Think with me for a moment about the last time you were looking for something,—and I mean frantically looking for something—and the suddenly realized it was right in front of you the whole time. If you’re at all like me, that was disturbingly recent. And if you were me, it happened last weekend at Emerald City Comican on a very deep level.
If you recall from last week’s post, I went to Emerald City Comicon questing to reclaim my inner geek. Well, I found it, but in all honesty I discovered that I hadn’t actually lost it, just lost track of it.
Turns out being a geek isn’t about having played the latest Halo game (I still squee over grav hammers, which I guess is kind of unusual?), nor is it about knowing all the backstories of every comic book hero (I correctly ID’d roughly 80% of the superheroes I encountered. I can accept a solid B.), and you don’t have to recognize all the artists in the exhibition hall — or, you know, any of them. As Rachel Edidin said in the panel Looking Past Your Target Audience, “Geek is a self-selecting group. It is not a test.”
So what makes you a geek? Ultimately, you do. Generally though the first step is appreciation of some form of alternative content, generally one involving a supernatural struggle against impossible odds. To get deeply analytical, geek content (the games, the series, etc) all depend upon a core belief that life is hard. There are struggles, battles, turmoil; some are emotional, societal, and often they can be violent Geek content is never subtle about this struggle. It’s right out there in the open. There are enemies to fight, a world to be saved! But the protagonists always have the power (usually supernatural in some way, and yes unnaturally intense training counts) to overcome these odds. These stories are an acknowledgment that life is hard, and an encouragement that we can go forward anyway.
Once you fall in love with a series/game/artist/author, you then become unafraid to actively express that appreciation. You put up posters of it; wear the t-shirts; host marathons to play or watch it; stand in line for midnight showings or releases (or just preorder it); have conversations about the spiritual symbolism behind religions in Stargate or the scientific foundation of Allomancy; debate over trivia; and if you are really dedicated or just crafty, cosplay one of the characters. But this devotion is an expression of being a geek, not a prerequisite. And it should be noted that this devotion doesn’t have to be 24/7. It’s okay to save it for an appreciative audience.
So I needn’t have worried about my inner geek. And neither should you. If you want to be a geek, guess what? You probably are.
It was still very sweet (in the PWNED sort of way) when I stepped into a conversation in line for a panel Friday afternoon to defend a young man’s hope for the future of geek culture against a very cynical reporter, and after I posited that Peter Jackson’s interpretations of Merry and Pippin were vast improvements over the originals—who would never have worked on screen—the young man’s mother (I’m assuming) said to the reporter, “Man, she totally just out geeked you.” That was a really affirming moment.