4. The Theory of Geekdom–Circling the Wagons
At this point in the timeline, we have the ejection of “geeks” from the mainstream into exile. Geeks never wanted to be excluded, and did want to be accepted by the mainstream, and may also be harboring negative feelings over being considered “second class citizens” while being forced to endure the antagonizing behavior of their peers.
Being a geek wasn’t always a trial by fire. If anything, geeks are resourceful. Over time, those who were pushed into the culture realized that short of a full-on makeover which would force them to abandon everything that made them who they were, they were stuck in their enclave for the foreseeable future. It was up to them to claim it for themselves and run with it.
First, there were the arcades. Geeks and video games went hand-in-hand because video games were all about computers, and computers were geeky. Geeks flocked to arcades also because, well, geeks were flocking to arcades. If they weren’t accepted by the mainstream, then they might as well gather together and embrace their culture.
Second, there was tabletop roleplaying. If geeks were lucky enough to befriend other geeks, then tabletop roleplaying was always an option. It was social, required imagination, adherence to detail, and empowered the players to take on roles that put the player in control of their own destiny – the opposite of what they were experiencing amongst their peers.
Third was the encroachment of home computers and video game consoles in the home. Scores of modern geek entrepreneurs can trace the origin of their success back to the family’s home computer, and modems allowed them to connect to likeminded individuals not just near them, but anywhere in the country or around the world.
All of these amounted to a kind of “end run” around the attempts of their peers to marginalize them and demoralize them by pushing them aside. Geeks now had a kind of “shadow community” that they formed by making the best of a bad situation, and they didn’t just sit around complaining about how bad they had it; they thrived in a community that was both of and not of their own design.
One side effect of forging this social structure while fending off attacks from the outside was that geeks became borderline paranoid of any attempts to penetrate their community. Geeks had been wary of “good intentions” of non-geeks for years, and any attempts by non-geeks to get to know a geek might have been met with indifference – or hostility. After all, this was a community made up of people who came together because other people were openly hostile towards them. Geeks had learned to “own” their community, and had embraced the mantle of “geekdom”, and felt that any intrusion from outside would only serve to dilute their identity.