Back When We Were Weird the mainstreaming of geek culture - Article:
I’m an older female gamer, I’ve always played games. I was the star player of Space Invaders at the local roller skating rink, the original Atari was my first console, the first tabletop RPG I played was Basic D&D, then AD&D first edition. My first paid job was a video arcade manager. That was the early 80’s and I was weird.
Discovering the local tabletop game group was a life changer. It gave me somewhere to go on the weekend that was fun, non judgemental and had members who were just like me … weird (only all male). Yes back then playing tabletop games meant you were weird, at school if you mentioned D&D it was met with laughter and name calling. If you liked geek culture, you were a “loser”. The local Star Trek conventions I went to (even in my 20’s) were held in a tiny scout hall with maybe 30 people there, all watching VHS together and buying the latest episodes imported from the USA, all set up on a tiny camp table. The local Commodore Club was another great meet up place every few weeks, where we’d talk C64 until we all got Amiga’s.
Point is, we were few and far between, even online, where the BBS was about the only place you could geek chat freely. It sounds pretty grim right? But it was kind of a magical time. It was special, like this awesome secret no one else was in on. Game books or board games released maybe once a month, when something new hit the game store (which incidentally was a single shelf in the local chandlery / outdoor store in the town I lived). It was super exciting to go in and see what had arrived and sometimes you could afford it. Of course you’d then take it to “The Club” (which is what the Role-Playing / Tabletop Society was called by everyone who attended) and we’d all have a blast playing it.
Nowadays we’ve got 30 year old hipsters telling us how it was when they were young, how they’re old school gamers from way back. Most big YouTube Channels / websites are hosted by these sorts, prattling on about how long they’ve been gamers, so they know a thing or two. Now not to rag on youth, because I hate that… but buddy… put down that latte and let me tell you a thing or two, about back when we were weird, when we were few and far between.
Six people was a good turnout at 'the club'. When we got over a dozen regular members we voted in a president and secretary, so we had some sort of backbone to things. We’d cut out after a few hours playing, cross the road to the video arcade, get in some free games, then grab some food from the place next door and return to the safe confines of the old Mechanics Institute.
No girls entered… save for myself. Now and again a mom might poke her head in to ensure we weren’t conjuring demons, but that was it, it was full on boy smell. We were tight, we were a family, I was just one of the boys. Good times. We were few and far between.
The magic of those days is forever gone, with mass marketed conventions now nothing more than money machines, spitting out autographed photos, cheap Chinese knockoffs, more games and Pop Vinyls than you can poke your old lady stick at. Those attending can dress up, be out and proud, amongst thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of like-minded souls. Safe, but no longer as magical. Games now release at a rate so fast it’s hard to keep up. We consume on such a huge scale to keep in the conversation, whereas back then one book or game would last you months (sometimes years), you’d get to know it inside and out, back when games were few and far between.
Now I don’t want to sound sad that we geeks and nerds are finally accepted, that we’re now mainstream. That Geek & Sundry's live streams of a Dungeons & Dragons game can fill an auditorium and garner millions of post event views. That’s great, but is it mainly great for the money men? Or is it truly great for us, the gamer, now spoiled for choice, but accepted.
Maybe it’s a bit of both… now we’re no longer few and far between.
It's come to my attention this article sounds sad, or full of lament. That was never the intention. Yes those times were wonderful, however my games nights now are just as much fun, it's only that the specialness of the smaller participant groups has changed. I was trying to get that across in this piece, that - because of the mass marketing aspect - gaming now in 2017, when compared to 1980 are two completely different things. We are bombarded with choice, we don't get to fully indulge in a game for months on end, because the culture of the new dominates or you are no longer in the conversation.
I hope that's helped clear this up to those future readers engaging with this content.