Monday, 30 November 2015

It's Hip To Be Square... Musings On The Geek Generation.

If you sit back and look around you for a short while - I mean at the cultural influences, not your living room - you'll quickly conclude that it is now 'hip to be square' or to put it another way, it's fashionable to be a 'Geek'.

Let's take a look at what the term actually means in it's original form, and let's go to Wikipedia for the answer:

'The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a "peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp[ecially] one who is perceived to be overly intellectual".

OK, I'm good with that...

Those of us with a 'certain vintage' may have been - and probably were - bullied harassed and generally given a hard time. It's a common thread, although many deny it and put up a front of just how popular and rugged they are, that a lot of gamers (and I guess anyone with a hobby which is not understood by the sports morons perpetuating the miseducation system) were marginalised, and used as a way to make  the 'hard kids' look harder (or just bigger dick heads than they were already).

Now, you'd think that these minority groups would have a common purpose, and you would be wrong of course because in the same way that you don't have to be the fastest kid to escape the monster - just faster; these subgroups of geeks tried to look cooler than the others. Train spotters were universally derided, model railway enthusiasts look on wargamers as being lower than them, wargamers looked at model railway enthusiasts as wasting time making terrain that was not used for anything more than playing with trains (If you doubt that, I refer you to the years when Northern Militaire had several superb model railway displays. Another show - which if I even name, I'll be accused of having a vendetta against - had local model making and model engineering groups in the early days too).

Of course bus spotters were universally reviled - even by train spotters, but stamp collectors were left alone because they had more money than anyone else, and owned tweezers which, in skilled hands could inflict much pain and suffering.

What was probably the worst aspect of belonging on the fringe of right and proper-thinking society was  that in order to get to the top of the geek tree, there were kids who masked themselves by hanging out at school with the 'cool kids' and picking on other gamers etc, but then whom once out of the crucible of youthful hatred, were the first kids knocking at the door of the same lad they had just picked on, hours earlier. I know of a couple of guys from another part of the city who were put through this by another guy, who to this day, carries off in just the same way. The difference is that he has been rumbled over the years and is ignored or at best tolerated. I find this to be fair and just for such a Quisling, but that is another story...

The apex predator in the hierarchy was of course the older guy who had fallen between the rails as it were; old enough that he should have probably at least had a steady girlfriend, but still young enough that he could inflict his will upon younger kids and be seen (often erroneously) as godlike, his every word, law.

I think every group had one or two like this. I found out some 25 or more years down the line that a local guy who was like this, was bullied himself. Now this is a simple case of transferring the suffering he was put under onto younger kids, and once he had a couple of victims, keeping the rest of their gang in check by directing their scorn to the poor bastards.

A while ago at one of my coffee mornings I was discussing this with a victim of this kind of behaviour, who made it very clear that he was of a similar mind, and that if this person tried it these days, he would be flat on his arse. I believe him - he's far from the shy and retiring lad of 1985. I have similar thoughts myself, and often wonder how a few bloodied noses would have changed things back then.

But I digress...

The point is that far from being fashionable or cool, those we collectively call geeks had it rough, at a time when parenting was not as liberal and you were likely as not going to get a similar amount of abuse from parents who could not understand what the hell you were doing with pencils, dice, tin soldiers and books with badly drawn pictures of semi-naked men and women, which hinted at some occult infestation of their offspring.

Oh how many of us must have wilted under those terrible words - 'Why can't you be like the other kids around here?'

So, let's dip back into Wikipedia and see what the etymology of the word 'geek' supposedly is :

'This word comes from English dialect geek or geck (meaning a "fool" or "freak"; from Middle Low German Geck). "Geck" is a standard term in modern German and means "fool" or "fop."[2] The root also survives in the Dutch and Afrikaans adjective gek ("crazy"), as well as some German dialects, and in the Alsatian word Gickeleshut ("jester's hat"; used during carnival).[1] In 18th century Austria-HungaryGecken were freaks on display in some circuses. In 19th century North America, the term geek referred to a performer in a geek show in a circus, traveling carnival or travelling funfair sideshows (see also freak show).[3] The 1976 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary included only the definition regarding geek shows. This variation of the term was used to comic effect in an episode of popular 1970s TV show Sanford & Son.'

So, we can see that theoretically at least we have always been seen in a pejorative and derogatory way. I can live with that. I mean, look, we have been around longer than soccer, so I think that that's a big 'fuck you' to the school 'Jocks' don't you?

Wikipedia, continues:

'The definition of geek has changed considerably over time, and there is no longer a definitive meaning. The term nerd has a similar, practically synonymous meaning as geek, but many choose to identify different connotations among these two terms, although the differences are disputed. In a 2007 interview on The Colbert Report, Richard Clarke said the difference between nerds and geeks is "geeks get it done" or "ggid"[4]Julie Smith defined a geek as "a bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace—somewhere exciting, a place more real than his own life, a land he could conquer, not a drab teenager's room in his parents' house".'

