I was at E3 a little while ago covering the brand new video game goodness we’re getting in the coming year. Now, I’ve been a geek my entire life. Not everyone I came in contact with may have known it. I didn’t fit the old stereotype of a geek. I’m a girl, I had lots of friends, left my basement, did social things…I also played video games, read comics, played Dungeons & Dragons…on graph paper, no less. I owned quite a number of 20-sided dice. I played with Transformers. I loved dragons, read scifi and fantasy novels. I knew what a critical hit was and got all the +1 sword jokes my guy friends made. But I never played Final Fantasy. Now, I can defend this. I hate random battles and realistic-looking emo characters with adorable little creatures flying around behind them…sorry. I bring this up because when I went to preview the newest version of the game, Final Fantasy XIII-2, the information I had was due to my research, not actual game play. There were a number of people who gave me some serious crap for that.
It was like I’d never done anything geeky in my life. Like I was brand new to the game and shouldn’t be there. It brought up a subject I’ve spoken/written about quite a bit recently: welcoming newbies to our ranks.
There was one particular way I differed from my fellow geeks back when I was a kid. I wanted everyone to be geeky with me. I used to say it was the difference between girl geeks and guy geeks. For instance, back then, a guy geek might say, “Oh hey, I know this really cool thing about Green Lantern. You don’t know chapter and verse on it? Well, you suck.” A girl geek might say, “I know this really cool thing about Green Lantern. Want to know it too? Then we can geek out together! And braid each other’s hair…” Just kidding. But the line between girl and guy geeks has blurred. It blurred a long time ago. Today, those two types exist, but I feel more comfortable saying “exclusionary geeks” and “inclusionary geeks.”
In our geek world, we’ve largely been on the exclusionary side. One could argue that part of it is how most geeks were treated back in the day. This comic/game/book series is our thing! One upping each other in our knowledge/skills/etc. was how we felt good about ourselves. And really, it’s no different than people who get into a band early and hate on those people who only like that one hit song they had or jump on the bandwagon late. I still feel very protective of my early love of Bon Jovi, for instance.
With the current glut of superhero films out there, we’re getting a ton of bandwagon-jumpers. I mean, how many of you have rolled your eyes when some person who doesn’t fit your vision of a comic book fan says something like, “Oh my god, I totally lov Iron Man!” You just know that person wouldn’t know anything about the Demon in a Bottle story line. Just like that girl sitting next to you at Thor who said she’s going right out to her local comic book store because she loved the film. You groan and mutter under your breath that what she really loved is Chris Hemsworth‘s abs. I would almost guarantee that when this newbie comic fan enters her local comic book store, she’s either going to get flack from the local denizens of said store, or the person at the counter is going to make her feel so uncomfortable that she’ll leave and never come back. It’s like nerd revenge. We were teased as kids so we’re going to make the new converts feel bad.
Of course, it’s annoying to hear someone claim to be into geeky stuff and know that it’s new. We can go back to the whole discussion about certain actresses pandering to the geek crowd so they’ll be followed and loved by die hard fanboys. (I’ve talked about it enough, so suffice it to say, sure there are women who do that. There are men too. But there are plenty of geek women out there. Famous ones, pretty ones, etc.) But in the end, haven’t you enjoyed what you love being cool? Isn’t it wonderful to find out that you’re not the only one who appreciates what is wrong with Green Lantern? Or right. I’m not judging.
In defense of the newbie, I say this. There was a time when you didn’t know who the X-Men were. There was a time when you knew nothing about DC versus Marvel or who Stan Lee was. There was that very first moment when you opened The Fellowship of the Ring and read the very first page. Do you remember what that felt like? Do you remember the wonder? The desire to learn more? The drive to beg any older kid on the block to lend you his prized comic collection so you could get the whole backstory on your favorite cape? (This is assuming you were a kid before the internet took over. For you I’ll say, the drive to hit Wikipedia and look it all up.) Don’t the newbies deserve that very same moment? So what if you got into the X-Men with the animated series? Who cares if it’s only now that you know the difference between the Green Hornet and the Green Lantern? Who gives a crap if you’re a level 1 orc and new to the Horde? Everyone gets in on the ground floor, just like you did.
In the end, more of our number can only be a positive thing. More fans means more new comics from new and exciting writers and artists. More desire for new content means that idea you had for a great new comic series might actually get you published. It means more of your favorite characters up on the big screen or the small screen. More and better games. More innovation. And more people to geek out with over a mug of mead or a flagon of ale. Be good to the newbies. When you see them in a store, tell them where to start with the slew of stories about that superhero. Show them your favorite indie one shot. Be patient as they learn how to handle a first person shooter. Kindly explain why The Hobbit is better/worse than The Lord of the Rings. And remember that first moment you learned about all this as their face lights up. +1 to your charisma. Climbing off my soapbox now.