I feel like the massive explosion of geek culture in recent years – to the point that it doesn’t feel like a counter-culture anymore – is due in large part to the Internet. The Internet allows geeks to find each other, allows fans and fandoms to find each other. It allows for our expressions of geekiness to be found by others, for us to be creators as well and to have an audience. It allows niche and obscure things to have a large following, because the whole following can potentially connect together.
However, I’m also frequently reminded of how important it is to have a local focus, even as we geek. Let’s go with an example.
I listen to a number of Warmachine and Hordes related podcasts. There’s not a lot of players in my area, nor a lot of time on my part to play, but listening lets me vicariously experience the game some, lets me learn and absorb information about the game from people who have been playing more and longer. It’s this sort of explosive growth on the Internet, which also includes a lot of Twitch streaming games and such, which I haven’t really watched (maybe should). Facebook groups, which I’ve joined.
Anyway, among all of this, there’s an interesting point that I keep hearing and that makes me stop and think: when they talk about the MSRP on the models. I have yet to pay the actual full price on a model (almost, I’ll get to that), because I’m buying on Amazon, from game store retailers, or on eBay. But on the podcasts especially, they all talk about buying from their local game store. Because of course they should: buying from the store is how you show your support for the store, for it having space to play, for it carrying the game you play in stock. And there is one thing I’ve paid full price for: the Trollbloods starter box at our local game store. The starter boxes are all they have carried so far for the game (small store), but I made sure to buy it there to support the store. They’ve actually sold quite a few of these, so hopefully they’ll grow their inventory.
I hear an interesting term sometimes, too: FLGS (versus LGS). The “friendly” local game store, as opposed to just the local game store. Sometimes, this can mean the difference between a store that is pure sales space and the store that has game space. Sometimes this can mean a store that is opposed to your game, or which doesn’t create a welcoming experience, or maybe that isn’t very good at service or business. Our store is friendly, but small, so that has its own challenges.
Indeed, our whole town is small, so we don’t have a lot of options. But let me give another couple of examples.
One is one of our big grocery stores. It’s a chain, and the sort that has a ton of departments. Its electronics department is fantastic. They do sales on movie release days, such that we find ourselves going there to get the movies first thing. They have a large video game selection, and they drop prices at a good rate, just about keeping up with Amazon. We like to shop there even as a big company, because running a good electronics section is still valuable. We want them to keep doing so! Our Walmart (which recently closed) had video games too: a section full of empty shelves, and a bunch of copies of one or two big names. I’ve seen what it looks like to not run a good section like that, so I want to support the store doing it right.
The other is our local bookstore, a small-town operation. We definitely find a lot of books we’re interested in there, though most of those end up on our Amazon wish list. We deliberately buy books there occasionally to make sure we support them… but that has led to a lot of books sitting around waiting to be read. The other thing they carry is board games, which can be quite expensive at full price… still, we try to support them carrying those, as well, by picking some up… the card games are great for that.
It’s easy to geek entirely online. It lets us follow the creators we love, purchase the things we read and play, subscribe to the things we watch… Cooperative video games are moving off of single consoles and towards being online, single-system-per-player setups. Board games and card games have mobile apps and asynchronous online play. And it would be easy for us, given how we have so few options here in town. Amazon could just solve everything for us, and often cheaper and with free shipping.
But to gather as geeks in person… to play our games, seen by others, at game stores… to go to game nights… all these things are good things. And doing so takes supporting our local stores and shops and setting up time with our friends. I know I’m guilty of getting caught up in the online communities and activities as well… And those communities are also real and matter. Those online spaces are part of where we are, these days, as well. Support the ones of those, as well, that you frequent, that are good to you. To go back to my early example, for my first and most-listened to podcast I recently subscribed to their premium paid content. Doing more than just absorbing their free content.
These are just some of my thoughts on the matter. It’s a complicated issue – with the rise in popularity of geek culture, there’s a whole lot of it out there. Plenty of things looking for your money. And with crowd funding, there’s more and more folks looking for funding for their projects. So it’s the sort of questions we may be asking ourselves all the time. So what do you think? How do you geek where you are? Let us know in the comments below!