My friend Josh Gondelman recently wrote a piece about how he has a Geek Identity Crisis. This is something in which I can relate, because I think most geeks look at me suspiciously when I say I am a geek. In my mind, I am a geek, but I am probably not as much of a geek as other geeks. As a point/counterpoint, here are my Geek credentials:
- I am a scientist.
- I attended and dragged a friend to a Star Wars: Jedi Academy in London, where my friend and I were the only one over 9 who didn’t have a child there.
- I used to read comic books and play Magic: The Gathering as a kid.
- I once tried making a cardboard diorama, for fun.
- Women terrify me.
Despite all that, I have a slew of things going against my Geek argument:
- I’ve only played Dungeons and Dragons once, and was killed in 5 minutes.
- My favorite comic books are Marvel comics from the 90’s (this comment almost got me murdered by comedians Ken Reid and Tim Vargulish).
- I’m pretty good at sports.
- I’m lousy with computers (and I’m Indian).
- I don’t have asthma, and I have 20/20 vision.
- I’m not interested in zombies, vampires, or werewolves.
- I don’t really play video games, but if I do, the only video games I play are for the Xbox (before it added degrees to it).
So, like Josh, while I don’t fit in with non-Geeks on Earth, I also don’t fit in with Geeks on Middle Earth. This got me to thinking what actually defines “Geek”, beyond just the dictionary definition of “overly intellectual, unlikeable person”. Because, there are many types of Geeks, and not all are intelligent, with some more likeable than others.
To address the inadequacy of a definition for a geek, I would like to introduce the concept of the Geek Spectrum, whereby there is no such thing as a “geek”. Instead, there are several types of people who exist within a spectrum of “geekery”, which is defined based upon six parameters:
- Intelligence – basically, you’re smart, typically referring to logical intelligence.
- Physical Disability – vision impairment, breathing problems, braces, etc.
- Escapism – desire to live in a fantasy/science-fiction based reality.
- Theatrics – desire to “act” or “perform”, examples include LARP-ers, theater geeks, and Civil War re-enactors.
- Obsession – Can range from the desire to gather all items of a collection (comic books, cards, etc.), or do something beyond the point that all others lose interest in it.
- Literacy – The desire to read fan fiction, D&D guides, sci-fi/fantasy novels, scientific articles, or consume any form of text-based Geek paraphernalia (Geekaphernalia?).
All of these parameters can be adjusted to fit various personalities. However, I propose that there are 6 major groupings of Geeks, which can be seen below:
I apologize for the poor graph quality, as I had to use Excel to make a radial plot (ugh). Nevertheless, the six groups can be defined by their parameters as follows:
- All-rounder: Someone like Josh, or myself. Has a working knowledge of all things geek, and can serve as a translator for the Geek to non-Geek world. Fairly equal in all six categories.
- Nerd: Someone who is highly intelligent, very well read, though does not desire to live in an alternate reality. Is usually too obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge to have time for fantasy or theatrics.
- Dweeb: A dweeb is almost an enhanced “All-rounder”, but their exaggerated theatrics, and desire to live in fantastical worlds, combined with their inability to communicate with the Nerds, make them slightly more socially awkward. Dweebs are your prototypical cosplay fans or LARP-ers.
- Otaku: stemming from the Japanese word for “house”, the Otaku are homebodies that don’t really get out much, are obsessed with watching, reading, or consuming anything that offers them escape from reality (fantasy, sci-fi, anime, etc.). All the escapism that they absorb makes them pretty dumb, unless you are discussing things within the fantasy world (the intelligence parameter only applies to real-world intelligence).
- Jock: Believe it or not, jocks are geeks. Actually, they are self-hating geeks. They enjoy the escapism and theatrics that that sports has to offer, and will obsess about things like stats, fantasy football, team schedules, work-out regimens, etc. Like dweebs and otaku, jocks are not particularly intelligent, which is why they more readily relate to each other than the nerds or Geek Snobs.
- Geek Snob: A geek snob is a highly intelligent geek that tries not to partake in the fantasy world of otaku, dweebs, or jocks. They see themselves as being intelligent; however, they don’t fit in with nerds. Geek snobs are more artistic and theatrical than nerds, and the two together are like oil and vinegar. Geek Snobs can best be exemplified by people who obsess over TV shows like Glee, Mad Men, or the Wire. Another example would be women who obsess over fashion and clothing. Like jocks, these types of geeks don’t see themselves as geeks, but they are.
Under my Geek Spectrum hypothesis, I believe everyone is some form of geek. So, have a look, and see where you fit in!