Great Pieces of Geek Media
As someone who writes books about superheroes and stories about NPCs in a D&D style world for a living, I doubt it will shock many of you to know that I identify as a geek, and now is a great time to be one. With the rise of the geek in the last decade, we as a culture have been getting a lot of media actually created by our people and aimed at our enjoyment. Sure, this has led to some not-so-subtle attempts to cash in on the concept without even a cursory understanding of what makes the genre appealing (*cough* Big Bang Theory *couch*) but I’m not going to write a blog shitting on all the awful cash grabs out there. I tried to, and it was boring as shit, so instead I’m going to talk about something I can get excited about instead: my favorite bits of geek media to come out over the last several years. Some of these might not be new to you folks, given that you’re deep enough in the internet to follow a web-serial, but if you haven’t caught any of these I encourage you to check it out.
I fucking love this movie. I really do. It’s the story of a gaming group running one of their members’ self-written campaign that has caused them to party wipe previously. It’s an indie-film and has the production quality to prove it, but goddamn does this thing have heart. From the characters, who are diverse people yet fill the roles of many gamers we’ve all sat at a table with, to the story, which is actually quite a fun one, to the various in-jokes and ridiculous meta-game bullshit we’ve all been witness or party to.
The creators of this thing have played a fuckload of D&D, and they have a great reverence for the experience of doing so, as well as the source material itself. I don’t know if a non-gamer would legitimately derive any pleasure from it, but for those of you familiar with rolling dice it hits so many high notes and sore spots that you’ll appreciate the experience of watching it, even if you don’t care for the film itself.
I bet a lot of you were expecting me to go with The Guild if I did something from Geek & Sundry, and while that is a good show, I find myself loving Tabletop just a bit more. For those who haven’t seen it, Tabletop is hosted by Will Wheaton as he plays tabletop board games (Smash-up, King of Tokyo, Elder Signs, etc) with a group of various guests from across the geek/entertainment world. What I love about this show is that, despite not being much of a board game player myself, I kept getting drawn into these shows where I watched people play these games with complex rules and fun situations. It turned me on to a whole new venue of fun that I wasn’t experiencing and actually convinced me to purchase several of the games I watched people play.
The entire Geek & Sundry Youtube channel has a whole lot of good stuff, including the aforementioned The Guild, and Co-optitude, which is Felicia and Ryon (not a typo) Day playing video games and cursing at each other. I chose my favorite show to talk about, but honestly I could have slapped up the entire channel as an entry in geek-themed media done well.
Book: Off To Be the Wizard
I’m trying to span various mediums here, and this is hands down my choice for a great and geeky book. Written by Scott Meyers of Basic instruction, it’s the story of a guy who discovers that our world is a computer program, has to flee to the past using technology to manipulate that program, tries to fake being a wizard and discovers that others also made the discovery and have become better wizards than he. Lest he you think that needed a spoiler warning, that shit in the first two fucking chapters. This book, really this series, has a great knack for steering you toward expected conclusions only the jump onto a different track unexpectedly. It reminds me of one of my favorite comedic fantasy series, Robert Asprin’s Myth Inc.
Between the fact that all of the main characters are some level of programmer and the general wish-fulfillment experimentation of handing those people tremendous power, there’s a ton of asides, satire, and geeky in-jokes for the reader to love. This is one of the few series out right now that I will halt my work-schedule to read, rather than waiting for time to open up, and that alone should tell you how much I enjoy it. Give it a go, I think the first book is on Kindle Unlimited (but please buy it instead if you can, that thing really fucks the writers).
Cable: King of the Nerds
Honestly, I was a little on the bubble about putting this one in. I’m not the biggest fan of reality television (except Top Chef, which I fucking love), and there are moments in this show that can be downright painful. That said, I really appreciate what this program aspires to be. It’s a standard reality show elimination competition, only the criteria for exceling in the show is being the biggest nerd on the block. Competitions range from things cosplay, math, science, sci-fi knowledge, comic books, and really dozens of other categories. Knowing the most about the world of geekery is what keeps you in the contest. I would probably enjoy this show more if it didn’t have the political games and alliances, running itself instead like a pure competition so there wasn’t a constant air of duplicity. Then again, they do have to have high enough ratings to keep making the show, so some things are inevitable.
Earlier I said I like this show for what it aspires to be more than for what it is. To explain: I’ve actually listened to several interviews with Curtis Armstrong, one of the hosts and creators (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) and he was adamant about wanting to create a show that celebrated this side of our culture, where being the biggest oddball and weirdo was an asset rather than a hindrance. That sentiment alone is something worth applauding, and there have been many times in watching the show where I feel they accomplished just that.
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Ultimately, I think what separates these examples apart from some of the more artificial attempts out there is that they were made for geeks, not at them. Making media at a group sees them as targets, and engineers a piece of entertainment trying to force them to watch by hitting them in the insecurities. Making media for a group sees them as partners, and engineers a piece of entertainment they will want to watch because it celebrates things they love. Hopefully at least one of you will find something you love out of this, and if you have some great finds I didn’t mention then feel free to leave them in the comments below.