WBEZ has an article on their website about a Kickstarter to create a geek bar in Chicago. (thanks to Anna Tarkov for tweeting about it.) This is a bar for “geeks” to enjoy geeky pursuits like playing Magic the Gathering or discussing The Lord of the Rings or debating if Anne Frank or Lizzie Borden would win in a fight.
The article quotes Tony Nilles, who owns a geek bar in Milwaukee:
“You have a demographic where if they go to other bars and clubs, they don’t feel comfortable, they feel like they are an outsider or outcast,” Nilles said. “When you get them around other people that are just like them, they feel this sense of belonging and you find that you have these really nice, kind people that are able to express in ways they weren’t able before.”
It almost sounds like geek bars are analogous to gay bars.
That’s the problem with this concept. It feels like “Aw, the poor geeks. They don’t feel comfortable at The Violet Hour, Big Chicks, Simon’s or some Billy Dec place. We should give them a place to feel comfortable. We’ll give them a geek bar! It will be a safe space!”
The difference between a gay bar and a geek bar is that gay bars are there for gay people to interact with other gay people–and now straight women who want gay best friends. It is a place where they can flirt, pick someone up and feel safe doing so. The quote from Nilles makes a geek bar feel like it’s a way so geeks don’t have to interact with people who aren’t Star Wars obsessives.
I happen to enjoy some things that would normally result in me being a geek. I read comic books, play video games and watch Star Trek, Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. I also occasionally enjoy anime, but with all of these things I’m not an obsessive. I can’t give you a complete overview of Superman’s mythology, debate which Final Fantasy games are superior to other games and I don’t speak Klingon or Dothraki. This might mean that I’m not a geek, but I enjoy “geeky” things. When I walk into a bar I feel very comfortable. Then again, I can carry on a conversation with people about things I’m not geeky about. I’m not going to walk up to some stranger in a bar and talk their head off about health care policy.
What seems even more surprising about this is I’m curious if a geek bar is really necessary in the age of the internet. It’s really easy to find people who share an interest with you. Although going to a bar is a unique experience, if you really want to be around people with a similar geeky interest with you without feeling awkward at a bar you don’t feel like you fit in at, you can go on a subreddit and drink a beer in your apartment.
I also find the quote from David Zoltan, the man behind the concept, about where he got the idea from to be very interesting:
“I thought, I don’t have cable. I’d like to watch the show with a bunch of my Whovian friends and other Whovians from the rest of Chicago,” he said. “(But) while I can throw a stone out and reach a half dozen sports bars in Chicago, there isn’t a place for the geek.”
The thing about this is that you could put together a viewing party at your place or a friend’s place. I know people who don’t have HBO and watch Game of Thrones at a friend’s place. Although going to a bar to do something like watch a football or hockey game is a unique experience, a viewing party with close friends is a great experience. You can eat water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and TARDIS-shaped cookies, or sugar cookies decorated to look like Ood.
But perhaps this ends up being a good idea. It’s promising that this is for people who are geeky about all things, something I don’t get from the Milwaukee geek bar. It seems as though I could walk into this bar and start spouting opinions on mass transit in Los Angeles* and it would be okay. Still, it feels a bit discouraging that people feel the need to create bars for geeks to be geeky when it’s seems like it would be relatively easy for geeks to gather in this day.