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Life Skills for Fanboys:  Mentoring The Next Generation of Geek

written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2014

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

The Secret of Civilization

The secret of any civilization is its history.  So too is it that the Geek Community needs to learn from its own history.  But how does one do that?  What practical nuts and bolts events need to happen so that the lessons of the past are heeded, so that the future is not just a repeat of bad history.

The Old Guard

The old guard of any community is often made up of graying old coots, set in their ways.  For decades they fought with the generation above them, until they took over and won.  But that “win”, that coup or revolution, quickly became the Institution.  You beat The Man just to become him.  And soon, the kids arrive, making the same mistakes.  And the old guard fights back using its power, but just as before, the new guard has new tricks, new technology.  Time is on their side and they eventually win.

Thus the cycle continues.

The Noob Guard

The Noobs have a different kind of arrogance.  While the old guard is driven by the thoughts of “respect” for their many years of experience, the Noob Guard sees the old as too cautious.  Too set in their ways.  There’s so much out there!  Why focus on just a few things!  It’s time for daring, new risks for the noobs!

How it Works at a Con

The Old Guard tends to be con organizers or high roller fans with established games, events, etc.  They have the clout and the know-how to pull together whatever they want.  The Noob Guards are college kids and sometimes high schoolers that have just discovered cons.  They’ve arrived to try new games and they won’t be confined by rules or etiquette.

As members of the Geek Community, it’s to our advantage to bring these two camps together.  This will keep us from repeating history’s mistakes and make for a stronger convention scene.  But how?

Acknowledge the Community

We need to acknowledge the community through events that honor and recognize the community and bring it together.  Dexcon is especially good at this sort of things.  And I’ve seen it at a few other cons as well.  Usually an introductory event at a three day con is an opportunity to honor the old and welcome the noob.

What the Old Can Do For the Noob

Old Guard, it’s time for you to lead.  That means taking charge in a way that isn’t condescending and is not just about feeding your own ego.  You have to keep your mind open to the new, while teaching the old.

1.  Set an Example:  Taking to heart some of my previous columns here would be a start, if you haven’t already.  If you’ve got your shit together, the noobs are going to try and have their shit together as well.  That’s better for everyone in the community.  If you’re polite, fair, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable, you set the bar for others just entering the community.

2.  Be a Mentor:  Being a mentor doesn’t have to be an official thing.  It’s just that, if you have something to teach, you teach it.  If you see a noob wandering around the con lost, don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, you look lost.  Are you okay?  Do you have a question about the convention?  I’ve been coming here for years, I can probably answer it.”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in a Dungeons & Dragons game and watch old players get over on new players simply because the new players didn’t know all the rules.  That’s lame gaming, fanboy.  Be better than that.

3.  Teach the History:  This is a tough thing to do because the Noob Guard rarely wants to listen.  But when you have their ear, teach the history.  “The original Star Wars movies are better, young padawan.  You should see them.”  “Back in the day, we used to bet each other’s Magic Cards.  It was part of the game.”  “If you’re going to start a sci-fi club, pick a weeknight for the meetings, but keep in mind people that have jobs.”  And so on.

What the Old Can’t Do for the Noob

1.  You Can’t Be Cooler Than Them:  You’re old, get over it.  The youngest person in the room always wins the cool contest.  Always.  Besides, you’re the older one, you’re supposed to be over all that crap.  So set your ego aside.  There are going to be noobs that just don’t listen.

2.  You Can’t Boss Them Around:  Sure, you can set limits and rules at a con, but you can’t boss the noobs around like your King Shit of Turd Mountain.  Stick to your guns, but don’t get emotional and bossy.  You’re going to be tested.  Don’t you remember when you were that age?

3.  Have Patience:  There are certain things people need to learn on their own.  You’re just going to have to wait sometimes.  Just be ready to pick up the pieces when things go wrong and you’ll have your opportunity to teach the new geeks.

What the Noob Can Do for the Old

Noobs, you want to help?  Great.  Settle down for two sections and actually read this entire column.  I split it up into subheaders so you wouldn’t just see a wall of text.  Now concentrate.  Here are some tips for you.

1.  Listen to the Old Guard:  This doesn’t mean obey, it means listen.  Yes, sometimes we get long winded and rambly.  That’s the price you pay for a little bit of wisdom.

2.  Think About it:  Okay, heard what I said?  Great.  Now think about it.  Seriously, take a moment, let some of it sink in and start thinking about.  Ah, ha!  See, my advice is good, right?  You can see that shit working out the way I said!  Excellent, now you’re getting it.

3.  Patience and Silence Are Your Friends:  Noobs, if you take away anything from this column, remember that.  You don’t have to jump into the mix right away and you certainly don’t have to go babbling about everything to anyone in earshot.  Slow down.  You’re young.  You’ll live.

What You Shouldn’t Do as a Noob

1.  Don’t Try to Take Charge:  You don’t know what you’re doing, so no, bossing people around isn’t going to help.  How could it?

2.  At Least Read the Rules Before You Break Them:  Yes, people sometimes break the rules and discover that they no longer apply.  But in order to do that, you first must know what they are.  One or two of those rules might actually save you some grief or a night in the Klingon jail.

3.  Being Rude:  It may sound like bravado to your friends, but it just pisses off the Old Guard.  You don’t have to kiss their ass, but have some respect for your elders.

That’s my advice for this week.  So come together, old and noob, and let’s make the Geek Community better.

Previous Columns

Obesity at Cons

The Art of Conversation


The Line Between Fans and Pros

Geek Elitism

Convention Panels

Convention Volunteers

Food Gifts

Women and Cons

Get Your Room Party Together

Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons

The Face of Geek Needs Work

Fixing the Face of Geek

Franchise Worship

Presenting Your Project