What is “Geek”?

It has been a while since Ol’ Uncle Grimmy climbed up on his soapbox and dispensed his wisdom to the unwashed (“Unwashed”?  Hey, this is Dragon*Con and Gaming that we’re talking about here.  “Unwashed” is probably way more applicable than it should be.) masses.  Hopefully, it will be a while longer before I refer to myself in third person again.

For starters, let’s go ahead and mention the article that has inspired today’s rant.  I’m not going to try and be Felicia’swhite knight” here.  She’s a smart chick and can take care of herself, not that half the Internet isn’t already jumping down this guy’s throat anyway.  I’m not even going to comment (much) on hot topical issues such as misogyny in gaming or the common use of racial, homophobic, or gender based insults in our community.  This kind of thing has existed since I spent my late nights engaged in flame wars with people on FidoNet 25 years ago. What I am going to do is pick a fight with those who imagine themselves some sort of arbiter of “Geek Culture”.

You see, the very second that some otherwise unimportant person in my life tries to tell me what’s “cool”, I throw up the defenses and brace myself for a deluge of bullshit.  It is a conditioned response to years of incessant bombardment by advertising.  What marketers have done is adapt to the “rise of geekdom” and substituted the word “geeky” for “cool”.  Comic-Con is a perfect example of this.  Studios and entertainment executives hire booth babes who don’t know Electra from Electric Company to pitch movies and TV shows that they think will connect with “the geek demographic”.

If I can borrow from Mel Brooks here, with the birth of geekdom came the inevitable afterbirth… Geek marketing.  I would include most of today’s popular websites in that category as well.  Destructoid is a typical examples of a place where someone who is no more qualified to determine “geekness” than you or I, is paid to tell us (the unwashed masses) what’s “nerdy” enough to be considered “cool” by “Geek Culture”.  G4TV may be the worst example.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of any resource that facilitates interaction between geeks.  I am a huge fan of any resource that can point me to new and interesting things.  That’s what being a geek is all about, finding new and interesting things and sharing them with others.

The problem is when some of the people who run these sites say things like “Does Felicia Day matter at all? I mean does she actually contribute anything useful to this industry, besides retaining a geek persona?

  • Why do you care if Felicia Day matters to someone else?
  • Who are you to question it?
  • What is “useful”?
  • “A geek persona”?  What is that, exactly? Why does your definition mean anything at all to anyone else?

The larger assumption that I make when reading something like this is that someone out there thinks that they are qualified to judge my “worthiness” to be a geek.  Hey Ryan Perez.  Fuck you and the high horse you rode in on.  I could respond with a list of “credentials” that would make your fragile little ego shrivel up to the point where it would rival your pathetic excuse for a reproductive organ.

But that’s not what being a geek is.

What is “geek”?

  • Geek is having an insatiable curiosity, not only of the world around you, but the countless other worlds created by human imagination.
  • Geek is starting an all-night conversation with the words “What if?”
  • Geek is looking at something mundane and turning it into something fantastic, even if it is only in your own mind.
  • Geek is making connections between two or more widely disparate ideas, just for fun.  What if Batman ran for President?
  • Geek is not just reading a science fiction or fantasy story, but creating that world in your mind and exploring it.
  • Geek is art.  Creating a world in your mind and having the skill to share that world with others so that they can enjoy it with you.
  • Geek is a willingness to take apart something in order to learn the most minute details of how it works, then spending 5 days trying to put it back together when you could just go buy a new one for 10 bucks.
  • Geek is predicting that A-Rod will strike out because he only hits .245 against lefties with runners in scoring position, and is 0-10 against left-handers in day games following night games… and then watching his at-bat with bated breath because you want to see if you are right.
  • Geek is asking the question “What happens if I…?”
  • Geek is spending all-night trying to break in to a computer system, not for profit, but just to see if it can be done.

Ultimately, this is why geeks get picked on.  We see the world in ways that more mundane minds can’t quite grasp.  We aren’t interested in things because they are popular.  We make things popular because we are interested in them.  We don’t wait for some “arbiter of geek” to tell us what to wear, what to watch, or what to read.  We like to explore the world and make those determinations for ourselves.

Ultimately, this is why geeks are awesome.  We see the world in ways that more mundane minds can’t quite grasp.  We aren’t interested in things because they are popular.  We make things popular because we are interested in them.  We don’t wait for some “arbiter of geek” to tell us what to wear, what to watch, or what to read.  We like to explore the world and make those determinations for ourselves.

This is why I love Dragon*Con .  Dragon*Con is where fans go to meet other fans.  It where a fan of Tolkien can walk up to a complete stranger and start a friendship (not to mention a 10-hour conversation) with the words “What if Frodo never put on the ring?”  It’s where you can have the old “Kirk vs. Picard” argument, then ask Patrick Stewart and William Shatner what they think.  It’s for fans who are “geek”.


Grim