In Which I Ask Very Nicely That You Please Explain Your Geek Idiosyncrasies To Me

I admit I don’t get it. I’m not a geek and never have been. I may be a socially backward outsider who spends my time observing the culture around me…wait a second! That’s exactly the point. To be honest, the smart kids were the geeks back in school, and I wasn’t a smart kid. Aside from not fitting the requirements, I just don’t understand people. So I need help. Please help me.

What is it with police boxes, anyway? Yeah, I know. They conjure images of crazy capers through time travel. But why do geeks dress up in them? Do they actually believe they’ll turn into the Doctor and henceforth commence with their own time travel/space adventures, an attractive female companion by their sides? Or I suppose this question could be stated in the reverse format for the female geeks: do you actually believe you’ll attract the Doctor to your shapely form of police box and henceforth commence with time travel/space adventures after he’s entered your box? And if male geeks want to be a time traveling, humanoid alien known as a Time Lord, and females want to be with a “…..”, then why in the name of The Master is there a to-do over whether he goes through a sex change?

What is with it the rivalry between Star Wars and Star Trek? It took me less than a semester at Tech to become embroiled in a discussion about which is better, and how choosing one changes your geek cred or status subtly or not so subtly. Perhaps, it all comes down to what David Brin noted in “Star Wars” despots vs. “Star Trek” populists. Perhaps some geeks long to rise to the level of despot in order to control the social hierarchy through zippy weapons such as light sabers and, therefore, create a perfect universe. The other type may wish not to change the hierarchy at all, but destroy its fundamental usefulness to peace-loving, interbreeding aliens from all corners of the universe. Space exploration leads to diversity, which leads to peace, which leads to more space exploration and, eventually, a perfect universe. But it’s always possible I’m missing the point.

Now I’m ready to dive deeper and really hit that inner nerve of geekdom. Ouch! Will somebody please explain to me why geeks love role-playing games?! What is it with Dungeons and Dragons, anyway? Is it a safe way to delve into your own soul (dungeon) and face your inner shadow (dragon) in the company of friends? Is this a vast, endless metaphorical Jungian soul journey for modern people who don’t fight battles in the real world? I find it curious in the same way I find collaborative classes curious. Geeks seem to enjoy a sense of community in which they’re earning degrees together and building story worlds together. Why is this? Do they secretly yearn for the competition? Do they secretly yearn for a world of knowledge that is surprising–random, even, but in the context of familiarity?

If you’re a geek, I’d like some answers to my questions. Don’t worry. I won’t try to join you. You were a geek before geek was cool, and I’m just an observer of culture. Preferably, I’d like answers from both male and female geeks. If enough people respond, I’ll write a second post with compiled answers.

p.s. If it appears I’m poking fun at you, it’s only gentle fun at people who once upon a time didn’t accept me in their ranks. I’ve cried tears over you! Real tears!

p.p.s That last post script was a joke.

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18 comments

  1. It’s as simple and uncomplicated as we geeks like to play. You did play when you were young? We just never dropped the affinity. You are way overthinking this.
    And, by the way, Babylon 5 is lots better than both Star Wars (though we have to give credit for The Hero’s Journey) and Star Trek (which gave us a certain type of hope during a certain type of worry the US was going through then).

  2. @Lelia: If geekiness is defined as a Peter Pan like refusal to grow up and the maintainance of a child-like affinity to engage in play, then jocks in adulthood would be the ultimate geeks, which is clearly not the case, as this would cause the universe to fold in on itself, thereby destroying all life as we know it. No, there is something clearly missing from this attempt to define geekdom.

    I think geekhood lies more in the realm of being naturally stimulated by intellect and creativity. Consorting with other like-minded individuals naturally follows, and believe me, one geek knows another.

    Jill is a geek club of one! She’s too snotty to hang in geek packs and be social with the other social pariahs…

      1. “We have to mean something ourselves, and not just get trapped into, ‘Hey, everything’s just a mashup T-shirt’. The substance of what it means to be a geek is essentially someone who’s brave enough to love something against judgment. The heart of being a geek is a little bit of rejection.”

