Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Speak Out With Your Geek Out - From Wildest Herefordshire to Darker Days Radio #speakgeek

So what is this all about?

'Take a stance against baiting nerd rage and stereotypes of geeks.

Post about how much you love your geeky hobbies or vocation from Monday, September 12th, 2011 to Friday, September 16th on your blog, website, social media account or in a forum somewhere. Then come here and tell us about it. We'll have a kick-off post where you can stand and be counted.

Let's show the world why we're awesome and why there is nothing wrong with being a geek.

Initially proposed and organized by author, game designer and freelance consultant Monica Valentinelli.'

So what do I have to add. On they have some great points on how to address this type of points.

I am an unapologetic geek. It has fuelled my passion for the sciences, for history, for mythology, for finding my own spirituality, and has also led to me finding jobs, friends, and also my wife.

Is being a geek bad thing? Of course not. Many people are geeks. They have a deep passion for some niche interest. Be it roleplay games, video games, or football fans. Geek has been a word negatively attached to an interest in technology, sciences and books. But as time has gone on, and the world has changed, being a geek has started to payoff big time, but in a more apparent way.

Many who meet me assume I still a student. And a student into the arts. I guess the big bleached spiky hair confuses many. They seem shocked to learn I am a doctor of chemistry. I am a geek, but not the stereotype may imagine.

So where does my proud life as a geek begin?

Transformers. It has to be Transformers. Even now I am a big fan of them. My wife bought me the Megatron toy from the Transformers Animated series a few Xmas' back. But I got my first Transformer when I was just 18 months old. My mother explained to me that back then I constantly wanted them as I saw older boys with the toys. Of course, that was the Eighties, and as I grew up there were many of the classic cartoon shows. He-Man, Thundercats etc. All of this fuelled my imagination, and that imagination was allowed to create with Lego.

During Primary school I discovered Greek myths, and then the other myths from other pantheons. Again my mother fed this need, and got me books on the subject. I was also equally obsessed with space, and knew even at the age of 9 all about the shuttle program, the planets and about stars.

It was also around this time my parents got for Xmas for my sister and myself a computer. The Amiga 500. This machine let my play games, use early publishing and art software, and also try out basic programming.

Then came High school, and it was in my first year there that a friend got me into wargaming. Warhammer 40000 to be exact. This of course led to me eventually playing all the games that Games Workshop produced at the time. Overtime my parents accepted this expensive hobby, noting how it let me be artistic, develop good logic and number skills, writing, and reading, and also let myself and my friend socialize doing something other than watching TV or playing on the computer.

It was also at High school I got into table top rpgs. My parent came back one Saturday afternoon with a black box with a red dragon upon it. This was D&D Basic. I of course got my wargaming friends into table rpgs. That Xmas I got the WEG Star Wars rpg, and a year after that Vampire the Masquerade. It was also around this time, while doing work experience at the Hereford Archaeology centre that I picked up some Magic the Gathering cards. This too also became a major hobby for my friends.

Of course all the way through school, from primary to high school, to 6th form, I was a bullied for being a geek. A nerd. I did well at lessons, and in exams, especially at maths and sciences. it wasn't that I didn't like sports, but I preferred things like Martial Arts. By the end of school I was a brown belt in Karate. But for all of it I was bullied. There were often times I even wished I was not as good at school. Is it any surprise then that I got into alternative music?

Of course these matters seem pointless in hindsight once on goes to university and finds that where before you were part of an apparent minority, you are now part of a larger, a more diverse, and accepting, body of people and peers. Of course I feel I would never have gotten to university, and even got my invitation grades lowered, if I had not been a geek.

Throughout university I was still doing wargaming, and for 3 years worked part time at a Games Workshop store. While there the parents of the kids that came in were often surprised to learn that I was a degree student. They could see that this hobby promote the types of skills and interests that would lead to their kids going to university.

Of course while at university I also joined gaming groups, joined the anime society, and became more alternative. I was a industrial/cybergoth in the making.

My degree of course is quite geeky. It started out as just chemistry, but then took a computing angle, and my final degree project was the simulation of water. So I was now a programmer/chemist. I worked in an office compiling code, reading up of quantum mechanics. I was a chemist, just not in a white coat.

Of course this led to me doing a PhD in computational chemistry. My skills expanded and I learnt about AI, neural networks, machine learning, protein folding (you know the stuff on the PS3). I was becoming an expert in my field, writing papers in a unique part of chemistry. Of course I was still roleplaying during this time, but I had also stopped wargaming. I needed the time, and the money. I also got into the industrial/goth scene around this time, and found that many of the goths in the city were also scientist geeks of some form, or artist geeks. I also met my wife half way through my PhD. We originally met over the internet. We were both members of a goth meetup, but never were at the same one at the same time. So we met up one day, geeked out over Spiderman films, and then spent a lot of the day walking around geek shops, like Forbidden Planet. Sam of course brought into my life all her geek interests, some I get, some I don't, and she in turn is now an important member of my rpg group. We also cosplay when we get the opportunity as our favourite anime characters.

So where am I now? I have almost finished my first postdoc research post at the University of Warwick, and I will be moving to Germany for my new job. I have also been married for almost 3 years, with Venice now being a geeky obsession of mine, as it is a place I got engaged in, married in, and I have also written about, both for my own games, and for the rpg Amaranthine (my first shot at freelance writing). I now also co-host the Darker Days Podcast, a World of Darkness focused podcast.
Since moving to Warwick I have set up another gaming group which consists of computer game artists, battle re-enactors and political researchers.

Now I am no paragon of geekdom. I have had my rants. Be it against those who bitch and moan about a company catering to their tastes, or having a rant a person who kills their gaming party in the first scene. I also dislike certain hobbies, but that is not to say that I do not accept that others.

So what is my message to other geeks who feel as if they are the outcast, or that their hobbies are some form of social impediment. They are not. These geek hobbies can fuel the mind and imagination in a way that can lead to finding other like minded friends, and can be turned into respectable jobs. After all in this day and age of computers and technology and computer games, don't geeks somewhat rule the world? Of all the people that have encouraged me, it has been my mother who has pushed me with my studies, accepted my hobbies and in fact got me started in them.

So there we go. I am a proud geek, and there are more out there than you realize. They just don't look like the stereotype.



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