A Geek By Any Other Name

For readers who are unaware, I’m part of a fantastical recreation of the medieval era called Dagorhir. We dress up in garb, hit each other with foam weapons, cook great food, hone our skills in the arts and sciences, and create a culture complete with its own rituals, glossary, and inside jokes. We are regular people having a ton of fun.

I describe it as such because so many outsiders today are quick to label all LARPers as a category of lower class of humans that can’t accept reality, especially because we lack the social skills for comfortable integration into the modern world. We don’t know about military tactics because our fighting is pretend. We aren’t serious about fitness because we’re prancing around and casting spells. We’re ignorant and closeted because our topics and specialties are long dead, or not appropriately researched or applied. We can’t maturely discuss the environment, world issues, politics, or philosophy because we’re too wrapped up in a world that doesn’t exist.

I cannot deny those stereotypes do apply to some people. I readily admit a lot of people I’ve sought out as potential friends or romantic partners immediately were checked off the list because of their social mannerisms. All they could talk about was themselves, and any story or topic initiated a fierce struggle to relate it back to their story-line. Or, one of my deepest annoyances, never bringing others into the conversation, asking about their stories and experiences, and only doing so in order to criticize it or offer “sage” advice. There are simple overarching courtesies to all interactions, whether you’re a geek or not.

I would go so far as to argue that 90% of the world is a geek, which I define here as an overly enthusiastic expert in a chosen field. Fashion geeks are obsessed with the flow of pop culture clothing and accessories. They’ll write or read blogs and magazines, attend conferences, talk for hours on end with like-minded friends, maybe even hold parties highlighting some sort of achievement or release in the fashion world. Just because they’re called fashionistas doesn’t make them less of a geek. Sports geeks constantly keep track of stats, watch games, follow their favorite players, talk about them incessantly on forums or at sports pubs, collect memorabilia, and visit sacred stadiums. The category list is non-exhaustive, as I’m certain you can suggest a couple different types right now.

In all geek subcategories, you can find similarities to LARPers. Politics junkies can’t go two sentences without bringing up the most recent bill, or some idiot that shouldn’t be in office. TV enthusiasts don’t know how to talk to nature geeks unless there was something in a show they once watched. YouTubers may look awkward in a conversational circle unless a video is mentioned on which they’ve knowledgeable. I don’t say this to insult, only as an observation. If you think there’s no other way to interpret my words, that says more about your own mind rather than mine.

Anyone of any geek walk of life can find reason to poke fun at someone else’s past time, yet I’ve found LARPers get the cold shoulder from more of their obsessive brethren than anyone else. Why? I can’t determine that, but my best guess is luck. The fine line that separates us and any other [insert topic] obsessed person is the medium, and that’s it. Like most culturally accepted microcosms, someone at some point in our recorded history decided a hierarchy of hobbies, and arbitrarily put gamers and LARPers near the bottom. Maybe the First Gamer said their mother wasn’t classy, I don’t know. I’m aware that newspapers have sections devoted to many of these categories I also assign to geeks, like politics, sports, world issues, even fashion or pop culture. That doesn’t make those hobbies any more valid or important than ours, and we can gain prestige and fame in our fake worlds just like they do. Oh, their worlds aren’t fake? Tell me whose status and milestones are going to matter when your body declines to its eventual end. No one’s.

I’ve made countless lifelong friends through Dagorhir. I’ve met quality people who care for their fellow human of any background, hobby preference, color, creed, religion, or lifestyle. I’ve been enveloped in breathtaking sunsets, witnessed the meek find their confidence, laughed at inoffensive jokes until my head hurts, and cried at touching gestures of beauty and sacrifice. I’ve fought beside egomaniacs, rolled my eyes self-promoting drama, got stomped by chauvinistic jerks, and walked away from weasel-like individuals looking for a con. And the odd thing is, you can say all of that stuff about anywhere you go in the modern world (well, except maybe the fighting part…but if you don’t have conflict in your life, it’s a sad one indeed).

After all this evidence, it shouldn’t be a stretch to say Dagorhir is just a recreation of life, no matter how much others want to insult or deny it. It’s a catalyst through which we process and embrace the world. Humans have countless avenues and guides to how we fit into this whole crazy mess called reality, but we choose Dagorhir. Like readers choosing mystery or thriller novels: different clothing put over the same core components. Of course, a percentage of our populace complains and gripes about this event or that fighter or these circumstances. Dagorhir, just like life, has taught me that the dark times make the bright ones shine more brilliantly, and when on my deathbed many years from now, I will remember warm fires, true friends, and memories stronger than any man-made alloy.

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