(Editor’s Note: Are you or do you know someone who identifies as a nerd, gamer, geek, dork, dweeb, or freak? If so, this is the place for you. Come on in and make yourself comfortable)
As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’m a teacher. Technically, right now, I am a non-tenured adjunct professor at two community colleges. Who cares about titles, though, right? If this article is your introduction to the page, welcome! I hope you enjoy your stay. Either way, the point is that underneath the sometimes gamer rage filled geek persona is a possibly respectable adult with a respectable job, a loving family, and all of the sitcom style hilarity that ensues.
Two weeks ago we were supposed to take a field trip with our classes. Never mind the comments that I got from friends and family about how weird field trips in college sound and what a waste of time the class was. Maybe I will talk more about those on my soon to be web page, “1 Middle Aged Guy Seeks Therapy”. The trip and the class aren’t ultimately important to the story. I am using a writing technique known as “setting the stage”.
Well, the field trip never happened to due a miscommunication. Due to no adequate back up plan on my part, we ended up wasting our time watching Gravity. Decent movie, by the way, if you’re perpetually behind the times in pop culture, like I am.
Waiting an hour and a half for a bus that ultimately will never show gives you ample time for idle conversation. Bus and train stops (and the vehicles themselves), airports, and even elevators (if you’re brave enough to say “Hi” instead of staring straight ahead trying to pretend that there isn’t other people in there until it arrives at your stop) are all weirdly intimate. People will not only talk. They will often share surprisingly intimate details of their lives with you. The internet has had a similar effect on many people.
As we waited, I learned quite a bit about both my students and the students in the class being run concurrent to ours. They also learned some things about me. The conversation that led to much of this discovery started with an innocent observation and question. I noticed that one of the students from the other class was wearing a shirt with the design below.
If you are like me and you spend your formative teenage years in basements rolling dice instead of joints, you recognize that ampersand immediately. It took some courage to ask the obvious question. While wearing a D&D T-shirt is more an admission of your status, some people want to keep such topics secret in mixed company. I ultimately decided to just put it out there and deal with the consequences.
“Do you play?” I pointed at the shirt.
“I do.” The student responded.
We then went on to discuss Roll 20 because that was her preferred method to play the game. I replied that a friend and I tried to get a game going through the site, but it fell apart. She plays Roll 20 mostly because the local play groups (that I’ve considered joining) are not very open to new members. What did I say? Some geeks are just very protective of their culture. We may have ultimately won the war, but those battle wounds from wedgies and swirlies run deep.
We discussed World of Warcraft briefly. We both came to the conclusion that 5 million others have. Fifteen dollars a month isn’t much, but it is more than we are willing to pay grinding the same content with different skins over and over again. During this part of the conversation, one of my own students interjected with, “You game? I never expected that.”
That, folks, as I often feel the need to explain, is the point of the article. People who play games are all around us. Geek culture has infiltrated pop culture to such a degree that the two are virtually indistinguishable. However, the willingness to admit that you play games or read comics in mixed company is still low. As I said, the scars of the past run deep.
Nevertheless, as we talked about on the most recent podcast, we are the first generation to grow up with video game and, to an extent, games like D&D. Previous generations mostly only had comic books as their escape (and later D&D) if they didn’t quite fit the mold. Some parents and teachers did a good job of branding both comic books and RPGs as only for kids or otherwise unsuitable for polite society. The same was almost done for video games. Thankfully, video games came of age at a time when the internet was gaining popularity. Geeks that once suffered in silence alone or in their small circle of friends could now congregate and battle as a team. It may have been this development that also saved comics and led to the explosion of comic themed pop culture we see today.
Why, then, do we find ourselves still unwilling to admit our enjoyment of these things? Sure, some people look down on them as diversions or a complete waste of time. Nerds and geeks are shunned from some groups and jokes of social awkwardness are widely accepted. I actually don’t mind the jokes much. Some of them are even funny and are the basis of a once upon a time very funny TV show. I haven’t checked in lately, but I hear that its not the same, which is to be expected after so many years.
What I’m trying to say is that we’re everywhere. You never know when or where you will meet another comic fan, Magic player, Twitch chat user (actually, they are easy to spot, especially Hearthstone viewers, by their casual use of words like “Kappa” in every day conversation), XBox or Playstation owner, WoW addict, or other kindred spirit. We are Legion. We are many.
Fly your geek flag high and proud.