The Geeks Have Inherited the Earth

By Jason Menard

Have the meek truly inherited the Earth? Is geek the new standard to which we all aspire? Or has the new ostracization model shifted from jock/nerd to a more subtle shades of geekdom?

Video games, comic books, and computer technology – once the Holy Trinity of Impending Wedgies, now are cultural norms. Not just accepted, but embraced by all members of society. It appears The Geek’s passive revolution has managed to assimilate all that once opposed it.

When I was younger, there was a well-defined line between geek and what was thought of as cool. I straddled the middle, never fully falling into the pit of geekdom, but retaining enough interest in certain things that I refused to reject my interests to sit at the jock table. Basically I enjoyed all the meats in our cultural stew and got along with everyone.

Growing up in an age where the Commodore Pet was a novelty in the elementary classroom and our advanced computer classes in high school consisted of creating spreadsheets on Lotus 1-2-3, those with an affinity for computers were considered outside the acceptable norm.

Now, those same kids would be considered wise social investments, as technology-based jobs hold a certain appeal to both sexes – that being a lucrative income potential. The idea of a sexy computer programmer or hot information technology specialist was once the stuff of oxymoron – now, they’re increasingly becoming a reality.

Again, reflecting upon my youth, video games were once the salvation of the physically challenged. Not the physically challenged with actual debilitating conditions, but rather the physically challenged sub-culture that recoiled in fear at the thought of playground physical competition. Now, everyone is a gamer.

The fact that the term Gamer exists (supplanting its forebear – loser) shows how video gaming has moved into the modern realm. Perhaps a result of our continued experience with computers (again, thank you pencil-pusher-formerly-known-as-geek), we are no longer simply content to be pandered to. A movie, despite all its grandeur, is a one-way experience. We demand more from our entertainment! We demand interactivity. We demand engagement. And we demand shorter load times!

Yet, video games are fast supplanting passive media as the engagement activity of choice for men and women. I grew up at the time when the console game market was just beginning to flourish. Although it was still a time when a young boy could go to the arcade and watch in amazement the chosen few who knew the battle codes for Street Fighter, we began to embrace the home entertainment model.

Personally, I was proud to have a Gemini system. No choosing between Atari and ColecoVision for me! I could have both! Yet, I did look on in mild envy at the kid who had the ADAM.

Yes, we ventured into the personal computer market with the Commodore 64, experimenting with the precursor to the Internet – the BBS. Then came the Sega Genesis. Now, it’s not unusual for people of my generation to own multiple systems. At home we have a PlayStation 2 and a Nintendo GameBoy – and there’s still a Nintendo 64, an original PlayStation, and even a Sega Genesis and a Nintendo NES in mothballs somewhere.

Grown men and women of my age, 33, continue to play games, viewing them as an entertainment alternative to TV and movies. As games continue to improve, so too will our infatuation with the market increase. It’s all about the interactivity.

Even the geek’s secured bastion of fantasy – the comic book – has been usurped by the cool kids. Top-grossing franchises like Spider-man, Superman, and Batman show that there’s a mass market for these films – and chances are many of the viewers have never set foot and inhaled the musty air of a comic book store. Even lesser-known characters (outside the traditional geek spectrum, that is) like Hellboy, Daredevil, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have received on-screen treatments, not to mention the Sin City and Road to Perdition films.

And while the geek was once mocked for their borderline-concerning fascination with pen-and-ink breasts at the expense of finding real flesh-and-blood ones, it is not uncommon for the so-called cool kids to drool over the sight of Angelina Jolie or Jessica Alba lithely maneuvering across the silver screen in their respective video game (Tomb Raider) and comic book (Fantastic Four) adaptations.

So does the true geek exist anymore? Probably. There’s the über-geek faction that camps out for days for Star Wars films, criticizes two-hour movies for not adhering strictly to a 50-year detailed history of a comic book character, and, of course, there’s the supercilious losers who are masters of their own dorky domain – whether it be comics, television, computer technology, or any other interest – and possess an encylopaedic knowledge of such minutiae that they revel in mocking (privately, of course, lest they engage in actual conflict) those who are interested in a topic, but have yet to devote an unhealthy amount of time to it.

But that behaviour’s not exclusive to the geek culture. Is there any difference between camping out overnight to see the latest Star Wars chapter and camping out to score a wristband that entitles you to buy tickets for a favourite band? Is there any difference between the continuity-obsessed filmgoer obsessed with discrepencies in Ben Affleck’s portrayl of Daredevil and those who criticize period pieces and historical dramas for their creative license? Or what’s the difference between a comic history snob and those obnoxious music fans who revel in their favourite band’s obscurity, only to reject them when they become popular and lament that they were much cooler before they sold out and everyone got on the bandwagon?

Maybe we’re finally coming to the appreciation that there’s a little geek in all of us. The Geeks, finally, have inherited the Earth.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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