NOTE-I do not endorse anyone saying anyone else is not a geek. You’re all your own little special kinds of geeks out there. Let’s all just not be an ass to one another?-END NOTE
So, I have been doing some thinking lately. Some has to do with the idea of a Fake geek, while some is how many board games can I afford before my wife will kill me. Let’s focus on the one that is important now.
So a tweet long ago talked about “con-pretty” girls pretending to be geeks. That’s pretty interesting on the surface of it, but I think there is a lot more going on here than we really realize. I also kind of want to understand where this comes from. Now we, as civilized humans, all realize this comes from a place of purely being an ass. That starts off as our given, but I think the “why” is almost as important as universally disdaining this behavior.
I want to introduce an idea called Effort Justification. Check this YouTube link to see it applied to Homestuck and Ulysses. I haven’t read either. The crux of this video is effort justification. Simply put, effort justification is getting more out of a activity because you put so much more effort into the activity. I bring this in because I am a 30 year old geek. I’ve been a geek for a “decent” amount of time. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve EARNED the right to be a geek! And that’s where I think the idea of fake geeks comes in.
I’ve talked before about working for gaming companies and the fact that they give you free games/products. One of the products I got was the new copies of First Edition DnD. And that game was HORRIBLE! The layout is bad; it’s walls of text, random strangeness for no apparent reason, no thoughts were given to any sort of balance, the writing seemed more stream of consciousness than organized, and honestly if that is where DnD was today we might not have an RPG hobby. However, if you look past all those faults, it’s the game I play today. You have to really put time and energy into making that game work. If you do, it’s a fantastic experience. Some of the most fun you can EVER have. But it does take time and energy.
I didn’t have to put that energy/time into my first game. My first game was with some friends and we played 3.0 DnD. I played a half Golem fighter who was basically Mega man (my friends didn’t understand the rules, but it was fun). When I took over and really read/learned the rules, it was pretty easy to understand. Now does that make me less of a geek than a gronard sitting in his basement poring over his white box of DnD?
Right now, being a geek is easier than ever. In the last 24 hours, I’ve bought board games off Amazon (free Prime Shipping!), video games off Steam (no shipping!), the newest Shadowrun books from rpgnow.org (right to dropbox then iPad!), and gotten a free comics sent to my comixology account (right to the android phone!). I didn’t have to hunt across old stores for any of these. I didn’t have to fight through hard-to-understand computer code to install. I didn’t have to look through mountains of splat books to find a copy. I didn’t have to pore over long boxes to find these comics. In short, I did this while I watched The Daily Show in five minutes. Heck, when I play a new board/card/video/Role Playing Game, if I have rules questions, I check YouTube and live tweet with the game designer to get my answers and done have to muddle through esoteric rules. It’s easy to be a geek.
As things are getting easier, we geeks are also getting more noticed. Computer literacy is assumed now. You might be the tech guy at Thanksgiving because you stole a song once, but in your daily life, if you can’t get on the Wi-Fi at work, then you are assumed that you somehow aren’t quite up to snuff for the workplace. And as we get more noticed, we grow more. I propose The Big Bang Theory is the Will and Grace of geeks. I hate that show, but in the end, it’s getting us out there in a way all the free demo games of Shadowrun I run never could. I get questions about Settlers of Catan from family members whose last gaming experience is Candyland and now they want to play. The number one movie of last year was The Avengers! Right now the biggest things in Hollywood are if WB can figure out how to properly market Superman and get Justice League out there!
And now I come back to the original purpose of this: fake geeks. None of the newest people will EVER have to go through what I went through to be the geek I am today. They won’t dive into the rules of 1st ed. Civilization. They won’t have to dig up 2nd printing of Spawn #1 to learn his origins. They won’t have to read poorly written books to learn an RPG. They won’t have to order from an obscure store in the UK and PRAY it shows up (EVER).
But are these new people geeks? I say yes. As we grow, geek becomes nebulous. We don’t really have a good definition anymore of what we are. And defining what we are not doesn’t really help either. My own discrimination shows because I think if you only buy an Xbox One to play Call of Duty and Halo, you might not be a geek. But then again, that honestly isn’t being fair to those people. I put lots of time into my hobbies, and they most likely do to.
Now I know that most of this fake geek strangeness has centered on women. For most of our hobby’s history they have been a minority. Now? The numbers bear out that they are approximately equal. However, the assumption is the average geek is a pasty, fat male who doesn’t observe most/any hygiene norms. This isn’t true. But I believe we as geeks may have started to believe our own stereotype. When our assumptions are challenged as a clean cut woman walks into the hobby store it’s easy to assume that they must be one of these “new” geeks here because being geeky is the trendy thing to do. However at this point in reality, that makes as much sense as assuming that if you see a fat guy walking about in WalMart he must be able to fix a computer.
But I have an “excuse” for why some people behave this way. I think its because they are being defensive. Another assumption is that geeks are the bullied ones. We’re the ones pushed around on the play ground (apparently). Now that we’re adults (to various degrees), we want to keep that crap from happening. I think the reason we challenge women is we assume they are just doing the “trendy” thing. It’s like assuming that a woman is wearing Uggs because it’s what all the other women are wearing on a college campus. Now, I’m not excusing that behavior. I just provide it as a possible explanation. In the end, the people complaining about fake geeks are just being asses. However, yes, I promise somewhere, someone is just going with the crowd. This is at least a few individuals who are doing the geeky thing because it’s cool. I can also tell you from my work research there are some HIV+ individuals who now go around infecting unsuspecting people. I promise that the percentage of people who do both of these things is about equal and amazingly low. Also, the reason Uggs are popular is because they are warm (I have tried them and really pissed off a friend doing so since I stretched them out).
And what if those people are doing a trendy thing? DnD was trendy in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Heck it got its own cartoon and a brand of meat in Italy (look it up!). We’ve all jumped on the bandwagon because something was trendy. We stayed because it was fun and we liked the community. We need to be inviting. If we’re inviting we will grow. And our hobby needs to grow!
Also, as a straight male, here is a tip. If you see a woman in a hobby/comic store, if you’re not an ass you have an easy in-road to a conversation. You both obviously like something there. If you want to know how deep she is into the hobby (I’ve read a trade paperback vs. I have the first edition alternate art covers to all 50+ issues), ask general questions in a friendly manner. “Have you seen the latest issues? It’s AMAZING!” vs. “Who was XXXX hero’s sidekick in the short lived 80 buddy series by Jack Kurby?” is a hell of a world of difference. One gets you talking and shows you depth in the hobby, while one makes you an ass. If you can’t tell which one, then maybe there is no hope for you….
I think we live in interesting times. Right now, geek is chic. It will change. We won’t always be the summer box office draw. Target won’t always stock Settlers of Catan. Life is easy now. We need to embrace as many of these young whippersnappers as we can. It won’t always be this easy. But, just because the younglings didn’t have to walk up hill both ways in the snow storm doesn’t mean they wouldn’t if they had too.