Friday Roundtable: Should Gamers Still Embrace “Geek” Culture?

It is a prosperous time for the videogames industry.  At long last, the stigma which had been attached to gaming for so long now that it had practically become a part of the furniture is almost gone.  No longer are videogames only enjoyed by those that dwell in basements and shower about as often as they see sunlight.  Thanks to systems and devices such as the Wii and Kinect, more people than ever are gaming, even if it is in the form of swinging a remote in front of the screen.

But despite the breaking down of these stereotypical barriers, there’s still something inherently exclusive about gaming, or rather, “geek” culture.  As the unstoppable hordes of casual gamers kick down the walls, many “core” gamers have, perhaps subconsciously, taken it upon themselves to create a clear distinction between the two groups.  However, this isn’t the only reason.  The proliferation of online gaming, competitive deathmatch modes and professional gamers have each gone a long way towards enforcing the use of terms like “nOOb” and “pwned”.  Although it may sound ludicrous to the non-gamer, this is how gaming culture has evolved over the past couple of decades.  But with the videogame-playing demographic changing faster than the 3DS’ price, is it right for gamers to still embrace the exclusive Gamer’s Club that is Geek Culture?

Equally puzzled by this troubling conundrum (and why they’re constantly referred to as “nOObs” in any and every online game they play), Declan, Pascal, Martin and Rexly are here to tackle today’s topic.  Let’s just hope they don’t get “pwned” along the way…

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Declan:

I’m going to take up the role of devil’s advocate and say that geek culture is doing videogaming more harm than good. While sub-cultures, niches and cliques will emerge in just about anything that brings humans together, despite the increasingly complimentary definition of “geek”, in gaming, it seems like a barrier to progress.

Let it be said that I’m not raging against the mainstream popularisation of geek culture a la The Big Bang Theory or 8-bit synths in pop music (even if it does feel a little soulless and redundant); rather, I feel that if we, as gamers, spend so much time indulging in in-jokes, incessant cross-referencing, memes and “win”, the industry will never be taken seriously. In fact, I’d go as far as to call it embarrassing.

I’m curious as to how much of this is a security mechanism activated in response to the general spread of videogames in order to preserve group identity. The internet is full of “epic” and/or “awesome” self-congratulatory gaming websites which fetishize jargon, worship geekery in all its forms and scoff at casual and family games. Indeed, the rise of accessible gaming on social networks, mobile devices and specifically the Wii seems to have led to a backlash amongst the “core” gaming community, some of who consider any impingement from an uninitiated family of white-collar workers tantamount to a full-on assault on their past time.

With this never-ending desire for games to be recognised as art and taken seriously, clinging to this insular, impenetrable geek culture can’t be good for the cause, “lulz” and the existence of a certain cake included.

Pascal:

Dec, you are my mortal enemy. Have at you!

Don't worry: we have special medication that prevents Pascal turnings into this.

First, let me address the “still” in “Should Gamers Still Embrace Geek Culture?”. What is meant by “still”? I am happy to report that gaming, and especially geekdom, have finally taken on an acceptable role in society. Spending three decades engaging in taboo gaming practices, frowned upon by the mainstream media, peers, and even my mom, I’m finally seeing a world where blue collar policemen go home and game, where doctors and lawyers stand in line at their favorite gaming outlet at midnight for a new release or go online into an MMO to grind some levels, and where professionals can totally kick some ass on Guitar Hero!

No longer are there small pockets of outcast gamer geeks sitting alone in the school cafeteria with their white dress shirts and pocket protectors. In today’s youth, everyone is a potential geek!

Not only is it becoming more acceptable to indulge in our natural geek desires, but I am doing a good job of passing down my legacy to the next generation. Already my son is becoming a regular at my monthly tabletop gaming sessions, and has taken over some of my consoles and started up a respectable little game collection. In the end, anti-social behaviors are still frowned upon by society and their perpetrators ostracized; it’s just that simply being a “gaming geek” is no longer one of those fatal missteps that it used to be.

