Tag: geekdom

From the Vault: Moderation in Geekdom

Reposting this as it is still relevant today.

Courtesy CCP
If this is the most important thing in the world to you, it’s time to have a talk.

I’ve said in the last couple days that I am either in love with or obsessed with Enforcing. I don’t take that sentiment lightly. As rewarding as the experience was, as wonderful as making so many new friends makes me feel, as affirming as it might have been to be helpful, useful, and enduring throughout the weekend, it would be unhealthy of me to make it the entire focus of my life. Geeks have a tendency to obsess, something I know through some experiences I am loath to repeat.

Don’t misunderstand me, enthusiasm is a good thing. I’m quite enthusiastic about Enforcing, as well as writing, gaming and game design, movies, music, and so on. Enthusiasm is what keeps people interested in their passions and their arts, that helps them endure the drudgery of the day so they can experience what they enjoy later. Enthusiasm is not the enemy, and should even be encouraged, as being dispassionate is just as unhealthy as being obsessed.

In fact, obsession with one thing can lead to a lack of passion or interest in other things, which are arguably more important. As much as you might think your World of Warcraft guild’s raid schedule might be, you do still have to do your homework, laundry, or other household chores. You can’t flit all over the country for conventions and hangouts when that money should be used for medical procedures, care of your family, or paying the bills. You might think that being in a teleconference with your corporate cohorts in EVE Online is the most important thing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth if your wife and kids are feeling neglected and marginalized while that’s going on.

I’m not saying don’t have fun. I’m not saying gaming is the enemy. That’s the sort of knee-jerk reactionary rhetoric you’ll get from some supposed news outlets and sensationalist narrow-minded pundits masquerading as journalists. I am not a journalist. I’m just another geek, and I know from experience that geekdom that becomes obsession leads to broken homes, shattered dreams, fractured hearts, and even damaged minds. I’ve spent the better part of ten years coming back from one of the worst blows dealt to me in my entire life, and it came from my own brainpan, my own neglect, my own obsessions. I’m saying, my friends, that we must be mindful of what draws us in and lights our fires. It’s good to be warmed and illuminated by those flames, but if you don’t manage that fire, it will consume you.

Take the time to get your life right. Sort things out and make sure you’re not losing anything crucial by pouring yourself into something insignificant. That purple loot, those enemy ships, your favorite star or the latest episode or the next event or release – none of it matters, in the end, if it costs you friends, family, or sanity. And even if you think you’re fine, take a moment to look at those around you, at your spouse or children or co-workers or close friends. It only takes a moment, but it can change, or save, your entire life.

Sympathy, Courtesy, and Taste

Boston from the Convention Center

There’s a part of me that longs for convention floors. I just love being a part of an inclusive, open-minded crowd gathered in one place for the common enjoyment of a hobby or interest. I’ve been writer’s conferences, anime conventions, and gaming expos, and they all give me this positive, uplifting charge that can last for weeks afterward.

And yet, I know they can be dangerous places. I know people can violate the space of others. I know lines can and do get crossed. And I know that these communities, especially when it comes to gaming, are not as inclusive as I’d like them to be.

To which I have to wonder, “Why the fuck not?”

Creeps do exist, and I don’t mean the sort of guys and girls who are enthusiastic and well-meaning but don’t always say the right thing or aren’t adept at handling meeting new people or maintaining/ending conversations. I mean the ones who think it’s perfectly okay to berate people for being different, to undercut others so they can increase their own sense of superiority, or to introduce their genitals to any situation regardless of circumstances or permission of the other people involved. I’m not sure why these people are so unaware of the fact that this behavior is not okay. It’s not okay on a basic level and it’s also not okay as a means to get attention.

So how do we approach the people we idolize? How do we behave when encountering others of our craft or hobby? What should aspiring con-goers keep in mind when entering the hall for the first time?

Listen to the Rolling Stones, kids. “Have some sympathy, have some courtesy, and some taste.”

It’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when entering the convention, firing up the console, or just walking through town. The people you encounter are people, nothing more or less, just like you. I doubt most people in this world are really dedicated to going out of their way to make your life miserable. Those that are probably have personal reasons for doing so, and that’s a different kettle of fish entirely. When meeting people you haven’t met before, keep in mind that it is impossible for you to know every circumstance of every aspect of their lives that lead up to them meeting you.

If you appreciate their work, tell them so. Say how happy you are to meet them. If it feels like an honor to do so, say so. If approaching someone who’s signing things, and you have something for them to sign, ask them politely to sign it. Ask them if they’re having a good time. After that, if you’ve been standing in line, chances are others have been standing in line behind you, and you should probably move on. Otherwise, let the conversation flow from there; don’t steer it constantly back to subjects centered on you so you can run off at the mouth. Good conversations don’t work that way.

