Geek culture is dead; long live geek culture

Brad programming in 1985I just finished reading Of Dice and Men, a memoir-ish book that explores the history of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a quick, beach-like read that does an excellent job of exploring the people who created the game.

One aspect that bothered me was the author’s insistence on telling the readers just how much geek cred he had. Barely a chapter went by without some brief divergence devoted to reminding us that he’s a geek, and geeks play this game.

Of course, he meant that lovingly. I assume he, like I, grew up in a time when D&D was used as shorthand for geek (in the pejorative sense).

Still his insistence felt anachronistic. Thanks to my Google Alerts, every week I read hundreds of stories about Dungeons & Dragons, role-playing games, and computer games. For all the talk about how geeky these hobbies are, there’s a ton of writing devoted to the various aspects of the culture.

It’s almost like these aren’t geeky pastimes anymore.

On Communities

Since we’ve all decided that these games have gone mainstream, let’s go ahead and declare that we’ll no longer offer disclaimers about these games. Geek culture is dead; long live geek culture.

The people who play them come from all backgrounds and walks of life. They are people who, like everyone else, are just looking to find a group of friends with whom they can play.

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12 comments

  • NikolaAdamus February 12, 2014   Reply →

    So it seems that Poland is unusual – the first RPG there was… Warhammer and this game is really popular now. D&D hasn’t ever got as much support as Warhammer and the community is smaller. Probably D&D Next will not be released in Poland.

  • wiredbeat2000 February 12, 2014   Reply →

    NikolaAdamus  One of the great things about D&D (which is also one of the reasons I wasn’t big into it around here) is that you don’t really need a lot of rules. I preferred the story aspect to the “look up the rules” aspect. But if I’m honest: my knowledge of tabletops beyond D&D really stops at Axis & Allies, Strat-o-Matic baseball, and Avalon Hill games.

  • NikolaAdamus February 12, 2014   Reply →

    You’re right, but RPG market in Poland is really small and I think that releasing DnD would be profitable and beneficial – the more avaiable games are, the more people play. We don’t have big choice in Poland.

  • wiredbeat2000 February 12, 2014   Reply →

    NikolaAdamus  And apparently DnD Next is meant to be a general framework for which you can port not only various #DnD versions, but also other tabletop RPGs.

  • Nick Monitto February 12, 2014   Reply →

    I feel like the “embrace/shun/redefine/run away from” of ‘geek’ and ‘geek culture’ is on a high simmer. It hasn’t quite reached the “battle for the heart and soul of” point, but I can see it from here.

  • Nick Monitto February 12, 2014   Reply →

    I’m a pretty non-confrontational guy, so while there are a few of the geek-related issues that I would stand on the line for (so to speak), for the most part I go for the Neutral alignment.
    And you raise a valid point, what was outside the mainstream when I grew up is in the deep part of the water now. If there had been the fracturing of belief on ‘how to handle it’ back then, we would’ve blown away like pollen. But since there are so many more people now, whether they admit to it or not, the different factions are still quite numerous.
    I have no strong attachment to any of the terms; in my heart I know who I am and plenty of names can cover it. I’m happy and proud, whatever the nametag says.

  • Dungeons & Dreamers February 12, 2014   Reply →

    I wouldn’t ever tell somebody not to use the term, but I simply point out that its genesis is one that was used as a pejorative. Today, it’s not geek culture…it’s just culture. It’s our common language. In fact, it’s odd when you meet people who don’t have at least a cursory knowledge of some elements of that culture.

  • Nick Monitto February 12, 2014   Reply →

    Do you consider the term “nerd”, in its origin, to be as much of a pejorative as “geek” is? I don’t think I would put them on the same level, but it had plenty of ‘hater’ usage before some folks decided to take it back (as has also been attempted with “geek”).

  • Dungeons & Dreamers February 12, 2014   Reply →

    Nerd is still a pejorative, in my book, but certainly I use it to describe my upbringing and interests, e.g. “nerdy.” But I fight very hard not to use them. Language defines how we frame ideas, problems, and people. Of course, I don’t run around with signs, screaming at people: “NO MORE NERD!” I just make a conscious effort to not allow people to marginalize what I do – or more importantly, the interests of the young folks I work with.

  • Nick Monitto February 12, 2014   Reply →

    I get the feeling that you and I are pretty close in mind, as to how we view and live this. When the words were ever used towards me in a negative way (and this wasn’t all that much), I tried to just shrug it off. And pretty much anyone who’s used it with me for quite a few years now, has meant it in the “reclaimed for good” way. I’ve used ‘nerdy’ & ‘geeky’, probably pretty recently. But I see your point on the framing of language and try to do better on it, myself.

  • Dungeons & Dreamers February 12, 2014   Reply →

    I think if you and I were in a room, we’d probably say it with abandon 🙂

  • Nick Monitto February 12, 2014   Reply →

    I think you are right, yes! I just need to remember to finish reading your book before I show up in that room. 🙂

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