Being a geek can be seen as difficult for many; the social awkwardness, ineptitude, and judgment from others leads individuals to feelings of isolation in a world of their own. Geeks, by traditional definition, are passionate about anthologies and characters from a variety of fictional, fantasy, and virtual formats that are sometimes niche or unpopular, creating feelings of relatedness towards avatar experiences in an often lonely life. Yet there are even more morphings of the term “geek” from a historical perspective, dating back to 1997—most being identified with a negative connotation. However, with the rise of popular media over the past several years, (e.g., Big Bang Theory, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Marvel’s Avengers, anime, etc.) self-identification as being a “geek” or “nerd” has become more mainstream. Yet, even with the rise of cultural normalization and shows discussing “geek” items, there is still significant mystery surrounding geek culture that perplexes individuals who are not intimately familiar with them.
Geek Therapy encompasses many different paradigms of thought, intellectual curiosities, and specialized interests outside of “normal” social conformity. This can range from the more well-known areas of video games, comic cons, and TV shows to the less well-known topics of board games and verbose fantasy novels. Yet, there are clinicians who use these geek cultural artifacts to promote social normalcy, community, reduce anxiety and depression, and help clients understand who they are through their interests.
It is important not to condemn the concept of being a geek or the activity being enjoyed based on rating, time spent, or games played (as seen in the past definitions of geek), but to see through the play itself into what the player is experiencing, what drives them to a certain character or avatar, or the individual’s experience of the virtualized and fantasy worlds. This may require an observer to participate in the different worlds in order to fully comprehend its abilities, draws, and engagement. Indeed, the authors would all agree that in order to understand geek culture, one has to immerse oneself into it. This is the same for these different areas of Geek Therapy. Each area has its own draws, revelations, and clinical applicability if one is willing to step forth into it. Playing within these domains is not inherently negative or bad as some individuals suggest, but it allows the creativity of the individual to shine through with the utilization of imagination. This is just one of the possibilities and examples of “seeing through” the behavioral actions psychology sometimes gets caught up with. By conducting ourselves in this manner, it allows a deeper and more meaningful understanding to unfold about the game played, character or avatar chosen, and the person playing in front of us.
Written by Anthony Bean