Twitter is My Virtual Arcade… or Coffeehouse

Twitter is the Place to Find People That Are Interested In Your Brand of Geekery

I signed up for Twitter back in 2009 but I didn’t do much with it until late last Spring. I was angry with a political post one of my friends wrote on Facebook and I knew I couldn’t respond without ruining the friendship, so I went to Twitter and experienced the catharsis one can only feel when they just go on a full blown RANT.  I started out mainly talking about politics, but as time went on, I started tweeting about other subjects near and dear to my heart and I realized Twitter is absolutely the best place to find people that like the same things as you.

This sounds like such a facile observation, but it’s important because in my non-online life (“the real life,” as I like to call it), there aren’t a ton of people that are into my specific interests: gaming, politics (specifically politics from my side of the political spectrum), geek movies, my style of music… You get the picture.  So realizing this and finding like-minded people on Twitter was sort of an epiphany to me. Facebook is for connecting with old friends.  Twitter is for meeting people that like what you like and this is important because it has become significantly harder over the last few years to meet people with similar interests to your own.

After the Tech Boom, the Quality of Social Capital Declined

What is Social Capital? In its most basic sense, it’s human interaction through social networks. No, not just the modern day meaning of social networks, but also how you interact with people or groups of people in “the real life.”  It’s a concept that was developed by Robert Putnam in his book Bowling Alone where he asserted that the US has undergone an unprecedented collapse in civic, social, associational, and political life since the 1960s, with serious negative consequences.  If you’ve ever seen WALL-E, then you have an idea of what social capital decline would look like in the extreme. Everyone in WALL-E’s universe ride around in little chairs with screens in front of their faces: they’re distracted and not interacting with one another.

Will this be us in a few years?
Will this be us in a few years?

Through social media, the quantity of interpersonal interactions has increased, but many think the quality has gone down.  And here’s where I loop back to the title of the article: We don’t go to brick and mortar stores anymore. We aren’t as likely to visit a comic book store as we are to buy something online.  We don’t go out to movies as much as we like to rent something on Redbox or binge-watch Netflix–what’s the point of a home theater if not to be comfortable and save money on movies? We’re more likely to go through a drive-thru to get coffee than to sit in the shop for hours with a paper talking to a friend or stranger and if we do go in, we put our headphones on and we’re glued to a computer screen, phone or tablet (free Wi-Fi!). Finally, video game arcades are basically dead except for in movie lobbies and some theme restaurants. So where do geeks go to congregate with other geeks? Where do we meet each other?

Coffee Houses Used to be an Intellectual Hub

Did you know that before coffee was brought to Europe from the Middle East that everyone just drank beer and wine and spent the whole day semi-drunk?

For centuries, water in Europe was often too unsanitary to drink, so a common alternative was alcohol–a lot of it. It was not uncommon for someone to have a few light beers in the morning, beer for lunch and perhaps mixing it up with some wine or gin in the evening. Essentially, all of Europe was in a drunken haze, morning to night.

–via A Brief History Of Coffee Houses as Meeting Places

coffee or beer
Coffee or beer, the eternal question…

When people started drinking coffee instead of alcohol all day, they were stimulated instead of drunk which spawned an intellectual movement! Intellectuals would go to coffeehouses to get their fix and politicians, artists, writers, and thinkers would then gather and exchange ideas.  Think of all of the important developments that spawned from those interactions. We don’t really have that anymore–or not as much.  This is true for hobbies as well. As I mentioned, we don’t have arcades or as many physical stores where people can gather, meet and exchange ideas.

Arcades: Where Geeks Meet… or “Met”

I was just a few years shy of the Video Game Arcade golden age. There is no consensus about the Arcade Golden Age, but most say it was from the late 1970s and early 1980s, and lasted to the mid-1980s. I visited arcades from time to time, but it was with too few quarters and adult supervision.  By the time I really got into gaming, the first few consoles had sort of supplanted arcades as the main method of gaming.

The two greatest arcade games ever
Simpsons Arcade and TMNT Arcade were my two favorites. I’d kill to have one of these cabinets.

While I appreciate the convenience and cost-effectiveness of console gaming, I do miss the real-life interaction arcades provided for gamers to meet other gamers.  At least back in the 80’s and 90’s even console gaming allowed for couch co-op play. We all remember playing Contra with our best friend or group of buddies. Couch co-op is all but dead in current gen systems except for, perhaps, the Nintendo Wii U.

classicgamingexpo07    76135-209655-nintendo12jpg-620x

No, I’m Not a Luddite

Technology has slowly killed off a lot of social interactions we used to have and it seems like it has fractured our culture to the point where it’s really difficult to find people with similar interests. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a Luddite. I LOVE technology: I’m a technophile, but without the means to purchase all the gadgets I’d like to tinker with.  But, that being said, we used to all be at least conversant on politics, television, movies, music and books but now there are so many options for entertainment and media, it’s impossible to be caught up on everything.

Furthermore, many people have extremely specific avocations: it used to be that if you liked video games, you probably like Mario Brothers. Now, there is so much diversity in games (and that is a GOOD thing) that you can speak with another gamer and neither of you will have played any of the same games. It is harder to find people that like your particular brand of geekery (I love saying this phrase, I know. I just can’t think of a better way to say it).

So How Do We Meet and Connect With Other Geeks?

Twitter, 8Chan, Reddit threads, Tumblr (no thanks)… My choice is Twitter but I think most of these options are great ways to connect with those who have similar interests. I’ve also had a lot of fun scanning YouTube channels of other gamers. Obviously, watching others play games online has gained a lot of traction with Twitch and personalities like PewDiePie who create Let’s Play videos for YouTube. I still think it’s important to meet people in the real life to connect with about various hobbies and interests, but until that becomes easier somehow, I’ve been happy tweeting and messaging all of the awesome gamers that I’ve met on Twitter. I’ve finally found a place where someone knows what I’m talking about when I say “Makers Breath!” or “War… War never changes.”  It’s the next best thing to finding Doc Brown and getting him to make me a DeLorean time machine to take me back to the 80’s.

What do you guys think? Are there still places for geeks to congregate “on the reg” besides Comic-Con and similar conferences?  What do you do to meet and connect with geek friends?

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