The geeky addictions debate: Part 5

December 1, 2008

And so we continue to indulge in our addiction to the debate about addictions…

Insofar as addiction goes, harrysaxon, you’re still clinging to extremes without good reason. The black-and-white view of the world equating addiction simply with the completely out-of-control behaviour of a crack addict simply doesn’t wash when held up to reality. Unless, of course, you’re living in a world where you expect every smoker who heads outside for a puff to go and do a B&E to get cash to score his next carton, or every java junkie to smash and grab change from a car to pay for his next hit of joe at the neighbourhood cafe, in which case, you really are into SF – to the point of living in an alternate dimension. Addictions come in varying levels with a wide range of focuses. It’s a matter of degrees. That’s been pretty well established. To say that I’m implying “pretty much everything in my life except working, sleeping and pooping” when talking about varying degres of addiction is absurd, and again, indulging in extremes. Habitual activities or other stimulants that motivate a person’s behaviour and affect emtional state and, consciously or unconsciously, cause a person to realign priorities to accomodate those activities can quite reasonable fall within the realm of addiction.

On to the next point. Whether a jurisdiction has enacted or is considering enacting legal apparatus, more specific medical classification than that which can already accomodate this activity, or other policy with respect to gaming addiction, and whether you’re opposed to this or not, your point about the worry of possible game regulation has no relevance to this discussion which concerns the prevalance of some degree of addictive behaviour among the geek community(/ies). You seem to be confusing these issues. The possible legal/political/medical ramifications of addiction within the context of video games and what should be done about said ramifications is a topic (and an interesting one at that) for another post at another time. But just because a term is politically inconvenient for you, doesn’t mean it isn’t correct and can’t be applied or discussed. Trying to impose limits like this because you don’t like the word addiction puts you dangerously close to the mindset of those who would clamp down on video games because they don’t like them.

As for your personal note, the quotes from your apology post were not taken out of context. Given the circumstances you described and your choice of words, the picture painted is that of a person who, to some degree, is not in control of his ability to allocate priorities due to an outside stimulus. You have noted in your first rebuttal, harrysaxon’s reply, that in the past you have, in fact, experienced video game addiction in the past. By protesting too much, you may have proved the point better than I could. A reader could easily draw the conclusion that there’s been a dramatic downgrade in the habit, but it’s still there, that metaphorically you’ve gone from smoking two packs of cigarettes per hour to something like a pack or two a day. Clearly you’re sensitive to this, but whether you agree or disagree with the perception, you’re overlooking that I too spoke of my addiction (in fact, at greater length than noting yours), and more importantly, that these examples were merely the jumping-off point for a relevent examination of a legitimate issue. But we’ll set that aside.

In terms of the self-loathing label, “embarassment” is merely another word for shame or self-loathing. You’re hiding behind a dictionary on this one. Again, I maintain that among the vast majority of adult geeks, embarassment/shame/self-loathing isn’t there.

I’ll grant you that geeks have a safe on home turf feeling on their own websites, but the point still stands that they’re not exhibiting any signs of shame, rather, it’s pride.

And you’re totally undervaluing what’s involved in sub-culture shops and cons.

Yes, they are safe havens, but conventions are very public statements of pride too. Convention organizers try to draw as much attention to themselves and their event as they can in order to get a better turnout. They’ll court the media and they’ll come out to mainstream public events (for the past few years, representatives of VCon have attended Richmond’s annual Salmon Festival on Canada Day to engage prospective attendees). Moreover, they welcome the media in to their proceedings. You’d be hard-pressed to find a San Diego Comicon in recent years that wasn’t a media blitz – and that’s beyond the movie teasers too. Lots of shots of crowds and streeters with the delegates. And the delegates are more than willing to smile for the camera too. You don’t see great herds of them fleeing in the other direction or covering their faces. Contrary to your theory about embarassment with the outside world, this isn’t the behaviour of people who are ashamed. This is not the behaviour of people who don’t want the public to know what they’re up to.

