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To Be A Geek.

By Charlie T Dougal,

What does it mean to be a geek? Well, at the risk of making this a very short article; here’s a quote from Dr. Who (The Lazarus Experiment) which I think sums up the word nicely:

“Tish Jones: He’s a science geek, I should’ve known.
The Doctor: Science geek, what’s that mean?
Martha Jones: That you’re obsessively enthusiastic about it.
The Doctor: [grins] Oh, nice.” (From http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1000257/quotes)”

The Doctor is glad of this label, and why not? After all, the ancient stereotype “geek” was afforded is a vague and unfair generalisation, just like all stereotypes.

Thankfully many well-known figures have a good streak of geek themselves; Stephen Fry, Dara O’Briain, Brian Cox, the forerunner David Attenborough, the list goes on. Interestingly, the list seems to include intellectual-entertainers more than true experts of a given field; whether this is just my personal bias or a general preference to have tough subjects tackled in a fun way could be useful to look into. I like to think that it is the latter; it would make sense given that all humans engage more with a subject if it can be made entertaining. In fact I think of it as TV’s version of Gamification (a heads-up to Extra Credits on YouTube; they focus on video games, but some videos contain info that can be used to help build levels, campaigns and NPC’s in pen and paper RPGs as well as other AGS-relevant topics).

Looking more broadly at the internet we see geek culture sprawling; YouTube particularly has given us a limitless outlet for sharing our passions. The internet is riddled with Let’s Plays, Game Reviews, Vlogs on Geekitude, Fan Fiction, 101 Zombie-types and how to survive their corresponding apocalypse, Indie Sci-Fi and Fantasy Films/Web-series, Forums filled with ferocious debate on any medium under the sun, a kiloton of Kickstarters (for films, series and war-gaming), and even more, it’s just a matter of searching. We’re even reaching into the merits of sports. There are celebrity podcasts and live shows of DnD (*cough* Acquisitions Incorporated ), and even more so on Tabletop; here they deliver the rules as and when they become relevant, focusing on what’s fun to watch, not forgetting to add the human element with intermittent Vox Pops. I think Tabletop is a considerable step towards making games more palatable to the masses by allowing (some of) them to act like spectator sports, letting everyone see that games (be they physical or pixel) can be great for socialising, learning and enjoying, all at once! In fact, as hinted at before, play is how we have evolved to learn. And games have no age restriction; partly because voluntarily being childish/silly sometimes (or “whenever possible” as I translate that) is a sign of maturity. If everyone even entertained that idea; then we would have a happier human race (*pauses for retort*).

In spite of our current culture melding into the mainstream more and more, the negatives are still in the subtext, but why? Let’s consider all those who 10 years ago would probably not take part in geek culture at all; nowadays plenty of said people partake of “geek chic”, many play Wii or mobile games (but games nonetheless), and how many do you know who watched the LOTR/Star Wars (original) trilogy or other obviously geeky movies despite not being a geek in any other regard? Personally, I can think of quite a long parade of non-overtly geeky people who do/did one or several of the above activities; which means to varying extents, yes, they are geeks as well; they just have a smaller field of interest in what is regarded as geeky by us. But what if we go back to the definition I hijacked at the beginning (to paraphrase) “A geek is someone who is obsessively enthusiastic about something.” By that logic lots of people qualify as music/magic/football/cricket/fashion/reality-TV geeks; which sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Oh and if any of you are wondering what the difference is between a nerd and a geek; according to my research a nerd is, in essence, a geek minus social aptitude, which would explain why “geek” is the preferred term. Okay, sequester done.

So, what can we draw from all this? It seems our classic geek culture is blending into the mainstream in a myriad of ways. It seems the term “geek” could, given the fluid nature of language, be applicable to a plethora of people with a whole spectrum of specialities. Hence it makes sense to reach out when we can, the quicker we can shake off the stigma of being insular and exclusionary, the more people we’ll have to play with. After all, the old saying does say “the more the merrier”.

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