Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Five Stages of Geek Obsession, by Mike Fatum

Comic by

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”-Simon Pegg

I've always been jealous of those of you out there who can be part of just one fandom. The folks in the geek community who hang their hats on just Star Trek, or just Game of Thrones. Your lives must be so simple. You wake up in the morning, and you love one thing. You go to a convention, and you're only searching for merchandise from that one thing. And that burning, needy feeling that comes only with being truly in love with a thing never goes away. I'm jealous of those of you out there who only have the one fandom, because I love that feeling so much.

When I get a new Obsession, and sometimes it happens to me once every few weeks, it's like I'm alive again all of a sudden. My whole chest feels filled with light, and I tingle all over. I have no idea what's going to set it off, or when. Last year, it was League of Legends. Watching a video on the Man at Arms youtube channel about making one of the swords from the game, turned into watching a few videos on the lore of the game, which turned into dragging my wife into the city to stand with a bunch of gamers in a bar and watch some people in LA play a video game. Years ago, an idle thought of "I wonder whatever happened to the Power Rangers" turned into joining three message boards, filling my house with toys and traveling to a brand new convention in LA. I notice that these obsessions come in one giant cycle, pretty accurately described by the comic up above. It starts like this:

Stage One: "Hmm. That seems cool."

The subject discovers a topic that seems interesting. In the case of my most recent obsession, this was the nine-part online documentary The Smash Brothers. I turned on this series because I heard about it in passing, and I had really enjoyed Smash Brothers as a kid, so it seemed interesting. For the first few episodes, that was it. It was interesting. I was engaged with these kids as they grew up in smaller, local, Smash Bros. tournaments. But I was intrigued, that's all. The Obsession didn't yet have me in its grip.

Stage Two: "I'll just read the wiki."

The subject decides to learn more about the topic at hand. He'll fire up the old Googles, and type in "Smash Bros tournaments" into the search bar. This is the point in the cycle where I start to become a Fan, with a capital F. It's the point where my brain opens like a sponge and begins downloading information in a way it never did in school. I can't tell you how to find the sin of a triangle, but the fact that a Ken Combo is a short hop, followed by two f-airs, followed by a d-air? Yeah, that's in there now and it's not going away. My brain is filled with little tidbits from these research sessions - before the internet existed, I was limited in what backstory on a new Obsession I could read, but now it's limitless. Nothing can stop the Information Overload.

Stage Three: "I need to be doing this. Now."

The subject is now filled with that wonderful burning, tingling feeling we described earlier. Like a junkie desperate for a fix, he needs this new Obsession. My wife is a wonderful, tolerant lady. She knew what she was getting into when she married me, and thank god she puts up with it. These Obsessions are a surprise for me, but at least I can feel them coming during Stages One and Two. She gets no warning before her thirty year old husband suddenly wants to talk about nothing but a twelve year old Gamecube game. In the past few weeks, I've joined three new Gamecube groups, and begged any friend who I've ever played Smash with before to come over and help me train. I've decided, in my mind, that this is now going to be It. I will only love Smash forever. I will train and train and train and I will go to Evo next year and I will only lose to one of the really good players, like Mango. But of course, even though I feel that in my gut, I know it's not true.

Stage Four: "Meh."

The subject is trying to hold on to his love, but it's slipping through his fingers. I know my cycles.  Last year, as soon as I started to love and play League, I said to myself "Hold on to this! You love this game! You can get good if you actually try!" But I knew, deep in my mind, as much as I really wanted this to continue, eventually I would lose interest. I fought it as hard as I could, but as months went by, that burning and tingling feeling faded. I would look at my computer, fire up League, and then leave after one match to go on Facebook. Some nights I would fire it up and not play at all. The thought of turning it on filled me with a feeling almost like disgust. Is this because I burn through it too much when the Obsession has me in it's clutches? Do I overdo it on something I love to the point where I can't love it anymore? I'm not sure. But even then, it's not over.

Stage Five: Watching. Waiting.

The subject believes he is done with the Obsession. But little does he know it simply watches and waits to catch him in its clutches again. When I was a kid, I loved Godzilla movies. I made my parents buy my books on the big guy, and I watched every Japanese monster movie our local rental store had. But it faded within a year or two. I remembered Godzilla fondly, but I didn't go out of my way for him.

Then, for his fiftieth birthday, the Castro Theater put on something called Godzillafest. It was a festival showing every single Godzilla movie ever made over the course of several weeks. And the Obsession reached out from my past, grabbed me by the arm, and said "Hey - you know what would be awesome? Why don't you think of NOTHING but Godzilla for the duration." I had a sprained ankle and no car, but I still made it to the majority of the showings. (Once again, my tolerant wife became party to the madness. She loved the first Ghidorah movie but hated Godzilla versus King Kong.) It faded again a few months later. But...there's a new movie coming out this weekend. You might have heard of the lead.

I hear that roar in the trailers, and I get chills. Because as great as the feeling of getting an Obsession for the first time is, there's nothing like coming back for Round Two. See you this weekend, big guy.

Mike Fatum is the Editor-in-Chief and co-Podcast Host for the Ace of Geeks. He loves, in no particular order: Star Wars, Star Trek, He-man, Power Rangers, Video Games, Firefly, Sci-fi, Buffy and Angel, Professional Wrestling, Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, Swords, Fantasy, Brandon Sanderson, Godzilla, Giant Monsters in General, League of Legends and now, Super Smash Brothers. 

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