I know, reading it dryly like this, these seem like common sense tips. But when meeting someone we know through work we thoroughly enjoy, it’s entirely possible for rational thought to simply stop working. When I met my first Internet celebrity, I pretty much lost my face. Thankfully, I doubt he remembers me, and as I can’t afford to go to the Escapist Expo this month, it’ll probably be some time before I see him in person again. The next time I encountered one, things went much better. I followed the advice given above, and we had a great talk about Boston, movies, PAX, and various other things. It felt good, and I never got the impression that he was uncomfortable.

Just think before you speak, people. It isn’t that difficult. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. It’s very good to shake the hand of a stranger, introduce yourself, and get to know them and their way of life, but don’t be overbearing when you do it. If you keep talking, you can’t listen. And who wants to talk to someone who won’t listen to them?

Do these things, and not only will you not be a creep, you may find yourself overcoming that awkwardness. A little confidence goes a long way, and it’ll show. Try a little sympathy, courtesy, and taste the next time you’re in a situation with new people. You might be surprised.

The Dangers of Myopia

Courtesy jpgfun.com

It’s come to my attention that Felicia Day is seriously disliked by some people. Huh.

Personally, I like a lot of the things Ms. Day does behind the scenes in the world of geekdom. Her promotion & contributions to the continuation of the YouTube channel Geek & Sundry mean a lot to people who want to see how a grass-roots production can and should work. I wasn’t the biggest fan of her brief dalliance with EA/BioWare, but part of that was probably jealousy in that I will probably never get a major franchise to promote my self-insert fan-fiction character the way hers was. But I digress. Felicia’s good people, in my book.

I know mine is not the only opinion out there concerning her, though, and to broadcast it as such would be pretty dumb. Just ask Ryan Perez.

Actually, don’t. He’ll probably just talk about how she’s “just a glorified booth babe” between alternating sips of Pabst and Dr. Pepper Ten.

Chuck’s already discussed why this douchebag got the treatment he deserved for what he did, so I won’t go into that. However, it’s interesting to examine the situation and try and figure out why he went off on this little anti-Day tangent of his. I do not have access to the man and so cannot peel back the layers of his skull for the answers, or just to see if he’s got anything rattling around in there at all. Thankfully, I don’t have to, because I’m pretty sure what we have here is a classic case of myopia, and I don’t mean physical nearsightedness.

Myopia is derived from two Greek words: myein, which means “to shut”, and ops (or opos), the word for “eye.” When it comes to writing or stating opinions, if you shut your eyes to all points of view but your own, you are suffering from myopia. Symptoms include spewing hysterical and baseless rhetoric, acting offended whenever someone questions your position or offers another point of view, total confidence in whatever it is you say or do even if it can be shown to be objectively wrong or offensive, and providing endless entertainment for people outside your situation.

Everybody is guilty of it now and again, but significant repeat offenders include our Mr. Perez, many members of America’s Republican party, most of the staff of Fox News, quite a few of my fellow gamers, and talk show host and full time pompous windbag Rush Limbaugh.

Myopia is especially dangerous for writers, be they journalists or fabulists or wearing multiple hats. Your audience is your bread and butter, and while it’s impossible to please every single person your work may reach, you can minimize how many people want to take a blunt object to your gonads if you avoid limiting yourself to a single point of view. I’m not talking about rules of perspective, though; it’s perfectly fine to keep an entire story in third person omniscient if that’s what it takes to tell the tale. What I mean is, when it comes to the old writer’s chestnut of “write what you know,” it’ll behoove you to know more than one thing.

Limiting yourself to one viewpoint is dangerous and ignorant. You are under no obligation to change your mind or alter your opinion based on the other points of view you might encounter, but encountering them at all, acknowledging their existence, and trying to understand where they come from before you state your own opinion will go a long way in making sure you don’t come off as a narrow-minded prick. Making loud noises and referencing a single particular text (especially if it’s held sacred by some) may win you some fans, but it will alienate many others, and those who do stick around are likely to be just as ignorant, superficial, and narrow-minded as the position you’ve adopted, and they’re likely to be sycophants as well. How delightful!

By all means, write about what you know and believe, and if you have the intestinal fortitude to stick to your guns when someone calls you to the mat over it, do so. But don’t go about it belligerently. Don’t resort to belittling and ball-kicking just to ‘win’ a discussion. Engage the other parties. Try to find out where they’re coming from. And if you still disagree with them after you do it, say so. Just do it with the understanding that there are 6.4 billion of us trying to get along on one little sphere in the vastness of space, and it’ll go a lot more smoothly if most of those billions, like you and me, tried really hard to not be a dick.

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