Monday, February 21, 2011

Growing out of Geek Culture?

The title's not exactly what this blog will be about, but it's as close as I could come to summing it up. 

We had really nice weather here last week--a teaser for the coming spring season--and as I do at such times, I put on some old Iron Maiden CDs in the car and waxed nostalgic. Adding to this was a visit to my local comics shop, owned by the same gent who owns one of our FLGSes here in Pittsburgh.  I have a buddy who has several boxes of old (90's era) comics he wants to unload because they are taking up space. When I inquired for him, the answer I got was, "Nope, back issues are the kiss of death, now.  That market is dead."

Comic stores now focus on memorabilia and trade paperbacks.  That's where the business is.  Hell, when I read comics these days it's in TPB format.  I can't be bothered to try and keep up with all the various overcomplicated, dimension-hopping monthly storylines anymore.  I'd rather just wait for the collected edition and get the whole story.

But it got me thinking, as I was driving down the road, the windows down, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son blaring from the stereo, and a beautiful, 60-degree sun shining down, that I do really miss the way I used to be completely enmeshed in geek culture.  I can remember loving every minute of heading to the local game store or comic shop to see what was new, spending entire days at a local coffeehouse doing nothing but geeking out about a rules issue in our favorite RPG, or debating the relative merits of being the best there is at what one does, even if what one does isn't very nice.

We all grow up, and life changes.  That local coffeehouse is long gone, now, having closed in 2000 and re-opened six or so years later as a T-Mobile store.  I still have rules and comics debates with friends, but they carry a different tenor, now.  We look at them through a different lens, the lens of thirty-somethings, instead of teens and/or twenty-somethings.  They say that thirty is the new twenty, and it's just not true.  It is true that the way our society is moving we try to hang on to youth a bit longer, we party differently than perhaps the thirty-something generation before us did, and we get started later, many of us.  At a recent dinner party it came out that with one exception everyone there was over thirty, and the vast majority of us were back in school for some career change or just because we were only now figuring it out. But that doesn't make thirty the new twenty.  We still view things through a lens of a decade more experience and in many cases, cynicism.  We still look at the world with a tad less wonder that comes with each decade of life.  We get it in ways you don't when you're twenty--and I've no doubt that someone at forty or fifty gets it way more than someone at thirty.  That's just the way of the world.

But for the wisdom that brings us, it also costs us something.  A sense of excitement and wonderment about our hobbies.  I hear younger people now--people in their twenties--talking about D&D fourth edition the way I used to talk about D&D second edition or even (gods help me) Palladium Fantasy, once upon a time.  4th ed is not my game, but it's awesome to hear them get excited about the game like that. I remember how it felt to kibitz about the latest source or splatbook, the newest character classes, spells, and gear.  I remember spending marathon gaming sessions that started at 6 PM and went till 6 AM.  Now we're lucky if we play from 7 till 10 before losing focus.  I remember being pretty well obsessed with the X-Men (my era was Fall of the Mutants, Inferno, and Dissolution and Rebirth).  I still, by the way, really want to see a Gambit/Longshot team-up and would fork out good money for that.

But nothing gives me the same kind of excitement I used to have for my beloved geekdom.  I remember the feeling, and 60-degree days with Maiden on the car stereo allow me to capture a shade of it again, briefly...but in many ways you can't go back again.  My finger is no longer on the pulse of the RPG industry the way it once was.  RPGNet doesn't thrill me anymore--too many violent and pointless arguments for which I have no time in my life.  I find I have other things to do on Saturdays now than spend all day gaming from noon till midnight.  I have too much work to do on my house these days--walls that are crumbling, cleaning that needs to be done, etc.  Now when I go into the game store, more often than not it's either with a specific agenda, or I poke, chit chat with the owner or clerks, and don't buy anything of consequence--often I'll pick up a set of dice or something small to try and support the effort, but the impulse buying of games doesn't happen for me anymore.

Gods, what's happened to me?  I got responsible somewhere along the line!

So it's true what they say: you can't go home again, not really.  But how do you go about finding a new wonderment in your beloved hobbies to replace the old?  Must it simply fade to be a shadow of what it once was, or is it true what the Gin Blossoms once said? 

"The past is gone, but something might be found to take its place."


  1. I tend to go through overlapping cycles. At some point I drift or march away from a particular interest for anywhere from 5-10 years, come back and rediscover it again. I've found in these past few cycles that it's the internet connection to a particular interest, hobby, fandom, whatever that tends to burn me out on one thing faster than another. Every once in awhile, I get lucky and find that I really can be just as excited about something new -- even at the age of 45 -- as I would have been when I was 15. But it's rare.

  2. Sometimes you just gotta walk away. I walked away from RPGs and comics and all sorts of whatnot at 22. It had become a big ball of blah. I found them again at 38 and wow - what a fun trip it's been.

    A lot of it has to do with getting to look at the world through my son's eyes. Things that I thought were rotting and dead are actually fresh and alive. It was just a perspective thing.

    - Ark

  3. Don't get me wrong--I'm not burned out remotely. I just don't see the culture with the same kind of all-consuming passion and wonder I once did. Now it's...a hobby. One I love and enjoy, but I do sometimes miss the youthful excitement at getting a new book or issue.

  4. I totally understand where you're coming from with this post. As much as I enjoy gaming, my blog, and everything that goes with it, I don't feel the same obsessive consumption of it that I used to. Going to game and comic stores is fun... but it doesn't make me bounce like it used to.

    Sometimes I miss it, but being an adult has it's advantages too.