Geek culture emerges from the basement

Albert Miliam basks in the limelight of geek culture. (MILIAM_PIC_CAVANAUGH_E)

Albert Milaim, a game development student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, considers himself a geek. But unlike times past, being a geek is no longer a basement culture.

“Before geeks were looked down upon,” he said. “Now people will look up to you for knowing what to do.”

Miliam credits the elevation of geek culture to the internet and popular television. The hit-television series The Big Bang Theory focuses solely on protagonists who geeks. Before the successful sit-com, Best Buy commercialized the culture when the retailer launched its technologically helpful team aptly named Geek Squad.

Michael Johnstone is a science fiction professor at the University of Toronto. He attributes this acceptance and expansion of the geek to cultural penetration.

“There’s definitely been a shift,” he said. “A lot of that is primarily driven by film, television and video games … People are lining up hours ahead of time for the next Halo release. These video games make hundreds of millions of dollars in the first 24 hours.”

Milaim also said that geek culture has become an integral part to today’s society.

“You want to be a geek to show that you are knowledgeable,” he said. “It’s the main culture today.”

He partly attributes geek mainstreaming to the popularization of video games. He said that the Next-Generation Consoles (such as PS3, Xbox 360 and the Wii) played a large role with this.

“Especially the Wii… the system was marketed to people who didn’t play video games… People were able to communicate and share their passion,” he said. “It was a common ground for geeks and non-geeks.”

But fiction author Leah Bobet believes that this fundamental shift is the result of a more tolerant society.

“Things used to be monolithic, and these things used to matter more. [But] different people are more accepted now,” Bobet said.