Normalizing Geek Culture
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Normalizing Geek Culture

Believe it or not, there is a difference between a nerd and a geek. Geek culture is broad and encompasses many different interests, icons and level of involvement.

Alex Ingersoll, a professor of media studies, said the word geek has the connotation of someone being invested in a particular hobby where as the word nerd is slang for people who are socially inept.

Mary Strupp, the president of the Video Game Enthusiasts Club, said nerds are more intelligence-based and more interested in the concepts of a particular academic field like science or history.

“Geeky people are usually more into TV shows, animes and mangas,” said Strupp. “They are the people who would go to conventions like ComicCon.”

Some popular geeky TV shows include “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Arrested Development” and “Bones.” The list could go on, but includes pretty much anything with a group of dedicated followers.

Ingersoll said geek culture has become normalized in the past 10 to 15 years, and people are more willing to admit they enjoy comic books, video games or superhero stories. It is no longer seen as a waste of time, but an important part of art and culture.

“In a way, it broke down the distinction between high and low culture,” Ingersoll said.

A graphic comparing characteristics of nerds and geeks. Infograph courtesy of phonearena.com

A graphic comparing characteristics of nerds and geeks. Infograph courtesy of phonearena.com

Ingersoll believes geek culture is an important part of media studies due to its growing popularity and he tries to incorporate it into his classes.

He said video game competitions held in stadiums with large audiences and are often viewed as sporting competitions. For example, ESPN broadcasted the International “DOTA 2” Championships in July.

“Seeing it elevated to the level of baseball, football and basketball says something,” Ingersoll said. “We might look back in 50 years and think ‘why didn’t we think this was a sport?’ It shows how the cultural definitions are changing.”

In addition to rising to the level of sports, gaming is becoming a social activity instead of a stereotypical solitary activity where one sits in front of a screen for hours.

Strupp said the Video Game Enthusiasts Club is community based. “It helps people who are usually quieter open up about a passion of their’s,” Strupp said.

Strupp said many of the gamesclub members play are multiplayer, and she is fascinated by how the members interact with each other. “Playing Pokemon is a fairly social event,” Strupp said “While people battle, there is a lot of interaction and a lot of laughing.”

In geek culture, events like GamerGate have tried to force females out of the gaming community. Strupp feels the Video Game Enthusiasts Club has gained equality and is a safe place for fans.

“When I first came here, I was one of the only females,” Strupp said. “As more of my friends came, we gained more gender equality.”

Strupp said many times women will have to prove they are actually into a geek fandom and are not just part of it because it is popular. “No one has to prove anything because no one knows everything about a geeky hobby,” Strupp said.

Strupp is proud of her club because they keep the equality in check and promote a safe environment.

In contrast to Ingersoll and Strupp, Melissa Habberley, the president of Daisho Con, does not believe there is a distinction between nerds and geeks. She believes the definitions are interchangeable.

“Nerd and geek refer to a group of people that are into fandoms normal people aren’t,” Habberley said. “Maybe in the past they meant two different things, but now it is nice you can lump everyone together.”

Habberley said having icons are the core of geek culture. “Geek culture is about being a huge fan,” Habberley said. “Icons are what make it up.”

There are a vast variety of conventions that draw in people who belong to geek culture. Some conventions are nationally known like San Diego’s Comic Con. There are also local ones like Kitsunekon in Green Bay or Daisho Con in Wisconsin Dells.

When Habberley attempts to explain the convention scene to someone who is unfamiliar with it, she will ask them if they know what a trekky, a fan of “Star Trek,”is.

“I have found that no matter what their age or culture is, they usually know what a trekky is,” Habberley said.

She utilizes this mutual understanding to build a connection.

“I will see what they are already familiar with and will branch off from there,” Habberley said.

Geek culture encompasses too many fandoms to count, but it serves as a platform where people enthused about a particular type of media can bond.

 

Emily Showers
Pointlife Editor
eshow592@uwsp.edu

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