With shows like The Big Bang Theory, Chuck and characters like Malcolm (Malcolm in the Middle), Seth (The OC), and many others that showcase Geeks, many like to think that it is the “Age of the Geek”. With the advancement of the information age it’s true that the position of the geek within modern society has definitely changed, we have gone from being the subject of ridicule to becoming the Gates, Jobs, Ballmers, and Zuckerbergs. Pillars of the business, financial and technology communities. We have gained respect, status, and wild success in a environment where the whole world is clambering for our skills, products and knowledge. Our likes and pastimes have become not only just socially acceptable but popular. It’s now “cool” to be retro, to be into video games, or to have a “nerdy” style. While we have made leaps and bounds towards social acceptance however it’s clear that there is still a ways to go. During last weekends Heroes of the Dorm event, televised live on ESPN2, this was made evident.
Heroes of the Dorm was a groundbreaking event, a prime time major ESPN network event showcasing eSports, in this case Heroes of the Storm Blizzard’s yet to be released MOBA. This event had the Geek community all atwitter across all forms of social media. Unfortunately there was also a lot of negative exposure on the actual twitter, in the form of the #ESPN2 hashtag. Sports fans the world ’round seemed disproportionately aggravated that their beloved ESPN would stoop to the level of televising an eSports event. Considering this is a network that showcases the World Series or Poker, Strongman & Lumberjack championships, the salt from the online community was quite surprising.
Interactions ranged from insightful and productive discussions to downright name calling and bashing from both sides of the aisle. Sports fans were calling gamers “basement dwelling nerds” while gamers fired back with “sportsball” & “illiterate jock” references. As in many online discussions not many minds were changed by this banter, however there was a large section of the “sports” community that started out initially disliking HotD that ended up cheering “HaM on the Core” by then end of the event. However there was also a large portion that has continued this denigration of eSports and gamers in general throughout the week. Most notably Colin Cowheard was quoted as saying ” Here’s what’s going to get me off the air. If I am ever forced to cover guys playing video games, I will retire and move to a rural fishing village and sell bait. You want me out? Demand video game tournaments on ESPN because that’s what appeared on ESPN2 yesterday.”.
Small minded and offensive attitudes like this still persist and we still have progress to be made to be accepted in general society. The funny thing is, acceptance of our hobbies, interests, and proclivities is not something that most gamers think of or actively persue. Geek, or Gamers Rights is a subject largely ignored by most of the community. Whether this is because we are used to being social pariahs, simply don’t care, or in our often introverted states, don’t know how to make this happen is something that is very interesting. Groups of all kinds regularly seek acceptance and cultural equilibrium, geeks, gamers and nerds have never made this push. While I personally can say that I’ve enjoyed the increase in social awareness and acceptance, actively lobbying for such acceptance has never come to my mind, and I wonder if now is the time for such a push to be made.
As a full-time IT employee, a blogger, podcaster, avid WoW player, Xbone fanboy, Whovian, Trekkie, and lover of all things geek, I definitely could be painted as a “basement dwelling nerd”. The reality however is far from that, I’m also a husband, father, hunter, surfer, triathlete, baseball junkie, and soccer lover. Most people cannot be fit into a tiny box however hard we try to force them into our own stereotype. People are rarely one thing, and trying to categorize them by one aspect of their personality is a mistake.
The question really is, should we as Geeks & Gamers be more concerned with how the general public views our pastimes? Should we be concerned about the looks that we still get when telling someone that we play video games? The looks that come from the same person that watches 15 hours of sports and has a fantasy league, or the person that’s addicted to reality television. Neither one of these things are bad, but neither have the same stigma as being a geek or a gamer. While for the most part I don’t care how the public views me, I embrace my inner geek and let him out to play whenever I can, there is admittedly a small part of me that wishes we could move past the juvenile attitudes of my youth. Part of me that wishes that in 2015 it didn’t still have to be a “jocks” vs. “nerds” high school-esque hierarchy.
I dislike writing about a problem without having a clear solution, but the first steps have to be our community coming together and not trolling those that troll us. Seldom is an argument solved by insults, and what happened this past week on twitter over the ESPN2 hashtag, too oft descended into name calling and inflammatory statements. Without thoughtful and cogent discussion the rift that has become so wide cannot be mended. I encourage all my friends both sports fans and Geeks alike to encage in thoughtful discourse. Football, baseball, soccer, hockey, basketball, none of these sports make someone any less of an intelligent or interesting person for being interested in. No more than being a Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, League of Legends, or Dungeons and Dragons fan means that we’re still living with our parents in a basement.
What were your thoughts this week about the eSports argument and the larger impact of “Jocks” vs. “Geeks”? Leave me feedback here in the comments or feel free to tweet me @Mullet863 on the twitter.