In Defense Of The New Geek

Wednesday, June 29 by
 

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.

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COMMENTS

  1. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Rasmus Rasmussen

    This post should be required reading every 5 years for all geeks, to keep us from getting jaded and “exclusionary”. I like that definition.


  2. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    csdaley

    It’s a good soapbox. I have been saying this for years. You can’t grow the industry and get even more wonderful geek toys if you don’t let people in to play.


  3. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Bex

    So well said! I like the inclusionary and exclusionary terms.  I hope I come off as inclusionary.


  4. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Nightwyrm

    I quite like the inclusionary and exclusionary terms you’ve used as well. As I’ve blogged elsewhere, there is a real tribalism to the geek subculture and I think a lot of the exclusionary geeks feel threatened by the influx of new blood. Perhaps they’re worried about dilution, but evolution’s about adapting or dying, and all these people are doing are stagnating the subculture (case in point: the planned protest against DCnU at SDCC).


  5. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Nightwyrm

    I quite like the inclusionary and exclusionary terms you’ve used as well. As I’ve blogged elsewhere, there is a real tribalism to the geek subculture and I think a lot of the exclusionary geeks feel threatened by the influx of new blood. Perhaps they’re worried about dilution, but evolution’s about adapting or dying, and all these people are doing are stagnating the subculture (case in point: the planned protest against DCnU at SDCC).


  6. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Nightwyrm

    I quite like the inclusionary and exclusionary terms you’ve used as well. As I’ve blogged elsewhere, there is a real tribalism to the geek subculture and I think a lot of the exclusionary geeks feel threatened by the influx of new blood. Perhaps they’re worried about dilution, but evolution’s about adapting or dying, and all these people are doing are stagnating the subculture (case in point: the planned protest against DCnU at SDCC).


  7. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Nightwyrm

    I quite like the inclusionary and exclusionary terms you’ve used as well. As I’ve blogged elsewhere, there is a real tribalism to the geek subculture and I think a lot of the exclusionary geeks feel threatened by the influx of new blood. Perhaps they’re worried about dilution, but evolution’s about adapting or dying, and all these people are doing are stagnating the subculture (case in point: the planned protest against DCnU at SDCC).


  8. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Nightwyrm

    I quite like the inclusionary and exclusionary terms you’ve used as well. As I’ve blogged elsewhere, there is a real tribalism to the geek subculture and I think a lot of the exclusionary geeks feel threatened by the influx of new blood. Perhaps they’re worried about dilution, but evolution’s about adapting or dying, and all these people are doing are stagnating the subculture (case in point: the planned protest against DCnU at SDCC).


  9. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Anonymous

    Hang on a tic: DC Comics is marginalizing female creators and has told retailers it’s focusing more on the male fanbase as part of this reboot, and you’re saying the fans are the ones stagnating the subculture?


  10. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Nightwyrm

    I read that the protest was about how unhappy a handful are with what DCnU are doing to their beloved characters. If the protest is actually about marginalisation of female readers and the piss-poor way DC have treated their female creators, then that’s a completely different story and I’d support that. Otherwise, it’s people who can’t move through the cycle of change, and that ties in with what I said.


  11. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Anonymous

    I don’t know that the two aren’t exactly unrelated, though. That new Harley Quinn costume design, for example, definitely sends a message that goes beyond a simple story relaunch. To say nothing of the company’s botching of characters like Ryan Choi, or virtually everyone in the Milestone Universe. At first glance, these folks certainly aren’t lacking for precedents to cite.


  12. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Jenna Busch

    Thank you!  (This is the author of the post, by the way.)  I really appreciate that!


  13. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Madison D

    I’ve been that newbie in the comic store. I’ve never actually bought anything because I get overwhelmed with the sheer number of comics to choose from and I really feel uncomfortable in the shop. Not that anyone said anything. In fact no one said anything to me at all. It was like I wasn’t there. It”s probably why I’m not “into” comics today. 

    I hope I’m inclusionary in my little geek fiefdom. My oldest friend is a total comic geek and he is very patient when explaining things to me. I hope I can be the same way with some other newbie in the future.


