In Defense of Geekdom

Posted on November 5, 2012

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Something I have been making it more of a point to do is to branch out with the blogs that I read, get a variety of flavors from the site. I’ve met some interesting people and fantastic writers so far, looking forward to meeting more, maybe get more collaborative effort going.

Now those of you who know me… you know that I’m not afraid of conflict, even when it is with someone I probably shouldn’t be so openly defiant of. I don’t mind being contrary if the situation calls for it, though I have learned to pick my battles. But generally speaking, on a blog site, I will do my best to respect opinions, even if I disagree.

The other day, however, I came across a blog that requires a response: Geek Culture: Where Originality Goes to Die. Now it is no secret that I am immersed in geek culture myself. Name a branch of the geek heirarchy tree, and if I am not a regular visitor, I have more than likely dipped my toes into the water at some point. I don’t mind if someone wants to hate on the geek culture; different strokes for different folks. I find the sports fanatic culture equally strange and pointless, but hey, they enjoy it, that’s their flavor of escape.

No, what I can’t stand is non sequitur arguments. If you’re going to come at me, bring something worthwhile at least. Even as a geek myself, I could have made a more substantial argument for his point than he did.

The opening implication is that, regardless of the subject of the obsessive behavior, all subcultures (or “scenes”) possess the same kind of anti social behavior (though he later asserts that geeks are actually worse than others), and that “video games have been tied to ‘geek culture’ in a way that books, music and film never have.”

Wrong.

What we understand as “geek culture” now existed well before video games hit the scene (even if not by that particular name), though it has obviously undergone serious adjustments in terms of what falls under the geek umbrella and what the conceptions of that culture are in relation to / from outsiders in just the past 10 years. Now without offering specific numbers, I confess all I am doing is guessing based on my own bias; in other words, I am doing what the original blogger did. But what can’t be argued is that the geek culture has been fixated around forms of media that predate video games by decades.

The problem is that the writer doesn’t seem to understand that, while gamers and geeks may be far from being mutually exclusive groups, it is an error to say all gamers automatically identify themselves (or could otherwise be identified) as geeks and vice versa. The meathead who gobbles up every iteration of COD and GOW isn’t necessarily going to be attending a convention dressed up as his favorite character or raving about his newest graphic novel or any one of literally a thousand other things a geek could be excited about.

What differentiates the geek from other afficianados is that we prefer the most fantastical form of fiction possible. We thrive on new landscapes to let our imagination wander that defy conventional thinking, whether that be science fiction or fantasy. I daresay that is why this particular subculture attracts a lot of the most intelligent people; your average blends of fiction aren’t nearly wide open enough to be playgrounds for our imaginations. I have never read Pride and Prejudice all the way through, for example; I did, however, read Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. I think most geeks genuinely couldn’t care less about the regurgitation of a lot of mainstream titles, but the writer has lumped all gamers and geeks together and imagined them equals (as far as OCD behaviors and varying degrees of interests go), so geeks must be the ones responsible for the homoginization of popular and mainstream media.

There is absolutely no foundation for that statement to stand on.

The writer also makes the assertion that obsessive behaviors, as exhibited by the geek culture, is why 50 Shades of Grey is the Amazon best seller. No, I’m serious; it is right above the picture. I’ll wait for you to double check. *hums Jeopardy tune*

I know, ridiculous, right? I mean, I had no idea that book had originated as a Twilight fan fiction, but even if that were widely known, is anybody going to argue that Twilight is a prominent franchise among the geek culture? (It was not geeks that made Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey popular, I promise.) Do geeks probably write more fan literature than other “scenes”? Absolutely. What is the sports fan going to write about? A fan fiction about how his team should have won the Super Bowl? So the genre that encourages imagination is the same that inspires more creative explorations from it’s readers? As Popeye would say, “Well, blow me down!”

The rest of the blog kinda goes downhill from there, basically trying to assert that all geeks are hostiley anti-social, fanatic gamers hinder progress amongst mainstream game franchises, etc. etc. Does the culture attract maybe more than it’s fair share of the socially inept? Sure. Do gaming companies stick to established franchises? Sure. Do those statements have anything to do with other? Not at all.

The writer would have gone farther with his argument had he asserted that geek culture is where originality dies by showing that science fiction and fantasy (the yin and yang of the geek culture) have innovated very little in the past 100 years and drawn comparisons between the most popular franchises of those genres. I could accept that; I wrote a blog not long ago about how fantasy is really in dire need of some creative blood. I can even accept that the geek culture as a whole attracts more people of obsessive compulsive behavior.

But, overall, the geek culture’s foundations are based upon, arguably, two of the most creative and fantastic genres in existence. The culture may whip it up and turn it about a bit, eat, digest, barf it up and eat again (which is what keeps a lot of these one-shirt-a-day sites in business, as my own T-shirt drawer can attest to), but that’s because there tends to be more substance to chew on. That’s our way of escape. I certainly don’t think there is anything militant about geeks in general; try telling the macho sports fan that you like anime, comic books, sci fi movies, video games, board games, pen and paper RPG, LARPing (that last one makes me snicker, I won’t lie, but hey… I have the defend the entirety of geeks here), etc. etc. and see who gets more offensive. Geeks just enjoy finding others with which they can discuss the things that have captured their imaginations. I say, as long as your hobby keeps you social, there is no harm in the excution of it.

Also, check out the geekanthropologist’s reponse here. (Yes, I am jealous of her name too.)

Cheers!

“‘Beam me up?’ I don’t think so…”

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Posted in: Gaming, Geek