It’s only reasonable to make the assumption that most gamers are passionate about playing games and is not entirely unfair to suggest many gamers (myself included) fall under the all-encompassing, highly stereotypical descriptive term ‘geek’.
Etmologically speaking the word ‘geek’ was coined as a mixture of the old English word ‘geck’ which has its origins in German and the Dutch ‘gek’ which means silly or mad. It was first used in the late19th century and was a word that simply meant fool or freak. It found its way into circus and carnival slang in the early 1900s and was used to describe those who couldn’t be categorised and were touted and paraded as freaks of nature.
Wow, I mean, Forces Of Geek is great but Forces of Sideshow Geek has a nice ring to it if you ask me!
The word evolved and moved away from circuses in the 1970s where it was coined as an insult to describe anyone who didn’t fit in, enjoyed learning or had interests which were considered non-conformist or weird. These days, while still considered as an insult by some, the word has slowly been reclaimed. Things that used to be considered geeky are now the norm and it dominates mainstream culture.
My cousin and his wife’s seven year old son is currently obsessed with Marvel cinematic universe. During a family gathering, I commented that it felt bizarre to me that geek culture was so accepted these days and how I was once bullied and excluded for liking those non-conformist things that are now considered extremely cool.
Their response was “Marvel stuff isn’t geeky because it is everywhere!” and “What are you talking about, Marvel and DC stuff is cool!”
I got the impression from their agape jaws that they thought I was talking in tongues. Naturally I was completely taken aback by their response but it highlights that all those things that were once demonised are now so deeply ingrained into mainstream culture that the negative connotations associated with them will soon be distant memories.
As I consider myself a geek and I have a passion for gaming, I began looking to the games industry for examples of characters that embody ‘geek’ or represent it in some way. We often turn to games as a way to escape reality but I wanted to seek out those characters that are more like us. It was tough to find examples amidst a sea of white, cis-male protagonists, who are in such high numbers, they’re practically plankton.
The beloved dorky anime nerd from the Metal Gear Solid series whose real name is Hal Emmerich, goes by the nickname Otacon as a literal reference to his love of all things otaku. He’s a hacker, builds robots and fights terrorists with his intellect.
And if we want to get meta here, the name Hal is a direct reference to the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey!
Voiced by British comedian and author Danny Wallace, Shaun is the character we’re actually most like in the Assassin’s Creed series as opposed to the badass characters like Ezio or Evie that we all want to be.
The socially awkward historian and analyst is really into conspiracy theories and often quips sarcastically at Desmond, telling him to go away when he’s constantly busy at his computer, working on databases entries and probably trying to hide the fact he’s reading fan fiction or scrolling through conspiracy theory forums.
When you look past his creepy red-nosed face and look at his personality, Tingle pretty much fits the bill for the term ‘geek’. He is the ultimate map nerd and perhaps his creepiness is an outward manifestation of social awkwardness?
And while we’re all wondering what the hell he’s on about half the time, I mean “Tingle, Tingle, Koolah-Limpah”? Maybe he made up his own language or enjoys learning fictional ones like Elvish or Klingon.
Saying that, I often get the same reaction whenever I’m talking about video games to non-gamers.
One of the characters in the No More Heroes series, Travis became an assassin after running out of money to play video games. He’s devoted to anime and has a motel room full of wrestling masks, otaku collectibles and he has a love of cats.
He was designed by Goichi Suda who himself has love of luchador wrestling and anime, it’s for this reason that Travis fits the ‘geek’ mantle because he’s really passionate about his fandoms.
Mei-Ling Zhou is one of the character’s in Blizzard’s Overwatch. She’s an environmental scientist and climatologist with a passion for weather patterns and atmospheric changes. She is a fan favourite with many of her fans adopting the mantra, “Mei is bae”.
She doesn’t conform to the usual standards of ridiculously unrealistic female body types in games, she wears glasses, is excited about everything climatological, apologises for hurting her enemies (ticking the socially awkward box) and is always offering supportive messages to her team.
All of these things ground her in normality and if she were real, she’d most definitely be labelled as a geek.
Lucca is Crono’s childhood friend in Chrono Trigger and as well as being an incredible inventor and rocking quirky, colourful fashion, she dons big glasses and has a room full of anime figures.
Bookish and smart, she understands robotics and reactivated the character Robo.
She’s a character that most girl geeks can connect to in a game where the other female character is a blonde, blue-eyed princess in a strapless bodysuit.
I remembered and researched other geeky characters but it was surprisingly hard, in the end I chose to write about a handful but here are some that almost made the cut: Mordin Solus, Pete from Power Stone 2, Gordon Freeman and Tails.
Who are your favourite video game character geeks? Let me know in the comments!
I like there are a smattering of characters that represent us, I’m so over characters in games being brooding, straight, white males.
As popular culture shifts and geekiness continues to become the norm, I’m optimistic that we’ll start seeing more representation, after all, it seems geeks have finally inherited the Earth so there’s genuine hope of seeing other outdated stereotypes fade over time and even the possibility that they’ll eventually disappear entirely in the future.
So hail to the geeks, the fangirls and fanboys, the mathematicians, the engineers, the gamers, the LARPers, the spreadsheet junkies, the comic book enthusiasts, the scientists, the D&D players, the meme experts, obscure reference makers, the techies, the Trekkies, the table toppers, the Cosplayers, the anime lovers and the ones who obsess over trivial knowledge!
Embrace your passions and wear the mantle of ‘geek’ with pride!
And now we’re no longer considered freaks or circus sideshow acts, let’s work together to challenge other misrepresentations by fighting to overcome the lack of LGBTQ and racially diverse characters in games.
Let’s all geek out about each other!