Martin:

I think Pascal is really on the ball here.  Gaming will inevitably have its own technical jargon and buzz words which seem a little odd to the outside world.  However, that’s the same with any pastime.  What makes geek culture so “geeky” is that it is built up of technical, technological terms that can’t be applied to something like football or fishing.  That, and it is relatively young and, therefore, modern.

I also don’t think that a geek culture is exclusionary as such – it merely highlights the different levels of interest in gaming.  Just the other day I was talking with a girl at work who likes to play titles such as Tiny Tower on her iPod and we were able to find some common ground.  However, I would probably reserve the “geek speak” for when I’m discussing games with you guys or friends who I know are really into their gaming.

It’s just a case of what’s relatable and what isn’t: for example, many younger gamers won’t get my obscure references to 8-bit or 16-bit titles.  Does it exclude them? Not necessarily, because they can take an interest in that if they want (God bless eBay!).

Pascal:

Does geek culture shun the likes of Tiny Tower?

As a quick example of what I meant about passing on the torch of geek culture: terms like “tank” or “DPS” would have meant nothing to me just five or six years ago – about the time I got into World of Warcraft. At the time, sitting at my keyboard, I still chuckled nervously and glanced over my shoulder uncomfortably (even though I was alone in my own living room) because I hadn’t yet gotten to the point of letting myself get swept away by the geek whitewater rapids. In contrast, two weeks ago, on our way home from a D&D game day, my 10-year old son was discussing the finer points of tabletop character creation with me, including wanting to know if the class he chose for his avatar would make him suited to tanking, or if a different weapon/armor combination could improve his role a bit.

Sounds pretty geeky, and I’m proud of it.

Rexly:

I like how Martin explained that there were different levels of geekdom. When you think of the word geek, you think of a convention center packed to the brim that consists of comic, manga, sci-fi, anime and gaming fans. In this giant mesh of individuals, no one person can just stay in one group. If you are a gamer, chances are that you also like anime or manga and like to read the occasional comic book.

In high school, I was that kid who tried to hang with the cool crowd during school and then come home and just game all day, simply because I was afraid of being given that label of “geek” or “nerd,” BUT NO MORE! By embracing my gaming, and on a larger scale, my geek culture, I was able to find other like-minded individuals who were interested in some of the things that I liked. While my newfound friends and I sometimes do not know certain aspects of the geek world, it will not take long for one of us to find out about it and make it spread like wildfire.

The point is that if gamers do not embrace their geek brethren and join the rest of geekdom, they will be missing out on some really cool stuff. Not only that, but they will find other gamers who have their same interests or they can be introduced to new geeky stuff. Without embracing my geekdom, I would not have seen a Twitter message from some British guy asking for people to write on his gaming blog which would eventually roll into a bigger ball of other bloggers coming together to create a certain awesome videogame news and features website.

Just saying.

Pascal:

One need only watch one news report about people dressed up, standing in line for the latest Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Twilight movie to see that geekdom has reached an all-time high swing!

Declan:

Pascal, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like the idea of doctors and lawyers coming home to play videogames. On the contrary, I think it’s fantastic! As exposure to videogaming increases, people who might have turned their nose up at it in the past are now sending armies forth to do glorious battle in the latest Total War game.

I appreciate that technical jargon becomes increasingly prevalent the more you associate with passionate enthusiasts, and I see no problem with that at all. Clearly, I take a great interest in the videogame industry and the culture it has spawned, for here I am, writing this. At the same time, I think it’s this self-congratulatory group mentality amongst generally self-proclaimed geeks that I find repellent, and what’s more repellent is the fact that a great deal of big-name videogame sites encourage it and indulge in it, feeding this need to constantly churn out the same memes and references as if they were a required part of membership. Yes, I get it. We both play videogames.

