The Geek and a Collector’s Paradiseon March 21, 2011 at 4:02 am
I Like My Version
I am a geek.
Anyone who knows me, and likely anyone reading my comic, already know this about me. I have been a geek for about as long as I can remember. And I do mean geek, not nerd, nor dork – or at least not exclusively a nerd or dork. I believe that there is a strong difference between these three terms. Although exact definitions are a matter of much debate, I have my own feelings on this subject.
Geeks, we have a tendency towards collecting obscure memorabilia, a subset of our unique fanaticism with some obscure pop culture phenomenon. Essentially we have an obsession outside of the mainstream that acts as a defining characteristic of our personality. Think Star Wars geeks, Trekkies (and never confuse one for the other unless you are prepared to face an unrelenting geek wrath), or in my case a Lord of the Rings geek. Despite literal definitions, we are not in fact, circus performers who bite the heads off of chickens. Confused? Look it up.
Nerds on the other hand imply a level of academic standing, an obsession honed around academic talent that often results in the exclusion of a social life. This exclusion is not necessarily because of the time spent on their academic pursuits, but more the unique behavior resultant from their academic life. Nerds relate to the world around them through academics / academic specialties. It has become the defining lens through which they interpret, and interact with, the world around them. This way of viewing and interacting with the world has a logic about it that is often in contrast with the emotional and social methods of interaction that one might consider more the norm of everyday society.
Now it is possible for a nerd to be a geek and vice versa, as many geeks are also intensely involved in their studies and interpret the world through this lens of a specifically honed academic logic, while maintaining high levels of social awkwardness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I have a bit of nerd in my genes as well, and the manner of my speech and my approach to social society is in many ways more in line with a nerd than a geek.
Yet a large number of geeks, have no inclination towards academics. Their geek obsessions dominate – i.e., their anime show or their comic books are their primary focus. We geeks band together with others of like obsession. The point here is that one does not have to be a nerd to be a geek (nor a geek to be a nerd), and as such there is a distinct difference.
A dork on the other hand, well this only implies a level of social awkwardness. While nerds and geeks both typically maintain their own levels of social inadequacy, at least outside of their own nerd and geek circles, the dork does not necessarily have any geek obsession with obscure pop culture, nor any elevated inclination towards academics. A dork merely approaches the social world in their own unique way that differs from the societal norm. A force onto themselves, outside opinions do not matter, and their behavior can be quite odd to those that do not understand them, and perhaps even to those who do.
All that being said, though I may have some odd social mannerisms (dork), a view of the world that is largely academic, in my case a view that is overly analytical, often to my detriment (nerd), my most defining characteristics align me more in the realm of geek. I am obsessive and fanatical with a tendency to collect. And my fanaticisms have been many: Dragonlance (when I was a youth), Lord of the Rings, Buffy, Angel, Firefly (or in other words the works of Joss Whedon), Chuck, comic books, anime, the list goes on. No matter what, however, these fanaticisms always center around a certain inclination towards science-fiction and fantasy fare.
The height of my geekdom was during my high school years. Ira was one of my best friends at the time. He still is to this day. He is family. There is no questioning that for me. Ira and I, and our other brothers, collectively known as the Guys (we were geeks, but not necessarily creative with our naming), were D&D geeks. To those of you that have been living under a rock, or actually have enough a social life to have never heard of that acronym, we played Dungeons and Dragons.
There may be no obsession that so epitomizes the essence of geekdom as this game (lest it be customizable card games, of which we also partook – think Magic the Gathering). D&D is a long game that can take months of all-night gaming sessions just to complete a single quest (if I was your DM and you allowed my to design the world with all the intricacy that I always preferred to place into my games this was definitely the case). Not only does this obsession remove you from the world at large for weeks / months on end, but it is a collector’s dream. Everyone has to have dice, and not just your regular six-sided dice to which most of us are accustomed. No, you need a whole slew of dice of differing types (or at least you did when I was a dungeon master – and if you don’t know what that is, perhaps that is a rant for another day) – from your four-sided dice (lovingly referred to as your d4), to that common d6, to your d8, d10, d12, and oh, lest we forget, the glorious d20 used for the now antiquated THAC0 roll. And one of each of these dice is never enough. When I played, and I suspect this is still true today, any true gamer hunted down set after set of dice from the local hobby store, always seeking to make whole a collection that could never be completed. Then there are the books – handbook after handbook available to add to your collection, each filled with hundreds of pages of obscure rules that players could obsessively reference to their dungeon master’s chagrin. Oh yes, D&D was, and I am sure still is, a geek’s paradise, a mythical land with a cornucopia of collecting possibilities.
I am a geek and once was a D&D geek. There is a part of me that very much misses those obsessive nights playing through the latest gaming session with Ira and the other Guys. Crafting those quests helped shape me into the writer that I have become; it taught me to craft a world, to create a subset of rules to which all aspects of my stories must adhere. D&D taught me much and has stayed with me to this day. I still smile when I remember those games, and am proud to have been a gamer, even if somewhere along the way I veered from that path.
Hopefully gamers will see that love in today’s comic. It is all absolutely true. A few months back, Ira called having received word that he passed the BAR exam. As I congratulated Ira and he told me about his job as a public defender, he began to describe to me how the first weeks of his job entailed numerous role-playing sessions. Although logically I knew what this meant, that this would have to entail a mock trial, all I could picture were those childhood days spent around a table, dice in hand, books and papers spread out, as we let our imaginations take us away and settled in for a night of D&D. Good times.
Thank you, Ira! Congratulations! I wish you the best of luck!
Now I’m off to get some rest, and dream of days of geekery long gone. Plus Star Wars is on, and I’d really like to watch Darth Vader kick the Emperor’s @#$. Thanks for reading. Go forth, and remember to be kind to a geek – and not to torment someone just because they play D&D. That’s very uncool, and an entirely different rant. Anyway… off to watch Vader now.