We’ve all had this experience—you’re having a conversation with someone about, say, science fiction. You’re having a jolly old time, but then the other person makes a reference that you don’t get. You tell them that you actually haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica (they took it off of Netflix, okay?), and suddenly you’ve lost your geek cred.
You could still teach a freaking class on, say, why Dark Souls is a perfect example of how storytelling should work in video games, but all this person cares about is that you haven’t seen one freaking show.
How important is geek cred, anyway? The best answer I have is that it matters, but also doesn’t. Allow me to elaborate:
You see, being a geek essentially means being super passionate and knowledgeable about something. A Tolkien geek can articulate why the Hobbit movies don’t count, a D&D geek can get away with wearing a wizard hat in public (that’s what I tell myself, anyway), and so on. So, it follows that you need a certain amount of knowledge to be a credible geek.
So why do we get so fired up when we get that look or that “Wait, you haven’t seen…”? I believe that in those situations they’re assuming that their cred is the only valid kind. Take that Battlestar jerk as an example. Despite the fact that you’re very learned in the ways of science fiction, they see that one show as the cornerstone to the genre. Therefore, if you haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica, you’re not a real sci-fi fan. This logic is flawed for a few reasons.
First of all, no geekdom has “a cornerstone” that all cred rests upon. It’s technically possible to be a sci-fi fan without having seen Star Trek, for example (that was hard to type, not gonna lie). Sure, Star Trek did a lot to bring the genre into the mainstream and is the basis for most modern science fiction, but it’s still totally possible to geek about the genre without having seen every episode of every series, plus all of the movies. Twice.
Second, by verbally attacking someone’s geek cred, you’re setting your own cred as a baseline for everyone else. It’s sometimes very difficult (if not nigh impossible) to be familiar with everything in a given geekdom. Everybody’s going to have different opinions on what someone needs to know to be a geek, so I think the best course of action is to chill out.
That’s not to say that geek cred doesn’t exist. The line between a geek and a meager fan might be a bit hazy, but it’s definitely there. But that just raises the question of when it’s appropriate to drop the +1 cred hammer of justice. I’ll leave that to your discretion, but it seems fair that if they can’t follow an intelligent conversation about a topic that goes deeper than the surface (think someone who only can only quote memes), then their cred might need to be called into question.
I’m going to drop some hardcore knowledge on you now: When in doubt, don’t be the worst. Seriously, that’s really all you need to do to be a decent human being.