Let’s also remember that to go into or out of (at the beginning, end or break) of a con, or a sub-culture shop, for that matter, one is going public. Your face and possibly name are being tied to that hive of geekery as soon as the mainstreamers see you come out. And yet, as I mentioned in my previous post, you don’t see them covering their faces so that they won’t be recognized. They’re not like a porno client. Far from it, watch an SF book buyer coming out of the store and strolling down the street, or an RPG fan coming out of the table-top-strategy-game shop in the mall, and he’s probably beaming like the cat that just ate the canary if he’s got a item in his hand that he’s been jonesing for for awhile. Going into and out of the places they love to congregate has never been a non-public affair, and yet they do it. In fact, many bring their kids – this goes for cons too. This also is not the behaviour of someone who’s embarassed about their devotion to SF.

As for your Monday morning at work scenario, nice try, but it also fails to stand up to closer scrutiny. I’ve worked in many offices and stores in different industries over the years, talked to many other people who have spent lifetimes in still more work settings, and I’ve got a pretty good handle of what goes on and the psychologies that are involved. There are a couple of possibilities that could be at work, as it were, but they don’t involve embarassment in the majority of adults.

First, in many office cultures, if coworkers bother to ask “What did you do on the weekend?”, regardless of the person’s background, geek or otherwise, the response is usually “not much” or “the usual” or “hung out with friends” or some varient. This isn’t because the individual is ashamed or trying to hide anything, it’s merely because they’re familiar enough with their coworker to know that coworker is only asking out of politeness and doesn’t really care, especially if there’s no common interest ground. If a geek knows the other party isn’t interested in geeky stuff, he won’t elaborate because he doesn’t want to waste time in an exercise that will ultimately bore the other person. This is true not just of geeks, but of sports fans, anglers, model train builders and others who would probably like to talk their coworkers’ ears off about this stuff, but are sensitive enough to know there’s no point.

Secondly, although admittedly less likely, but none-the-less possible, especially for those who are deeply into their subcultures, he may also view his weekend activity as so completely normal that it’s not worthy of mention to someone who isn’t part of his set.

Thirdly, failing to discuss weekend escapades in Klingon attire might be conflict avoidance. It’s fair to say that in some workplaces there are people who do or would pick on a geek if he happened to mention SF/gaming/what-have-you. As a result, the geek, being by nature a smart fellow, would learn that it’s better to just not bring up his extracurricular habits. This doesn’t in the least mean that he’s ashamed of his attachment. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s picking his battles – or choosing not to fight them at all, as the case may be (strange for one who prances around with a batliff, but possible none-the-less). He’s simply avoiding a situation where he’ll get picked on. And there’s two reasons for this: one, nobody likes to be bullied; and two, being in a situation with an abusive coworker interferes with work and the cohesion of the team. Better to not allow the situation to develop. But this isn’t shame. Don’t confuse conflict avoidance with embarassment ’cause these peacible geeks are still very proud of who they are.

On the whole, I’d say most geeks fall into the first or third category. And that’s not even counting the ultra proud sub-set who, in fact, do fly their SF flags proudly and and openly, with their toy dinosaurs perched atop their desks in honour of Wash, or their B5 screensavers, or their T-shirts proclaiming whatever – possibly enshrouded by a Hawiian shirt, chattering away excitedly about the latest update on Del Toro’s Hobbit project. They are out there, and in some work environments, there are lots of ’em.

Your example of my wife’s coworker is not entirely accurate either. He is a huge BSG fan and does make a point of seeking out my wife to talk with her about it. He doesn’t talk about it too much around his other coworkers, but that’s not out of embarassment. We may joke about them picking on him, and once and a while they might, but no more so than any of the others with their specific interests. In point of fact, he has discussed BSG in front of other coworkers on occasion, it’s just not that often because he knows most aren’t interested. The same was true of the Firefly fanboy in his day, and others with more mainstream interests that coworkers don’t share. Despite the kidding around, embarassment doesn’t factor into it.

I will agree with you that the sparkly romantic vampires are a trend that should die once and for all. But as for the possible alignment of geek culture with mainstream culture, that’s not clear at all. There have been peaks and valleys over the last few decades, and it’s not clear at all if that will change, or how, or for how long.

I would also agree with you that in spite of all our haranguing of each other, and examining these issues from multiple angles, we’re not going to change each other’s minds.


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