As this is Speak Out With Your Geek Out! Week, I’m going to spend part of the week blogging about things that gets my geek up, that brings out the geeky part of my personality, that has people turn in my direction, point at me and say, “Geek!”
And I wear this title proudly.
So what’s on tap today? What is Geek and What Does it Mean?
When I was in high school, I owned a slide ruler. And I could use it. Now, you could point to a lot of things at that time–I was into science fiction; I worshiped Star Trek; I was into movies like few people; I knew the names of every person, American or Russian, who’d flown in space–but whipping out a slide ruler and being able to use it tattooed the label of “geek” on my forehead better than anything else I would ever do or love.
I suffered from a number of issues, personal and mental, as a teen, and embracing my geekness helped me through that time. (So did drugs and booze, but, hey: it was the 1970′s.) When other people were out on dates, I was down to the mall looking for books and games. When my friends were out with their girlfriends, I was in my room checking out the latest novel while listening to some prog rock (I was big into ELP, Yes, Genesis–or, as my friends called it, “freak music”) or WLUP, Chicago, which at that time was pretty much as “underground” FM as it got (and would often freak out my Top 40 AM friends whenever they were over and a song came on that actually played longer than 4 minutes). When my friends were out with their girlfriends, I was often driving around in the middle of the night, the top down and the wind in my then-pretty-long hair, and I’d have some story running in my head.
You might noticed a theme in the above paragraph . . ..
At certain points in my life I spent a lot of time alone. I lived in a small town, and if you were even the slightest bit different, everyone knew it. And some would go out of their way to let you know that different wasn’t a good thing; I was beat up a few times in school, and there was at least one guy who spent all of high school tormenting me whenever he had the chance. This last had a happy ending, however: said tormenting stopped when, while at my senior prom–yes, I actually had a date!–this person spent a significant amount of time talking smack about me, and when I confronted him I let it be known to him and the dozen or so people watching, that if it didn’t stop I was going to drag him into the parking lot and beat him with a tire iron. Yes, you could do that in 1975; yes, if by that time people knew you were a little “crazy”, then they began leaving you alone when you acted out.
But I was alone. A lot. Even after getting married I spent a lot of time being alone, as I still didn’t fit in with the activities enjoyed by my brother-in-laws (cars and guns and hunting and Country & Western . . . oh, yeah, yee-ha).
That began changing slowly, however. In the early days of cable I discovered Doctor Who on WTTW Channel 11, and believe it or not my stepson began watching it with me. It wasn’t long before he started so getting into it that he wanted to know more and more about it, and eventually that led to us spending several days at a huge con in Chicago. It was time to walk around and dress up (I had a 19 foot scarf, guess who I was?) and go to panels and attend screenings–and, in general, enjoy the fact that you were hanging with your own kind–geeks.
Then I discovered GenCon, and yes–I’d found heaven. One thing I will just thrown out here: in my own gaming groups I’ve encountered a few butt clowns, all whom have given butt clowns a bad name. But the majority of gamers whom I’ve encountered at events like GenCon have been great people. I mean, when you are at GenCon running a Cyberpunk game where your objective is to kill the player characters before they wise up and realize they’ve been had (which was the plot of one of the games I ran), and when it’s all over you have a discussion about (1) how great the session was, (2) where we, the players, sort of messed up, and (3) all love for the GM . . . your life feels worthwhile, even if just for a few hours.
(And not to feel too snarky, but one of my best moments did occur at GenCon when I ran into one of the aforementioned butt clowns who hated me because I’d been the first to make him roll dice so everyone could see his rolls, and he started talking down to me, getting all superior and such before he laid a snide, “So are you doing anything interesting?” on me . . . and it was then I flipped the “Judge” badge he hadn’t noticed ’cause it was hanging from the hem of my tee shirt, and I told him, “Gee, Glen, I’d love to stay and chat, but I got a game I gotta run,” and the way his face crashed and burned as I walked away remains in my memory to this day.)
I was born too early; I really was. Yes, I have seen a lot of things and been there at the beginning for others. I have that creed that most people can’t touch. But I grew up in an age of isolation; finding people who were interested in the same geeky things was a chore. That small town where I grew up? I was probably the only gamer there. When I showed one of my friends an Avalon Hill game for the first time, he looked at me like I’d just tossed the body of a dead cat on the table. You had to do some real hunting to find people. The first gaming group I encountered was hanging out in the smelly, musty basement of a pet store, but these people formed the core of my original gaming group, one that lasted for nearly 12 years.
Today you have the Internet to connect and find people. You have sites where you can hang and talk all the geek stuff you want. There are sites where you can set up and run games. My daughter–who is becoming a geek in her own way with anime and manga–has several sites that she frequents and is able to connect with people who share her interests, and this year she’s bounced ideas off me about “cosplaying” for Halloween at her school this year. (Hint: it involves blue hair.)
And there’s even “geek dating” sites where one may be able to find that individual who is going to make your geek heart flutter and roll a straight up 20. Trust me, were I looking these days, I would head over to Geek’s Dream Girl and get me a profile created, ’cause having a geek in your life is a great way to go.
Yes, there are still those who view us with a jaundiced eye, who see us as something to avoid because . . . well, you know, we’re geeks. There are those who try to put us in a corner, to marginalize us, to make us somehow seem less than worthy.
I got news for these people:
We are great; we are many; we are bright and interesting and loved.
We are geeks.
And you will never take that from us.