There was a time, many, many years ago, that I felt the need to hide my geekiness. The fact I watched cartoons, didn’t really care about “normal” guy stuff (cars, sports, to an extent, girls), played video games and read comics were more isolating to me than liberating. I lived in an area where my interests made me “The Other” and while I had friends, most of them also outcast, I just never had the feeling of belonging anywhere. When someone I didn’t know would ask what I was into I would default to football or some other sport, I didn’t want to alienate them too quick. Besides they would find out soon enough when they found me at lunch reading some graphic novel or, heaven forbid, they walked in and saw me playing my gnome thief that just couldn’t get a handle on trapfinding. I spend much of my high school years being other people, not in a gaming sense but being whoever the person I was in front of wanted or needed me to be. I couldn’t be myself because I was a geek, and every movie, tv show and commercial told me that was undesirable, so I became everything and in doing so became nothing.
Don’t misunderstand me, I knew I was a person and I enjoyed the things I enjoyed but I never felt comfortable ENJOYING those things. At times I would even fell guilty for liking what I like. So I get out of high school and float around, not sure who I am at this point. What did I want to do? Who did I want to become? Again the world told me that everything I enjoyed was wrong, stupid, unimportant, or childish. I never thought I could express myself and find others like me out there. So what brought me forward and helped me to accept my geek? LARP’ing, no I didn’t toss bean bags of lightning bolt at people, are you crazy? I pretended to be a vampire full of ennui and dread and played rock paper scissors, or an unstoppable engine of Environmentalist Rage in Werewolf. The games that actually snapped me out of my self-imposed isolation though were Changeling and Mage. One basically forced you to open up, larp cantrips involve physical and sometimes self-deprecating actions to pull of fantastic effects and the other taught that reality is mutable if you have the willpower to move it.
The other games in the Minds Eye Theater line, and the group of friends that were diverse, welcoming and just as willing to make fools of themselves just to have a good time, helped me to find my own voice. I discovered myself in those games and the skills I picked up have served me very well in the real world. The one thing that I learned from all of those nights running around playing rock paper scissors is that I matter, not just the characters I played but me. They didn’t care what I liked, hell some of them enjoyed the same stuff and didn’t care what anyone else thought about it, I found out that the world is less concerned about how I spend my free time than I thought. Sure there were people that didn’t understand, but I began to feel comfortable in my own skin and my own hobbies.
During that time the world slowly moved forward, the first Spider-Man came out and blew up the world. X-Men, Blade, a DC Animation Domination, Teen Titans, the Anime expansion (fueled by file sharing and other internet communities blossoming.) Slowly the world began to see people like me, the geeks and the nerds and the outcast, as relatable. The world begins to find their own inner geek, no longer were we segmented, there were entire conventions that slowly expanded their views. You started to see less specialized con’s, and when San Diego Comic Con allowed Twilight to screen its trailer the fan base for that series interacted with the normally comic and animation based geekdom and everyone understood that they were the same. Iron Man hits and the world again shakes, we start to anticipate movies based on comics, not because those movies are ABOUT comic characters but because they are good movies that happen to be about superheroes. The individual Marvel films introduce us to our heroes again, only to throw them all together in the first Avengers film, another landmark moment of the geek world imposing itself on the normal culture. Big Bang Theory puts the nerds front and center, not the comic relief but the main characters. Things like comic shops and talking about how evil Will Wheaton is, collectable card games and Doctor Who all become things that normal people have at least heard about.
I now live in a time when weird references I make that people would never get back in the day have become something we all share. I always thought that I would have to search high and low as I got older to find people that shared my love of creative things, or worse yet, give up looking and just become “That Guy” who goes to work, comes home, sleeps goes back to work, repeat. Now I do that but I also have a way to express myself, a way to remind myself that the world has magic in it, if you want to find it.