Geek Culturally Competent

The semester is over! And that means…no papers to write, no reading to do, and more time for thinking out blog posts! Hooray!

During the semester, there was a lot of talk about culture and cultural competency. In general, when we hear the word culture, we think of ethnicity or country of origin. In actuality, there are many other kinds of culture.

Culture can be found anywhere groups of people get together. We have office culture, queer culture, start-up culture, academic culture…and most definitely geek culture.

Some of you might be asking, how in the heck in geek culture a real culture?

Well, let’s take a look at some of the things that make up a culture.

Multiracial Hands Making a Circle Image

(Image via RHEY)

Social Organization

Social organization refers to the subgroups in a culture. The social classes, the way groups categorize each other, and the way they identify themselves.

Geek culture is easily split up into subgroups. We have Trekkies, Whovians, Bronies, and Browncoats. If there is a franchise, there is a subgroup that follows it: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Batman..etc…etc…etc.

On top of that, there are subgroups of geeks by what interests them in general: comic books, video games, computers, sci-fi, fantasy, steam punk…if I left any out, let me know. I could probably be here all day listing the groups out if I wanted to.

In general, these groups may overlap and one geek may identify with 1 or 2 or 10. Sometimes, though, individuals in a group may see themselves as higher up in the food chain than others…and that is where the social classes come in. There may be no real ranking…but each group may see their social position differently.

56 Geeks

(Image by Scott Johnson)

Art and Literature

I shouldn’t even have to point out the art and literature piece. Geek culture is built on art and literature. Comics are the bridge between art and literature, being the best of both worlds. Video games are an art form unto themselves. Geeks everywhere have shelves filled with sci-fi novels, fantasy novels, video game playing guides, and coding and computer manuals. We’ve got this element of culture covered!

(Image via  Brendandonnet by Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam, 1963)


If you aren’t a geek and have been in a conversation with some people of the geeky variety, you may have found yourself feeling as though they were speaking another language.

That’s because they were.

Each game, comic, T.V. show, novel and genre have their own unique lingo. I couldn’t tell you what someone into steampunk culture was talking about if my life depended on it…but I could tell you a little about Romulans, Nazgul, Jedi, Hylians, and X-Men.

I could tell you a lot about tanks, DPS, heals, pulling aggro, loot, HoTs, DoTs, instances and hit caps. If you don’t know what I’m talking about…that’s ok. If you do, good for you!

I was using language that you hear a lot in WoW, and many other MMOs. Without that context, it may have sounded a lot like gibberish.

There are also geeks who go to school to learn Klingon and Elvish…I think we also have the language section in the bag.


(Image via Ted Ed)

Economic Systems

Cultures have their own economic systems to distribute goods and services. Geeks have plenty of their own. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and Steam all have their own marketplaces to sell games. Some (like Nintendo) have their own currency (Nintendo Points).

In larger games like WoW, each server’s auction house has their own pricing, demand, supply, and inflation level. Swapping characters to a new server can make you change the way you approach the auction house.

Some people even sell in-game gold and characters for real life money.


(Image via Zeldapedia)

Customs and Traditions

One of the most important pieces of culture are their customs and traditions. This is how people act, what they wear, what they do, and their laws.

Geek culture (and its many subgroups) have many different varieties of customs and traditions. We all have our geeky T-Shirts…but some of us cosplay. We go to conventions (I’d consider San Diego Comic Con a rite of passage or a pilgrimage), play in tournaments, and go to midnight showings of movies.

I would love to go on about this piece of culture, but there are a billion subgroups, each with their own set of customs and traditions…and I’d like to have time to enjoy my semester break.

Sailor Moon Group Cosplay by CrimsonRoses

(Image via Crimson Rose)

All right…so we’ve established that geek culture is a culture in and of itself. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that if mental health professionals are ethically required to be culturally competent….why is geek culture not held up to the same standard as Queer culture, or Japanese culture, or Jewish culture?

Geek clients deserve the same respect as the rest of our clients and should not be ridiculed for their interests. Our clients should be comfortable discussing how they were left out of their raid on raid night and how it made them feel, or what an episode of Star Trek brought up for them emotionally.

If clinicians don’t make an effort to understand or be curious about their clients interests and who they are as a person…how can they be helpful?

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