While there are no rules to being a geek, there are definitely some guidelines. I’m not interested in telling you what sort of geeky activities aren’t actually all that geeky, or in calling out anyone for being a “fake” geek for any reason, but I do think there are certain geek activities that any self-described geek should at least try. Call them the pillars of geekdom, if you will, or just consider them five things that every geek should experience.
5. Play a pen-and-paper RPG
I know that pen-and-paper RPGs are not for everyone, but I also know that you can’t really know if they are for you if you haven’t tried one. The camaraderie you get from spending dozens of hours together crawling through dungeons using nothing more than some dice, maybe some miniatures and a shitload of imagination is not to be discounted by someone who hasn’t done it, and if you think you were crushed by the Red Wedding, just wait until it’s your own character — the one you nurtured from a stripling who barely knew which end of a sword to use to a powerful warrior — who dies at the hands of a cruel betrayal and blown saving throw.
4. Fall in love with a fandom
The essence of being a geek is the unrestrained passion we have for the most esoteric things, and you haven’t embraced your geekdom until you’ve felt the unbridled obsession of a true fandom love. I’m not just talking about “see all the movies on day one” fandom; I’m talking about spending hours in forums arguing about fan theories and minute differences between the book and the movie. I’m talking about tearing up a little every time the subject of the unjust cancellation of your favorite show comes up, even a decade and a half later (goddamnit Firefly, why did you die so young?). I’m talking about getting into a bidding war on eBay over some bizarre piece of memorabilia that you’re not even sure what you’ll do with if you win. There’s nothing like that kind of all-consuming obsession for a fictional universe, and as stupid as it might seem from the outside, it’s amazing.
3. Dive deep with a marathon
Speaking of obsessive love, I don’t know of any more effective way to go deep with a fandom than marathoning it. I discovered this on a lark, when I randomly decided to watch thirty zombie movies in thirty days — then decided to do the same thing once a year for almost a decade — and blossomed from guy who likes zombie movies to zombie movie guy. I definitely recommend the thirty movies in thirty days approach, but you could probably get a taste by just dedicating a week of your TV/movie time to whatever your fandom is. It works great with videogames, too: You think you love Final Fantasy now? Wait until you spend a year playing through every game in the series, back to back from the first to the last.
2. Go on a geek pilgrimage
There’s nothing quite so inspiring as standing in the actual location where some geeky milestone took place — and besides, it gets you out of the house. I had the great pleasure of visiting the Monroeville Mall outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., not long after seeing Dawn of the Dead, and I can’t wait until I can find a reason to get to Albuquerque to see the real-world locations of Breaking Bad. The nice thing is, depending on where your fandom pilgrimage takes you, you can probably even slip it by your non-geeky SO — they don’t need to know that the reason you want to go to Hawaii is to hike through the locations from LOST; they’ll just be thrilled that you were willing to go to the beach.
1. Go to a con
Speaking of pilgrimage, there’s something about your first-ever convention that feels like coming home for most geeks. Maybe it’s the realization that there are lot more people like you than you ever imagined, or maybe it’s just the rush that comes from finally showing off your sweet-ass Gundam cosplay that you spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars perfecting, but attending a con is an amazing geek experience. Whether you’re chasing autographs, spending too much money in the dealers’ room, hanging out with friends old and new or any of the other myriad nerd activities, the con is a nexus of everything great about being a geek. If you've never been, you are missing out. Stop missing out.
On that note, I bid you all farewell; this is the last Geek Speak column I’ll be writing for the foreseeable future. It’s been a genuine pleasure sharing my passions with all of you for the past three-plus years, and I hope I’ve turned you on to a few new things to be passionate about, helped you understand something that previously confounded you, or even just gave you a laugh or a few minutes' distraction during a slow work day. So long, and thanks for all the fish (and Facebook likes).
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