Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Reluctant Geek - What’s that big shiny thing in the sky?

This week readers, things are going to be a little bit more surreal than usual. Imagine a David Lynch film, only with less nudity and girl on girl kissing. Probably.

Because rather than basements and bedsits and airless offices alive with the hum of a thousand computers, I have a different setting in mind for this session’s mandatory geeking out.

You may or may not have noticed that something a little bit odd has been happening lately. Maybe, when you try to play Fallout: New Vegas your vision is being obstructed by some kind of glare on the screen. Perhaps recent early evening D&D sessions have been interrupted by a high-pitched twittering sound (and it’s not even that annoying wannabe elf player who you hate). It’s possible even that your usual World of WarCrack buddies have started making excuses about how they don’t really have the time to come with you and kill that dragon/find that important object/pillage that particular village.

It’s ok though... there’s no real cause for alarm. What’s happening is something that happens quite often around this time. It’s the insidious creep of outside and summer and those crazy, nature loving freaks who don’t consider that the luminescent glow of your laptop screen is really going to deliver your requisite dose of vitamin D for the year.

Speaking as an aforementioned crazy, nature loving freak, I’m here to remind you that geekery and outside don’t have to be two mutually exclusive concepts. In the name of which cause, here are some of the best ways of combining your outer geek and inner hippy into one leet-speaking, kaftan wearing orgy of awesomeness.

As far as I understand it (and I’m willing to accept that there may be limitations here!) geocaching is basically a form of grown up treasure hunting with added tech. You can indulge your desire to play with shiny buttons and clever little wires, using GPS to help locate hidden containers and then romp all over the countryside tracking them down in real time. Fresh air, a massively niche hobby and the opportunity to come up with your very own code name. (Having located a box, you sign the logbook within with your unique ‘handle’). What’s not to like?! If you need the geek factor upping a little, you may be reassured to know that boxes found and sabotaged by the uninitiated are said to have been ‘muggled’. Just don’t forget to BYOP, and TFTH. (Acronyms are geeky, right?!)

It’s nearly summer. OK this is Britain, but chances are we still might have the odd gloriously sunny, cloudless day at some point. And if we do, it might just be followed by the occasional unobscuredly beautiful starry night. Stargazing has all of the essential qualities of geekery; ideally it requires equipment in the form of a telescope and superior enough knowledge to be able to use it and hopefully know what you’re looking at. But it also necessitates some communing with nature, gazing into the unknown and contemplating your place in the universe (Or particle physics, or that girl/boy you like, or tomorrow’s breakfast. Whatever works).

Whenever people produce or share those self-defeating pyramids of geekiness (honestly, if you’re creating/modifying/appreciating some kind of hierarchy of nerdery, chances are you’re at the bottom of it) LARP almost always occupies the lower layers. But despite this it’s one of the best ways of combining some wholesome outdoorsyness with your desire to be a wizard and go on quests. And anyone who thinks that geeky activities can’t be physically demanding just needs to watch a bevy of fat men run up a hill wearing chainmail. It’s pretty much an endurance sport under these circumstances! If you LARP you can spend all summer running around woods and fields, without ever once having to suggest anything so prosaic as a country walk or picnic, so it’s the no compromise option for the truly hardcore geek.

In the end, the reluctant part of my geekery quite often occurs because to be a geek is to be a stereotype and no-one likes to be put in a box. There is no reason why you can’t sit in the sunshine reading comics, or run a marathon dressed as a Klingon, or even hold your weekly RPG session in the garden. Not to mention the fact that some slash fic, ice cream and a park make for a truly inspired mix. Anyway, there’s always next winter for holing up with take away pizza and the world’s most addictive computer games…

This week Kate Townshend is channeling Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

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