I don't think that I disagree, but of course we could not blame computers back then because let's face it, not even the most deluded fantasist (and I include myself here) could think of anything on a Spectrum ZX81 as 'secret' or 'dreamy'.

Alas, these days the term geek, carries cache and really is at the opposite end of the spectrum from where it was in my youth, when Warhammer came in 3 volumes and wargames rules didn't need pictures, because we read them.

Nowadays what was a guilty secret is open and accepted, and many, simply whore the principles of my generation out, by buying anything that has 'GEEK!' written on it. They have simply joined the establishment and lost the way somewhat in doing so. 

I blame it on the contemporary sociocultural tendency to believe that every child is a precious flower or fragile snowdrop, that if they have to deal with rejection or ridicule, they will be somehow maimed for life. Maybe they will, but at least they will have character.

After all, I got the shit kicked out of me for not conforming to the peer group at school, but let me be very clear about this I ended up marrying one of the hottest girls on the Goth scene, and being a full time figure painter together with my book of gaming memoirs and anecdotes, keeps the bank account ticking over nicely.

My past experiences and constant neuroses caused by others (and my own for not simply twatting a few of them in my youth) keep my creativity and determination to do things my own way, constantly simmering.

I don't need 'official' scenarios or the 'science' of my game worlds to role play. I don't need glossy rules with the same old fucking painting guide in every publication, because I developed my own style, rather than some cloned, production line style, with about as much soul as a soulless thing...

I  was reading this morning that 'Generation Y' are independent and want coaches rather than managers. I think that's erroneous because from where I stand, they are on the whole a generation which due to cosseting and a lack of real threats (such as the IRA, Bader Meinhof, Black September and Margret Thatcher - OK, OK, the current Tories are giving it their best shot) to their existence seems to think that the world revolves around them.

Now, I have been called a narcissistic prick - I don't dispute it - but the younger generations today take the rice cracker (much healthier than a biscuit) when it comes to self indulgence.

The current fad for 'Oldhammer' (there is of course no such game) is a great example of a generation which seeks to recreate what it missed whilst simultaneously getting it wrong. How I giggle, nay, guffaw, when I see someone who is younger than my own daughter exclaim that they will only use figures from 1989 because they are contemporary to a particular edition of Warhammer. 


Unlike today, back then we used any figures we had and didn't buy new models every time a new rules set came out whilst disposing of the rest of our collections. You see? That's where they go wrong because most of them have never played or seen a report of an old Warhammer 1st or 2nd ed game. But they spend thousands in some cases on figures which are not worth more than £1 each and then lord it over their peers who are using more modern offerings.

 Because all they know is the present, they fuck up recreating the past. They don't want to have to admit that they are new geeks on the block and so disregard  what does not fit their world. It's like buying a Chinese meal, cooked by  a European. It has all the ingredients in it, but just isn't the same as the genuine article, because unless that Englishman is shown how to cook it by a Chinese person, they will not appreciate the nuances and methods involved.

A lot of the people I met when I got into gaming were bullied, afraid of the threat of nuclear war, IRA bombs or just did not 'fit'. So, they jumped headfirst into imaginary worlds to survive. It was more than just a lifestyle choice and a T-shirt.

And we for the most part, asked questions of our elders in the hobby. Hell, we even asked shop staff, because there was none of the corporate bullshit back then,. The companies sought to make a profit, admittedly, but there was a passion for the hobby. The same people with that passion when GW was new and fresh, got subsumed, wrung dry and then spat out in the furtherance of the consumer dollar.

Now, they seem to have gone full circle and are once again producing the kind of work that they once did, but with higher production quality. OK, so there's more colour and it looks slicker, but the actual material has balls again.

If we are lucky they will save us from the current shallow generation. Time will tell...

Anyway, I have to go and have a craft beer, artisanal cheese, and try and work out which Dark Elves were on the shelves, this week in 1989 so that I can get one over on my fellow Hipsterhammer devotees..



  1. Only wanting particular dated plastic bases to go with "retro" models ... Hipsterhammer has dawned ... Let's hope it's a quick day !

    1. I recently designed a model on a website to match my character in a D&D game and had it 3D printed. And I could select for it to be on a hex base!

      If anyone asks, I was doing it ironically.

  2. I was born in the 70s, grew up in the 80s and got into little lead men through D&D. I was also bullied at school and sought refuge in strange alternate worlds. Excellent article, definitely resonates with me.

  3. Thanks. I think it will resonate with quite a few people, if they let their guards down, Steven.

  4. For me, the "Oldhammer" thing is about doing things I wanted to do in my youth I didn't have the budget for at the time. I think it's different things for different people. And most groups will think the other lot are doing it wrong. ;)


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