        ~ Felicia Day, Episode 91 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast

  3. I don’t get religious about Dr. Who, nor am I embroiled with the Star Wars / Star Trek rivalry. But then you mentioned role playing and, specifically, mentioned Dungeons and Dragons. Ok, this I can type to. Here is me rambling… I’m 46 years old and still play. I’m the dreaded Dungeon Master, still working on a world I started creating in 8th grade. Creating a setting and designing an adventure, and having people create characters to tend to said adventure is a form of story telling. Let that one sink in. Historical accuracy isn’t as necessary as heroism and a well-suspended disbelief. And the players all have at least one character they are highly interested in – their own. It’s fun. It’s great for the imagination and represents hours of non-screen time for my teen daughters (17 & 15) who are part of the adventure party. And, after each session, there is the afterglow of being finished with the stories of who did what and how it all played out. I can remember characters from high school and their heroic quests. And, one more thing, it’s much more involved than fantasy football or fantasy baseball or fantasy golf league (you heard it here first) – those ‘approved’ forms of role-playing for wannabe and ex-jocks the nation over.

    1. All right, that’s kind of interesting, actually. I’m not sure if I would ever do role playing games, but it’s almost like you’re actually living a story instead of just writing words. That could be fun.

  4. Minutia. That is the key to geekdom.
    Take the case of a spider: A normal person will be repulsed, and smash the spider. A geek will tell you the genus and species, and that they are endemic to a small area in northern Italy, but were accidentally introduced to Albuquerque, and just where did that spider go to?
    Who rode the bomb down in Dr Strangelove?
    Who is a better writer, Arthur C. Clarke or Isaac Asimov? Do you know what a Sandworm is? It’s in the minutia.
    You are a geek. You just have to expand your mental encyclopedia of minutia until you can awe every tribe of geek out there.
    Geeks rule the universe….

  5. Since I recently appeared as said police box, may I assume this question is addressed to me too?

    I did it because it was fun – raising my flag, so to speak, allowing others of my tribe to recognise me and furthering a sense of belonging.

    I love a quote I heard somewhere, that being a geek means you have an open obsession with something, and maybe a different quote that said it is a public passion. And we’re proud of it.

    Knowing the minutiae is then a natural consequence of obsession.

    1. Omg, I didn’t know you dressed up as a police box! Mea culpa! I love my dad’s answer above (my dad is Leon). That actually fit the pieces together for me. It’s an obsession for minutiae and a way to use the minutiae for fun. I’ve enjoyed Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Star Wars (never tried role playing), but I could never understand the culture behind them. For many reasons, I’ve enjoyed Star Trek more than the others, but still couldn’t fathom dressing up or collecting trivia about it.

  6. Jill, I’ve always been a geek, but never did the dress-up thing until this very week at Realm Makers (and yeah, I dressed up as River Song from Doctor Who). I did, however, “play” Star Trek as a kid all the time. To me, it’s about loving a story world so much and wanting to take a step into it. Did I ever think it could all be real? Could I somehow “become” River Song by dressing up as her? No. I’m not delusional. Just wanting to pay homage to something that I enjoy–nothing more.

    Anyway, I agree about the minutia thing, and that you are a geek–you[re just not a *fandom* geek. You are a geek about symbolism and other topics, and it’s one reason I feel like you and click :).

  7. One interesting group of geeks is the mountain man rendezvous crowd. At a rendezvous in Idaho one time I saw an obese geek and his young son in breech cloths, practicing axe throwing.

    The Lord of the Rings might someday rival the Star Wars and Star Trek geek crowds. I’m surprised there isn’t already a lot of books with characters from the series like with Star Wars and Star Trek. I’m not a geek but I did wear a hobbit cape with a hood to the midnight showing of the Return if the King when it came out in theaters.

    1. LOTR is another geek venue, for sure. I’m pretty sure if you wore a hobbit cape with a hood for a midnight showing of Return of the King, you fit the bill. 😉

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