May 25th, 1977. The day geek life changed forever.
Whether you're a Star Wars fanatic or think George Lucas was a hack*, that day changed our modern world. Science fiction became a part of everyday culture. Action figures and playsets sold by the millions. One movie inspired a generation of thinkers, not for its scientific accuracy (Star Wars is more science fantasy than science fiction), but because it triggered the imagination of a generation.
Star Wars wasn't alone. The 70's turned out to be a breeding ground for the future. Three years earlier, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax rocked the gaming industry with the small press, white box Dungeons & Dragons. In 1978, Richard and Wendy Pini brought their fantasy epic, Elfquest, to the public--one of the first commercially successful independent comics since the Comics Code Authority destroyed small press in the 50's. 1973 brought us the first viable desk-top computers, the Xerox Alto, IBM's SCAMP, the Wang 2200 and prototype Hewlett Packard. In 1975, the microchip allowed the offspring of these industry computers into people's homes.
Star Wars inspired millions of kids to enter the sciences. Dungeons & Dragons encouraged them to read far beyond their age, to study mathematics, culture, linguistics, mythology, religion and writing. Elfquest, along with both D&D and Star Wars, showed us that creativity was not limited to Marvel, Parker Brothers and Woody Allen.
Those of us who loved these things didn't have a clue about the influence they were having on the world. We were, however, taught to keep it to ourselves. We were bullied in school, lived through the terrifying and absurd Christian D&D witch-hunts of the 80's, lost social credibility by laughing our faces off hopped up on Mountain Dew and junk food, telling stories and rolling dice, instead of partying-til-we-puked every weekend. We became a secret underground connected through comic shops and gaming stores nation wide. Gaming references slipped out in conversations like the Christian icthus, and when someone knew what we were talking about, friendship was instant and lasting.
Being a modern geek is about being passionate for something, and though scifi, computers, roleplaying games, and comics are the usual suspects, anyone can be a geek. Geeks who can quote every John Hughs film rank the same as geeks who rattle off the stats of every player on their favorite sportsball team. Watching a tail-gate party for me is just as bizarre and entertaining as other people watching Con-goers in Klingon uniforms.
Today I'm celebrating Geek Pride by wearing a Batman tee over a long-sleeve thermal (Sheldon Chic) and having lunch with one of the dozen friends I met at the gaming table in 1988. We reminisced about old games, how the industry has changed, how our games have changed, and how the geekdom that forged us into a family is now a driving force in the world. Basically, we talked about how nice it is to be out-of-the-closet.
So whether your geek is roleplaying, video games, scifi, comics, stamp collecting, knitting, medicine, architecture, biology, sports, or anything else, happy Geek Pride Day everyone!
Remember, being passionate means you're participating.
* = these feelings are in no way mutually exclusive