What makes a GEEK?


Between all the coverage of Comic Con, and You Tube declaring this week “Geek Week”, there seems to be a lot of interest in all things geek lately.

It seems today that geek culture has somehow become mainstream culture.

Not sure when or how it started, probably in the early 2000s with the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy which brought in hundreds of fantasy imitators in book, movie and TV form, and the success of the X-Men Trilogy, which is where the long (and getting annoying) trend of super hero movies got started.  It was around that same time when genre TV got more interesting having over arching stories over many seasons instead of each episode like the 4 Star Trek  series.  X-Files began that trend, but it was Babylon 5 that got it right.

Today there are a couple of dozen genre shows with complicated sci-fi plots and big fan followings, and at least 6 new ones coming this fall: (The Tomorrow People, Almost Human, Sleepy Hollow, and Marvel’s Agents of  S.H.I.E.L.D, plus two spinoffs Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, and The Originals).

The point is, Geeks are now in charge of pop culture.  While some of it is Hollywood dumbing down of geek culture to appeal to the masses, there are also some real geeks in charge:  Joss Whedon, Peter Jackson, Jane Espenson, Bryan Fuller, Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith, etc.  These are real geeks, who are now gaining prestige in Hollywood.

I’m certain that there is another factor at work, namely that someone finally figured out that geeks have more disposable income than average people.  As long as we keep buying stuff, businesses will cater to our tastes.

I decided to find out what exactly makes a “geek”. Asking around it seems that self proclaimed geeks actually prefer if the term is not defined.  Be a geek if you want to but don’t tell others they are not geeks, when they call themselves as such.  Fair enough, anyone who wants to be a geek can be one if they want.

Nevertheless, I wanted to see if there is any common traits among geeks.  Basically what I found is that all geeks have either an expertise level of understanding of some obscure topic of science, history, art, or literature, (like my expertise in 3D virtual worlds) OR they have an obscure or uncommon hobby they enjoy (like my odd hobby of creating 3D rendered visual novels).  Most geeks have both, and a high percentage of them have multiple instances of both obscure expertise and hobbies.

We geeks love what we love. Not everything geeky is loved by all geeks, and the above mentioned expertise and hobbies is amazingly diverse in the geek world.  Sports is not considered very geeky, and yet there are sports geeks in every sport.  Many of our geeky obscure and uncommon topics are becoming less obscure and less uncommon as geekdom grows.

That is actually OK by us.  We geeks don’t seem to give a damn whether or not what we love is popular or not, except when our favorite TV show, book series or movie series ends abruptly due to lack of demand.  This is a common tragedy that every geek experiences multiple times in their lifetime.  I don’t know about others, but I shake it off and re-watch the old episodes and re-read the old books.

Let me close with another video that all geeks relate too:  Here is Wil Wheaton talking to a young potential geek.


  • Any art form or hobby has its dorky enthusiasts, even ones that proponents of “geek culture” won’t claim as geeky.

    Maybe “geek culture” is just a marketing label?

  • I think just home pcs and video games did the transformation. Even a typical high school jock wanted to impress with his “computer savy” . A “geek” is somebody who has owned a computer for three more weeks than their friend (or has played a video game platform a bit longer), and by comparison seems the genius.

    Before pcs and games were popular, I was in a nerd geometry class before high school years with a teacher who decided we were unchallenged and brought in a keyboard and text only monster and taught us basic programming. One guy had an arm in a sling and still typed over 30 wpm.

    This was in 1978. What a difference a few years….er….decades makes. Now, instead of classmates thinking I was “normal” because I played in jazz band and was on the soccer team (but never guessed I took German Lit. when I tested out of the highest class on entry to 10th grade)…and having a more than normal social life…I have “geeks” ask me for answers they can write down or memorize so they can run back to the friend they promised to help.

    It’s easy to be a geek and still be liked. The harder one is being the nerd that nobody spotted.

  • Being a natural born geek is a great thing. But, becoming a gonzo geek is extra special! “When the going gets weird, the weird get going.” Good job Ariane! Keep on going. 🙂 Ric

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