argument with discussing gender relations and inequality and how hard life is as a woman, but I’d rather look at this from a different perspective. One can always talk about how hard their life is but there’s almost always someone else with a tougher one. I’d rather discuss why it is that the elitist geeks are shooting themselves in the foot with this nonsense.
Nonsense, you say? Yes, nonsense. I understand that there is a subset of the geek culture (call it whatever you want to, you know the culture I’m talking about, comic-con attendees) that has been ostracized for the majority of their lifetime. I understand that this culture was an escape from an otherwise unhappy existence. I understand that this escape is something sacred to many and there’s an almost automatic need to defend and protect it from all those other people (you know, the non-geeky people). I really do understand this. I didn’t experience life that way but I do have plenty of friends and some former clients who did and I’ve seen just what this culture means for many people and how passionate they are about it. In fact, that’s part of what I love about Comic-Con. I love seeing just how many different ways people can express their passion on a host of subjects, all of which fall under the category of geek/nerd/comic book/gamer, etc. I am by no means an expert in most of these subjects but I would love the opportunity to hear one talk about it.
That being said, here’s where the problem comes in. It’s when this becomes an exclusive club and you must pass a rigorous series of tests to label yourself geek. Beyond the fact that you’re perpetuating the same idiocy many geeks experienced in high school when they were excluded from whatever group or club they wanted into. Beyond that simple and clear fact, you’re creating an environment that allows the unenlightened to remain so. Why does this matter, you ask? It’s because the majority of our laws and definitely social rules are created by those same unenlightened who scorn our culture.
Bear with me on this one. Let’s say there’s a chic, who buys a system just for the workout “games”. She wants to be healthy, shouldn’t fault her for that, but I doubt she’d call herself a gamer or geek for that. Let’s say she decides to check out more stuff on the system and comes across the virtual store and she decides to buy a game on a whim. I’m not arguing as to the “hardcore-ness” of said game, but it’s not a workout video this time, it actually requires some button pushing and a nunchuck. She really gets into it and so she decides to start checking out some more games and starts really getting into the gamer world. Let’s say said girl is the daughter of a congressman. Let’s say this congressman is completely against video games, RPGs, LARP, anything geeky. With me so far? Good!
So, this chic is really getting into these games and she decides to go to a predominantly geeky store. You know the ones I’m talking about. She goes up to someone at the store and starts asking questions about some new game she’s heard of but never played and how it was discussing similarities to some card game she’d never heard of either but she’s interested in. Here’s the pivotal moment.
If she is met with encouragement and a welcoming attitude or at the very least a very shy guy who’s not rude to her and points to the correct section of the store, she’ll continue down the path to future geek activities. If, however, she is met with scorn and ridicule and is verbally tossed out of the store for not being “geeky” enough, she may choose to quit gaming altogether and just go back to her Zumba or whatever. Why do we care?
Well, let’s say the first scenario plays out and she continues. She ends up watching coverage of E3 because she loves these games and wants to hear about the next games to come out. Let’s say her dad walks by as she does – or she brings it up while having dinner with the family. Now, remember, her dad is anti-all geeky things. He listens to her, hears how much she enjoys it, and he remembers this is his child, the one he raised with his values (mostly) and she enjoys video games or board games or whatever it is. The majority of parents will stop, even if it’s for a minute, and re-evaluate their stance when they see their child is happy doing something they don’t like and their child is still safe and healthy and no harm has come their way from it. He changes his mind, just a little bit toward the geek world. Then, this congressman could help sway a vote away from more censorship of comic book movies that may include violence but show it for the evil that it is and provide a hero to look up to.
Now, let’s say that’s not what happens at all. Let’s say the second scenario in the store plays out. As a consequence, the geek community has lost another supporter who could have swayed her father’s opinion and thus the opinion of a law-maker. At the worst, she may actually fuel the flames of hatred and ill-informed opinion that her father holds, because now a culture he doesn’t understand or know has ostracized his child.
These are ridiculous scenarios, right? No, not really. Maybe this doesn’t happen much on the federal level but on much smaller level, things like this are what has changed society overall and created a place for game designers and comic book writers to have entire college programs dedicated to their craft. So, here’s my point. You can argue about how all the hot chics are just there because geeky guys are easy for them to prey on. You can argue about how some guy comes dressed as Batman because he saw one movie and thought the action scenes were awesome and knows nothing about the story of Nightwing.
You can argue all of these things and go ahead, keep it up. You’re not doing yourselves or your community any favors by it though. You’re not helping make sure there’s a future place for your community. It’s not about freedom of speech at this point or some mental image of what a geek must be in order for you to accept them, it’s about educating the uneducated and creating supporters out there that can help you defend your little world that you love so dearly. Don’t give them more ammunition.
To be fair, this entire set of scenarios and arguments could have been about a guy with a mother that’s a U.S. representative. Gender matters, it does. However, we need to think even more beyond that and realize that there are all these people running around, just now becoming aware of the geek world – they’re in the same spot you were when you were 5 and got your first comic book or action figure. Just because they’re 25 doesn’t make it any less of an amazing experience. Share your passion, show them you know your stuff, teach them. For goodness sake – BE YODA! Last I checked, he didn’t ostracize Luke because he didn’t know what the heck he was doing the first time he held a light saber …. Did he? Then why in the world are you wasting time and energy pushing people out when you could be helping create the next great comic book artist?