Recently, we walked down a street and were drawn into a store with tons of video games and geeky accouterments — Yoda mugs, Big Bang Theory t-shirts, Borderlands miniatures. Nothing particularly surprising or new about this, except its location – Vienna, Austria. Besides some German words here and there, it looked exactly like the geeky video game stores my husband loves to go to in the United States, equipped with a group of three geeky looking young guys standing around talking about the tv show Breaking Bad.
This shouldn’t be that surprising considering that most of the geeky board games I like to play come from German game companies, but I continue to be amazed at how much geeks have in common regardless of what country they are in. Maybe if everyone was a geek, we really could have world peace!
One of the charity organizations I’m involved with, Rotary International, believes that the world really can be changed, if we open our minds to other cultures and languages. The great thing about geeks is they already share so much in common! I remember an exchange student that my husband and I met from Brazil. He was somewhat quiet and did not seem to interact with the larger group of exchange students quite as much. Somehow, my husband got on the topic of a science fiction novel, and the kid’s eyes lit up. We soon learned that his favorite past time in Brazil was getting together with his friends and playing DnD. From that point forward, we had a bond with him that transcended any culture or line on a map.
My brother and sister-in-law, who I would describe as two of the nerdiest and geekiest people I know (in a good way of course), lived in Thailand for a few years, while my brother worked at the embassy. They are both part of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), which researches and reenacts life from the middle ages. While in Thailand, they discovered fellow geeks, who did not have the same outlet for their geekdom. So now if you go to Thailand, you will find a chapter of SCA. In fact, SCA has Kingdoms covering Thailand, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and even a part of Antarctica. Again, we see the power of geekdom to bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together! They may fight each other in games, but fellow geeks would never raise actual weapons against one another.
You constantly hear about conflicts on the news and the attempts at diplomacy. Why this country hates that one, and why there will never be peace in the middle east. The problem sounds impossible when you talk about “countries” and “nations,” but in the end, countries are full of people. And although it may sound cliche, people really aren’t that different at their core.
Just look at JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Since it was published in 1937, more than 100 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide. It has been translated into approximately 50 languages, including Icelandic and West Frisian. The Lord of the Rings has also been translated into numerous languages, and in fact, there was already a fandom in the former Soviet Union when the book was first published. The government would not allow the uncensored translation to be sold, so it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that the book was first translated. But the Russian populace had been waiting to read the real version since the 1960’s.
This means that you can go almost anywhere in the world and find someone who has read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. And now with the movies, the number of people who have shared the experience of JRR Tolkien’s classic story has grown even larger.
Maybe our governments could learn a little from the geeks of the world. Maybe the world would be a better place if they did. Geeks Without Borders — I could get on board with that movement.