  14. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Nataniel Costard

    As I kid I was very lucky, in Buenos Aires there was only ONE comic book store at the time (there are hundreds now), and they were quite happy to see a 12 years old kid with some money in his pocket and the desire to read just everything there was. “So, you didn`t read Legends? How about The Killing Joke? How about Crisis on Infinite Earth?” etc etc… They were not especially nice to me, but at least they open the doors wide.


  15. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    Chastity Irizarry

    Well said!  I think geek on geek crime is a shame.  I personally feel we are prejudged enough in life without someone snickering at me because I had no idea the X-Men I so faithfully watched every Saturday morning was not the same thing as reading the comics.  Thanks to the friend who kindly pointed me to comic shop so I would know the travesty that was the movie trilogy to follow.


  16. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    elizabethamber

    I agree with you, Jenna. We used to do a Free RPG day at my local comic shop and it was something I enjoyed because I know next to nothing about D&D. Someone experienced would run a simple quest and 5 or 6 of us would have a lighthearted good time on a Saturday afternoon. It was welcoming at my shop. But I’ve gone into shops where the gamers are in full battle mode and as a comic girl, I was completely awkward and out of place. I’d never ask if I could sit in and partner up with one of them. I was treated so well at my shop that I use it as a basis for how I answer questions when I meet new geek-curious shoppers. It’s a golden rule thing; we forget it and manners are essentially gone thanks to the internet.


  17. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    J_la4

    Love this article! It’s right on the nose, as geeks who have all likely been excluded while growing up, we shouldn’t shun people showing new interest. I’d like to share though, that not everyone who is new to the game feels the same way. I have been a self professed geek since elementary school. Now in my mid twenties I encounter new nerds and have had a less positive experience. Oddly enough, those around me who have been fans for maybe a year try to “one up” ME, and exclude ME. I have my base of friends who are like me but I feel like I can’t relate to the newbies because they take a very authoritative position in their newfound interests, like now they know everything cause they’ve played one video game or bought a star wars tshirt. I’ve tried reaching out with our common interests and they say “Please, I’M a huge fan” and turn their backs. I feel like the trend is to appear nerdy, not actually BE nerdy. Hopefully no one else has had this negative experience :/ I think we all could do with a little more understanding.


  18. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    J_la4

    Love this article! It’s right on the nose, as geeks who have all likely been excluded while growing up, we shouldn’t shun people showing new interest. I’d like to share though, that not everyone who is new to the game feels the same way. I have been a self professed geek since elementary school. Now in my mid twenties I encounter new nerds and have had a less positive experience. Oddly enough, those around me who have been fans for maybe a year try to “one up” ME, and exclude ME. I have my base of friends who are like me but I feel like I can’t relate to the newbies because they take a very authoritative position in their newfound interests, like now they know everything cause they’ve played one video game or bought a star wars tshirt. I’ve tried reaching out with our common interests and they say “Please, I’M a huge fan” and turn their backs. I feel like the trend is to appear nerdy, not actually BE nerdy. Hopefully no one else has had this negative experience :/ I think we all could do with a little more understanding.


  19. June 29, 2011 10:17 am

    J_la4

    Love this article! It’s right on the nose, as geeks who have all likely been excluded while growing up, we shouldn’t shun people showing new interest. I’d like to share though, that not everyone who is new to the game feels the same way. I have been a self professed geek since elementary school. Now in my mid twenties I encounter new nerds and have had a less positive experience. Oddly enough, those around me who have been fans for maybe a year try to “one up” ME, and exclude ME. I have my base of friends who are like me but I feel like I can’t relate to the newbies because they take a very authoritative position in their newfound interests, like now they know everything cause they’ve played one video game or bought a star wars tshirt. I’ve tried reaching out with our common interests and they say “Please, I’M a huge fan” and turn their backs. I feel like the trend is to appear nerdy, not actually BE nerdy. Hopefully no one else has had this negative experience :/ I think we all could do with a little more understanding.