Am I a part of a culture of "always buying shit"?Posted: January 6, 2011
When I tour the different discussion sites having to do with RPG stuff, I frequently come across posts about buying stuff and links to sites where one can buy stuff. There is cheap and stupid stuff for sale. You can buy steel, hematite or wooly mammoth ivory dice. There are even high end ’boutique’ sites that cater to the ‘geek culture’ with all sorts of stuff like Geek Chic where you can buy an $8,000.00 gaming table. And they now make a USB drive shaped like just about anything.
I have to confess that while I LIKE buying and owning shit (I am an American, after all), part of me thinks the whole “Geek is the new cool” and “express your unique individuality by buying more shit like a sword handle umbrella or a set of Lord of the Rings Plush minis” begins to make me a bit sick. Because, let’s face it, if you need a table to play games at, do you really need one that costs 8 grand? Do you carry an umbrella to keep the rain off your head or do you carry an umbrella with a samuri sword handle to impress your cubemates at how wacky you are? And if you collect things like Gandalf plushies and you are over 8 years old I don’t even want to know you.
I don’t know if I am a geek or not. I’m not good with computers or math (in spite of having one lightly used MSITM degree). I can’t tell you which actor played Doctor Who in which episode nor do I have a strong opinion on whom the best doctor might be (my default answer is ‘Tom Baker’ because I know his name). I can’t speak Klingon nor do I know the Vulcan calendar. I don’t really like gaming conventions (I have been to two). But somehow I fit the definition of ‘geek’ or I am ‘geeky.’ And when a large part of the definition of ‘geek culture’ seems to be ‘buying clever and useless shit’ or ‘collecting one pristine sample of everything and keeping it in mint condition,’ then I want out.
I realize that for me to rail against the ‘rampant consumerism’ of ‘geek culture’ is a lot like the pot calling the kettle black. I try to make money by illustrating RPG products. I have about 100 lbs of vintage lead minis (including a Jabberwocky and an Umber Hulk) in my basement. I buy more books, art supplies and music than I probably should, given my budget. Right now I’m trying to make some money by making some mosaic items that I hope people will buy (unemployment is like that). I even published my own game book via Lulu (which probably makes all of my “I don’t wanna be a geek” talk kind of ridiculous — and did you see how I snuck in a link to it? Buy a copy, please? Thanks!). But there is stuff and there is crap — and, I’m sorry, but most of what is sold through ‘Think Geek’ or other similar sites is useless crap.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. Maybe I’m just fed up because more and more of our lives seem to be spent on paying for or buying things… maybe it’s just male menopause or a mid-life crisis. What about making and inventing things? Miller (played by Tracey Walker in Repo Man (1984)) said, “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.” Maybe that’s true. Everybody drives in Detroit and we have some astoundingly stupid people out here (like the guy who leaned on his horn and gave me the finger the other day because I made a left turn). But I also wonder if just spending a lot of time acquiring more and more stuff we don’t really need also makes us stupid.
2011 is a year when I will buy less. I’m still buying tools and art supplies, books and I’ll include a small budget for music. I’ll buy electronics and similar stuff only if I must (my S.O. has asked for a DVR capable TV because Netflix is phasing out discs by mail in favor of downloads). For the rest, I’ll do my best to recycle, re-use, repair or self manufacture.