There’s been a lot of jack-assery lately surrounding the geek world, both from some from the newcomers of the last decade or so as geek has gotten popular, and from some from the old salts. Without getting into the specifics (which you may or may not be abreast of), it’s fair to say that the geek world has become one that is mystifyingly hostile to the newcomer, the casual geek, and, horrifyingly, the female.
And I have no idea why. Honestly, why the idiocy here, people? I’m as hardcore a geek as you’re likely to meet, but that’s no reason to be a snob or jackass about it. True, I’ve long espoused my dislike of the newer generation of trendy gamers. But, my dislike there is not that they are new to gaming, but rather that in joining the gaming community they have become exclusionists. They hunt and peck through the gaming world to find games that meet their criteria of “hardcore” and write everything else off with derisions of being casual or too kiddy; and in so doing they miss the entire point of gaming. These tend to be the same ilk that mistake using sexist, racist, and homophobic slurs in online gaming with actual witty trash-talk (trash-talk does have it’s place in gaming, but it’s an art-form that has largely dissolved under the deluge of idiocy). As I’ve also mentioned, this group isn’t necessarily new to the club, just that they now are a larger and more vocal portion of it. And it isn’t just the gamers, the geek club in general seems to have this exclusionist vein running through it; and these ass-geeks are becoming increasingly caustic and obnoxious of late. I’ve mentioned once or twice how stupid it is to be exclusionistic, but I’m a small voice; a blogger with like 20 followers or so.
I mean for crap’s sake people, all that you need to be a geek is to love something. The degree, quality, or way that that love is expressed isn’t important, rather it just needs to be there at some level. For me it’s games and fantasy/sci-fi fiction. For others it’s Star Trek or Star Wars; some it’s Anime; others love anthropomorphics and doing the furry thing; some are crazy about computer hardware; others are nuts about classical fiction; then there are those who absolutely love music; and on and on. It’s all the same here people, we love something and sometimes we obsess about it. It shouldn’t matter what it is or who you are, how much you know about it, or how long you’ve been involved with it. And if more people wanna join in, then they should be welcomed with open arms and an open mind.
“But those of us who suffered for our geekery should be able to set ourselves apart, right? We suffered, so our love is pure! All these new people can’t possibly live up to that!” Listen, asshole, I didn’t spend nearly a decade hiding my geekery out of fear of bullying from my peers that I’m going to go into self-imposed exile now that it’s awesome and socially acceptable to be a geek. Fuck that. I say throw the doors open and call in the newbies! You don’t know anything about the early Mario games?! Well then, I’ve got all them in my basement, let’s go play! You’ve never played the original Final Fantasy game?! I’ve got that too, let’s go play! Never heard of Atari2600?! Pitfall here we come! You’ve never sat down and played D&D!?!! Hell, let me get my dice and we’ll roll up some characters right now! Never played Magic the gathering? My wife’s got some decks in the closet, let’s break them out! Never seen Firefly?! Put the popcorn in the microwave and I’ll get a marathon all ready to go! Never read any of the Robin Hobb books?! You can borrow mine!
See how goddamn easy that is? Why is it so difficult to introduce, tutor, include, and enjoy the new recruits? Hell, some of the best fun a body can have is showing something you love to a fresh set of interested eyes. A newcomer will see it differently and for the first time, and, through them, you get a taste of what it was like the first time you discovered it. Hell, I’ve got a co-worker who just started getting interested in the larger gaming world beyond Milton Bradly board games, and I’m still trying to convince her to come to the darkside of pen and paper RPGs. A few more months of pestering and I’d bet I could get her at the table with a Mnt Dew and stack of dice that keeps getting arranged into a tower.
I know it’s human instinct to categorize and tribalize everything. Heck, the gaming world itself has so many sub-cultures that the mind begins to spin when you consider them all, but that they should automatically exclude, demonetize, and deride people who aren’t members of any given subculture is stupidity incarnate. It’s stupid for a lot of reasons, but, primarily, sub-cultures pretty much require an influx of new blood to survive.
Geekery, especially geekery at the sub-culture level, is much like communal genetics: genetically sparse communities will tend to inbreed and eventually fail while genetically broad communities will tend to flourish. In the geek world, this is evident through the consumer nature of many of the realms of geek. Less people in a geek circle, the less profit any company can expect to get off that particular circle, and the less likely new products will become available. The more people, the more products and the greater variation of product. But this also extends to current ongoing services. Let’s take Trekkies (or whatever the currently accepted name of the group is) as our example: You keep the population static by being extremely hostile to any new people coming in. Slowly, your numbers dwindle both by normal exits (reduced interest, death, change of priorities, etc) and through manufactured ones (in-fighting, playing the “who’s not a real geek” game, etc). Eventually, those numbers become so low that the Star Trek conventions start to suffer. Less attendees equates to less monetary opportunities for vendors who take part, and fewer ticket sales equate to less profit for the convention holder. These numbers get low enough, and the conventions stop happening.
