Niche Geekdom has been choking on its deathbed for some time now.
The current outcry seems to be about Video Gamer identity, but the concept that playing video games as a niche activity has been a marketing lie since before the 90s; it’s been convenient to pretend that X-Box owners are special and unique as a way to flog them stuff but come on, it’s no more remarkable than owning a DVD player.
Even that most specialist and bizarre of geek activities, Live Action Role Play, has entered the public domain. LARP isn’t niche anymore and has been mainstream for some time, after all, it’s been the subject of Hollywood movies. Zombie experiences and locked room escape events are available on the high street. It may be LARP by another name, but it’s still let’s pretend. Can’t get much geekier than that.
Thousands of people attend pay-on-the-gate shows like MCM to dress up as geek icons and meet David Prowse. Slightly more hard core geeks plan holidays around traditional conventions which now resemble a sort of continuing professional development event; quite literally geek training for career geeks.
D&D is a highstreet brand. Elfstones of frickking Shannara is getting turned into a TV show. iPhone versions of old school Fighting Fantasy gamebooks frequently top the charts. The tipping point of geeks going from different to mainstream was probably about 10 years ago, but we were all too busy having fun to notice.
And you know what? The influx of new blood hasn’t spoilt a damn thing. The end of Empire Strikes Back is still as precious and as relevant as it has always been. The only difference is now when I make a sci-fi, anime or fantasy joke in a room full of stranger, someone else is likely to giggle. I like that. A lot.
The only people who are maintaining the fiction that geekdom is ‘other’ is old media, and old media will always fear change until tomorrow’s geeks become today’s TV presenters. (It’s already happened; see Brooker meets Snow on youtube for details.)
All this change is a good thing. The going has gotten geeky, and being a geek, I have gone professional.