So maybe you've heard of this "Red Shirt Guy" thing. Maybe you heard about the first YouTube video, maybe you've heard about the others. But it is a great story, and I think it needs to be put somewhere, all together, because it's one of the few instances where Geekdom rose above the ever-present desire to kneecap ourselves and descend into bullshit self-depreciating name-calling and oneupsmanship. So without further ado:
BlizzCon is the annual convention for Blizzard Entertainment, makers of World of Warcraft. Warcraft is a mammoth property with tons and tons of spinoff products. In the next couple months, the MMO's newest expansion, Cataclysm, will go live. As a lead-up to this, there's a tie-in novel called the Shattering that tells the story of the changing world. One of BlizzCon's panels was a Q&A with the game producers, and one of the questions was the following:
The questioner, quickly dubbed "Red Shirt Guy," kind of embodies the essence of geekitude: stammering a little, asking a question that belies a full immersion in the canon of a fictional world. As you can imagine, when his question appeared on YouTube, there were some disparaging remarks and responses. It looked like he was quickly becoming the new Star Wars Kid, ridiculed for being a big fat geek, mostly by big fat geeks.
But! Instead of crawling under a rock in shame, Red Shirt Guy made his own response video:
It's a rather impressive show of courage in the face of mockery, and it seemed to stop the needless geek-bashing (by geeks) dead in its tracks. "I indeed have Asperger's Sydrome. There. You don't have to argue about it any more." The candor and genuine personability put a human face on what was quickly becoming a caricature. And he got a plug in for his guild, too. I'm sure many responses were similar to mine: Rock On, Red Shirt Guy.
Blizzard also displayed their profound understanding of their audience, as they immediately corrected the oversight and added a red-shirted Fact Checker character into the aforementioned scene, right next to the Falstad Wildhammer who Red Shirt Guy got added to the game.
So suddenly there's this sort of fulcrum, and Red Shirt Guy goes from "some stupid geek" to a real person with some serious balls, getting the nod straight from Blizzard. Now he's not a target of derision, now he's a cause for celebration, and one in which everybody who gets a little geeky about their obsessions can feel some solidarity with. To put it blunt and coarsely, everybody wants to be like Red Shirt Guy, because he didn't just fly his geek flag, but he stepped up and owned it, and that's admirable.
In that vein, today someone posted the following video which auto-tunes his question. I simply can't express how much I enjoy the strong vibe of celebration that permeates this video. This is what geekdom can be at its best, and I will leave you with it as the final note on the topic.