And really, if you dissect the whole argument against opening the doors to greater inclusion, it starts to look disturbingly hipster in rationalization. “I liked these things before they were popular, so I’m better” or “You don’t fully appreciate this thing like I do because I know more, therefore I’m better.” Those should look unsettlingly familiar.
“But what about those that aren’t extremely devoted? Surely they should be excluded, right? If geeks are about the total love of something, then those with only a cursory interest don’t belong, right?” I guess I have to ask the obvious question: why shouldn’t they? If somebody has an only casual interest in something I love, why should I automatically exclude them from my party or club? Sure, maybe they’re not going to come to all of the club meetings, but that’s not really a reason to make sure they’re not invited. That’s the kind of thing you do when you’re a grade schooler and want to make a “No Billies” club because Billy called you a poop head. And heck, maybe if I can drag them to the clubhouse a few times their interest will intensify and they’ll start to show up to play more often. And even if they don’t, leaving the door open for anyone who wants to wander in isn’t going to hurt anything. It’s not like geekery is a real house with stuff to steal. Are we really so married to our love of something that we can’t share the toys a bit? And if we’re worried that there aren’t enough toys to go around, then you’re missing the point entirely. And, honestly, the limited edition toys are always going to go to the over-the-top uber-geeks of the group anyway because they’re going to offer up more than a sane amount of money for whatever it is. What person who’s sort-of interested in Star Trek is going to pony up the $53,000 to beat the winning bid on the official Enterprise E’s captain’s chair?
“But surely those who fake interest in something just to get publicity/attention should be excluded, right? They’ll just damage the group in question, right?” Again, I gotta ask, how? Sure, you can pretend to be part of a group and then act like a total douchebag to try to ruin the reputation of everyone in the group, but at this time the geeks are doing that well enough by themselves that a faker among us is really not going to make things worse. Beyond that, I don’t see a problem. If a person comes to me and asks me about video games and seems sincere but isn’t actually interested, it doesn’t really effect me. Even if they’re trying to get information out of me so that they can use it against the group, it’s not that big a deal; they’re going to get that information eventually anyway, they’ve already decided that they were going to attack the group, and my providing them with honest information hasn’t really negatively altered that situation. And, by and large, those situations are really not all that common. Really, how many anti-geek agents have infiltrated the Star Wars club in order to bring it down from the inside? Can’t be many, and they can’t have been really effective since Star Wars fandom is at an all-time high right now.
And, if a person is just playing along to get attention, bully for them! If they’re going to fake interest in geekry enough to actually learn all the stuff and participate just to get attention or sell something, all the power to them. Even if they don’t to a good job at faking interest or knowledge, it shouldn’t bother you. My absolute love of gaming is not affected in the slightest if my neighbor pretends to love gaming when he really doesn’t but just wants me to give him some attention (that would be kinda weird, though). Granted, there are better and more direct ways to get my attention, like asking me to hang out or something, but if he wants to feign interest, he’s allowed. Nor would my geekery be affected if it turned out that Wil Wheaton really wasn’t a gamer and just wanted to sell more books and get more youtube subscriptions (which might be true, he is a diabolical genius after all).
And, seriously, what is up with the sexism? We’re supposed to be in the 21st century here, let’s get rid of this 19th century misogyny. Here’s a hint for the geek boys: girls can like something just as much or even more than you can. The biggest ass-kicking I ever received on the NES was playing against a girl who loved video games way more than I think I ever will. True story, when I was 12 or 13 my neighbor’s cousin visited for a few days and she was a diva on the NES; kicked my ass at several games that I owned and though I was good at. Was I aghast that it was a girl who so thrashed me? Honestly, yes, I didn’t think girl gamers existed, especially not those who were that much better than I was. Primarily because I’d never seen or heard of one, but also, and let’s be realistic here, at 12 I was young and rather stupid. But that initial shock was quickly eclipsed by my delight at having a new friend to play with. I was thrilled that there was, even for a few days, somebody else in the neighborhood who loved video games and would talk with me about them. At the time, I only knew of three other gamers, and they all lived across town. It’s time for the shock to wear off, guys. The geek-club is co-ed, and, really, it always has been.
So really, I come back to my original confusion. Being utter and complete dickwads about our geekery is entirely counter-intuitive. It damages our reputation, chases new blood away, builds hurt feelings and strife within the community, and reduces the monetary incentive for companies to produce new geeky goods and services. So why have so many taken it upon themselves to inflict this level of self-harm? I don’t get it, and I’m not sure I want to.
For those geeks out there who are setting the example of being open, inviting, friendly, courteous, and accepting of the new, old, casual, hardcore, real, fake, and whatever-else-there-is geeks: keep rocking it, and wave that freak flag high! For those being surly and worrying about who gets to call themselves a geek: grow up, we’re not in grade school anymore*. Stop ruining it for everyone else.
-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?
*Well, some of the younger geeks may be, so they’re allowed to be a little juvenile… provided that they grow out of it.
EDIT: Apparently I have just over 120 followers. When did that happen o.O?