When I was a kid, it was dogmatic that geekery was something to be punished rather than celebrated. Certain events began to shift that attitude, which had permeated schools across the United States until the late 1980s. Star Wars was one such liminal moment, so was the rebirth of Star Trek, and other superhero related films as well.
Dungeons and Dragons, gaming, and the enthusiasm of table top gaming began to grow alongside the miraculous wave of computer and video gaming. Think about this: At one time, Pong was the domain of idle stoners and the curious.
That in itself was a radical shift from the iconic activity of most teens– pinball– and Atari was born as a social force that continues to impact how we look at media and entertainment today. I’m not treading new water when I say that games have become both mainstream and hugely profitable; the culture surrounding gaming has grown from a sliver to large chunks of various age groups. Games, geekery, and all things nerdy have jumped the banks of the cultural zeitgeist and gone from outliers to mainstream.
It would be impossible– and irresponsible— to mention gaming without the obvious connection between technology and the expansion of this market. Computers, connectivity, and the immediacy of modern social structures are rooted in a competition that can be shared by people of nearly all types. That’s no accident, and as someone who teaches history for a living, well worth my time to examine. Modernity creates a market that is unceasing in its demand for Bigger! Brighter! Faster! More!— in point of fact, we have trended more toward the world of Bladerunner than we care to admit, but this shift seems less like a tidal wave and more like a tide. It’s been steady, and it has no signs of withdrawing to the outer bay of history anytime soon.
Millions of people game online. They’re connected. They vault seamlessly across national lines and have created their own language, mannerisms, and networks. Superheroes continue to bloom in the theater, as do comic books– a genre pronounced dead thirty years ago– and all of the impedimenta needed to support this massive section of the modern culture. Geekery is no longer anything except a constant war between the consumers and those would control that which they are offered. Due to the endless inventiveness of youth/geek/nerds/rebels, in no way would I bet on corporatism and social pressures as bringing this rabid, varied fan base to heel. More on that later–
In 48 hours, I’ll attend the largest Con(vention) I’ve ever been to. There will be multiple genres side by side, from horror, to science fiction, to anime, and fantasy. The simple fact that there is such crossover between these distinct styles tells me that geekery– once a source of ribald jokes– is now a force of such intensity that it transcends the bounds of definition.
I’ll have my first truly surreal experience this weekend, too– two Cosplayers will be dressing as a character I created. Think about that for a moment. A guy who was a nerd thirty years ago is now writing things that people will use to enjoy themselves, a sort of artistic expression that once would have been derided as “nerd stuff”.
It’s official. I have lived long enough to see the real “good old days”, and they are now.
I’ll share pictures and such from Fandomfest this weekend, and until then, cheers!