But do these casual gamers who play Tiny Tower on their mobiles or have a go at Wii Sports really care about getting to know this new pasttime more? Even people with a fleeting interest in film or literature can name iconic writers and directors: could they do the same for games? I doubt it, and this is what I mean: While people may be “more geeky” in the sense that they have a console in their front room with a copy of Just Dance, the real games industry is still portrayed, described and reported with this tangled web of geek culture jargon and in-jokes. If we want games to be a truly admired and accepted part of culture or to be regarded as “art”, this proud geekery needs to be weaned. While it is still ever-present, to the vast majority of people, games will remain time sinks and nothing more.

Pascal:

Even doctors enjoy a good game of Wii!

You’re correct; technical game jargon rules too superfluously. Once you’ve put the time in to immerse yourself in the culture and its vernacular a bit, though, anyone should soon find a willing and welcoming home.

Like any specialized group, gamers do have their own lingo, as do doctors, policemen, waitresses, auto mechanics, etc. A working knowledge of gaming vocabulary, however, is easier than ever to come by today. And it’s not just through videogames that one comes into posession of such a vocabulary. The internet has brought any number of sources of information straight to any curious researcher’s fingertips and made it a snap to learn about “NPCs”, “PvP instances”, and “grinding”. True, a certain amount of time needs to be invested, but in what example has this not been the case?

The key point I’m getting at here is this: once the prerequisite basic working knowledge and a genuine interest are in place, there are any number of easily accessible locations to find the geek crowd. Game outlets, comic book stores, internet message boards (Bits ‘n’ Bytes Gaming, anyone?), online guild chats, maybe even the schoolyard or office water cooler are all places where one can find willing participants to celebrate some geek culture with. Hunting for underground geek societies with secret knocks and passwords is no longer required. What’s more: these aren’t the snooty elitists who’ve had to fight all their lives for the privilege of attaining the holiest of geek wisdom like their forebears did; these others are everyday people who are, nine times out of ten, stoked to be able to discuss their favorite pasttime with somebody of similar taste.

Should geek culture still be embraced? Hell yes, now more than ever!

Rexly:

I have to admit, most of the “geek” vocabulary that I have now were words that I did not even know existed until college. Needless to say, I was late to the party. However, the jargon is a bit much and saying it repetitively really wears down the effects of the phrase.What Pascal said about groups having their own lexicon is true. It is a way for people in the same profession/hobby/interest to connect using nicknames for certain things in their area of expertise, but I feel like in most situations, the phrases and words we use to define our group are somewhat embarrassing, which is partly what I think Dec is trying to say, because it seems that some people do not want to have that geek label placed upon them. I say to hell with those people.

Coming from a guy who really did not fully embrace his geek brothers and sisters until after high school, I think it is great for people to embrace their geek culture through the use of memes and one-liners. If the geek community decides to tone down its speech, then it loses one of its most valuable characteristics.

Martin:

I agree with what Rexly and Dec are saying about the embarrassing wording or sounding of certain geeky phrases.  Some of them do raise a few eyebrows when used in non-gaming social situations.  But Rexly is right, this is one of the many things that makes gaming its own unique interest.  So what if it sounds a little odd?  We use a ton of weird words to refer to what are now everyday things (Google, iPod, TiVo), so what’s wrong with throwing in a few technical terms for a popular hobby?

I think that, so long as the different levels of gaming culture don’t end up creating an elitist divide between everyone that enjoys gaming, gamers should definitely continue to indulge in their geeky side.

***

Share Your ThoughtsBnB writers have shared their thoughts, and now it’s your turn. What do you think? Should gamers still embrace “geek” culture? Do nerdy terms and memes prevent newer gamers from being able to join in and enjoy gaming as an interest? 

The table is yours.


Comments
One Response to “Friday Roundtable: Should Gamers Still Embrace “Geek” Culture?”
  1. Chad M. says:

    I feel I should note that the two fellows featured in the page picture aren’t geeks but NERDS!!!!!

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