Being a geek is awesome so why do we feel like we need to protect it from others?

Geek cultural Identity and the Myth of the Fake Geek, PAX East 2016 Panel

Being a geek is awesome so why do we feel like we need to protect it from others?

Being a geek/nerd is awesome. It helps strangers become friends and common fandoms bring people together. So why are we as a group so worried about what other people think and the possibility of “them taking it [nerd culture] away”. The Myth of the Fake Geek panel at PAX East, Moderated by Nika Harper,  explored these questions as well as why we love the things we love.

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  • Susan Arendt (Managing Editor/Founder, GamesRadar/
  • Nika Harper (Author, Freelance)

The panel was broken down in to 3 main categories of “Why you want to be a geek?”

  1. Play
  2. Communication 
  3. Mastery

Geekdoms allow people to experience the joy of maintaining a child-like nature without being childish by participating in different fandoms. Having that kind of connection with something means there is no need for a geek cultural representative when so much of nerd culture is now main stream and readily accessible for all. From t-shirts to ring tones, geek culture is exploding everywhere and what tends to happen is that we, as fans, get wrapped up in what it means to be a “real geek”. This mainly happens when others draw an imaginary line because it makes them feel comfortable. In reality, all we want to do is be accepted for the things we love. Susan Arendt suggested that we need more “geek translators” so we can share our geekdom with other non geeks. This brings us to the next topic: communication.


One of the biggest reasons why we have this mythical fake geek is because of lack of respectful communication. A lot of geeks feel the need to be first in their fandom creating this pseudo nerd hipster.  It can lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion because it makes the others in the same geekdom feel less special. Understanding that you can’t change the minds of others about your geekdom is important. Learning to agree to disagree is key. The more you try to force your favorite thing on someone, the higher the chance you end up ruining it for them. That said, just because you disagree doesn’t mean that you can’t have a friendly debate. You might find out things you never knew if you take the time to listen.


Lastly is Mastery. Geeks love to be a master of what we love but sometimes we tend to over do it when explaining to others. We just want to claim our space in a positive light and tell every one about our geekdom. Geeks are a lot harder on adult nerds for being new to a fandom. Yet we give a pass to kids for just learning about a geek culture. In all actuality we are just big kids at heart. We want to discusss everything we love from a in a way that shows our expertise. This is partially for validation from other geeks who maybe masters themselves.

What we can take away from this panel is that there is no such thing as a fake geek. It is just a mental construct that we thought up so that we as geeks don’t feel so insignificant. Because geeks feel marginalized it’s easy for us to develop a chip on our shoulder that we feel we need to have. Geekdom is for everyone who wants to enjoy any sort of fandom and it’s our job to play with others and non-nerds. Communicate effectively with others without diminishing people’s opinions and lastly teach everyone (respectfully) about your geekdom!

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Cresta Starr
Cresta Starr is a 28 year old from NYC. An avid video game lover and crazy cat lady in training.