Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When speaking, leave the 'geek' out / Missing the point

As I understand it, Speak Out with your Geek Out is an opportunity to put aside the negativity and the raging and the edition wars and all of the common failings of our shared hobby, push it all aside and instead celebrate, revel in, the good stuff that comes with it instead.

With this in mind, I have been thinking about what I should write about.
What personal, unique and valuable point of view can I share with the world about my hobbies? What have I got  to say that is worth hearing?
What really good, positive things do I have to say about Geek?


OK, so we're using the word 'Geek'.
What does it actually mean?
Without being all naval-gazey pedantic about the etymology of the word, it is still a negative term, isn't it?

Yes, we're trying to reclaim the word, make it positive, but it's not 'gay'. It wasn't originally a positive word that got subverted, it has always been an insult, a negative descriptor, an undesirable label.
Suddenly it's become cool to describe yourself as a Geek, to carry that label and wear it with pride. As long as it's somebody within the sub-culture who has given it to you. It's not so cool if some jock calls you it and laughs.
Is it, in fact, our 'N' word?

Awhile ago, I started referring to my hobby as 'geeking', as a kind of short hand amongst friends. We all knew what it meant, and, importantly, it excluded those who didn't know what it meant. We could talk about the weekly Vampire: the Masquerade game I ran in mixed company in our own little secret language, and not feel self conscious. Those around us, though, who weren't 'in', they were the ones who felt socially awkward.

About three years ago I started a local gaming club using Meet-Up initially to identify and approach local Roleplayers. I stopped using the word 'geek' then because I was actively reaching outside of my normal social circle and needed to engage with strangers.
We pulled in a few first time gamers and a few veterans who'd not played in twenty years. A good mix, in my opinion.
I'm not sure we'd have drummed up the level of interest we did - 12 players initially - if we'd used exclusive terms or loaded language.

All of this does not mean that I object to people wearing their Geek badge with pride. At a recent job interview I described myself as "A Massive Geek", so I don't have a problem using it myself.
The interview didn't go too well, but I don't think it's because I said I like Sci-Fi and Fantasy films...

I guess what I'm saying is, if we want to hold our heads up high and make it OK to like the things we like and to get other people to take an interest, then maybe we need to check our terms, and be more Inclusive and less Exclusive.

I'll leave you with two definitions of Geek, one objective, one subjective.