Independent Review Platforms And The Rise Of Geek Culture
‘Geek culture’: that’s what the mainstream calls it. A hodgepodge of geek interests from comics to video games to science fiction novels that were never really very geeky in the first place repackaged with more ambitious budgets and less ambitious ideas to suit mass audiences. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It has let us see superheroes treated seriously on the big screen and it’s helped e-sports cross over to the West. Why is it sometimes successful and sometimes… less so? At last some of that has to do with how much Geeks are consulted as part of the creative process.
There’s a common assumption in the mainstream that we’re too attached to characters and storylines to deal with change. Honestly, have these people ever tried to follow comic continuity? It’s also assumed that we want happy endings for all our heroes and don’t understand the mechanics of drama. Geek reviewers make it plain that this isn’t the case. There are more and more of them out there and where they’re listened to, better, more successful art often results from that. We understand this material. We’ve lived with it for a long time. If Geek culture is to be more than a passing fad, our voices need to be heard. That’s why the existence of Geek reviewers is so important – and their increasing popularity suggests that the public understands this.
Going to the source
Let’s face it: we’re never all going to agree. Disputes over recent Star Wars films, the outcry over the ending of the Game of Thrones TV series, the whole Gamergate mess – it’s easy to see why some outsiders look on us purely as a source of trouble, but then, these are the things that get publicity. Less so the way that fans saved Jericho or made the Firefly movie possible or funded the development of FTL (sadly just the game, but we’ll get there, and it’s pretty good to be going on with). It’s no surprise then that it took the public a while to become aware of Geek reviewers as a useful source, but it’s happening now, and it has also caught the imagination of established creatives.
Part of this is a product of cultural trends and technological ones coming together at just the right time. Did you know that five billion videos are now watched on YouTube every day? That’s an extraordinary statistic, and it’s enabling independent reviewers to build huge audiences purely on the strength of the content they can produce: their knowledge, their understanding, their analysis. it’s making it possible to make a living this way, so they can afford to commit to it like never before.
Managing modern freelancing
With an independent income comes, well, great responsibility – at least, responsibility for managing your own legal and financial affairs. No matter how passionate you may feel about the topics you’re discussing, nobody wants to get sued, so you’ll have to give yourself a crash course in how libel and slander work in order to stay out of trouble. You’ll also need to take copyright restrictions seriously – fortunately, the big companies that profit from Geek culture generally see the benefit in having bloggers and vloggers out there talking about what they do, so they do make some materials available for free. Just write to the PR department, explain who you are and what your numbers are, and see how you can help each other.
When it comes to money, you’ll need to make sure that you keep proper accounts and pay your taxes and National Insurance. If you hate the idea of all the paperwork and dealing with an annual self-assessment tax return, you can set up an umbrella company account which enables you to simply feed in your income and get pay back with all the deductions and record keeping already taken care of. This really simplifies life and means you don’t have to worry about the business side of things so much, so you can concentrate on what really matters.
A post-curation world
The big challenge for independent reviewers is that even if you’re producing great content it can be hard for people to find it with no publication to help you promote it. This is where networking really matters. You’ll need to learn how to manage marketing techniques like keywording and social media promotion, but the single best thing you can do is to reach out to established reviewers to exchange content. It has always been a community that has sustained the heart of geekdom and that’s what ensures that quality content reaches the people who matter.
The fact that more people are now enjoying what Geeks have always loved is a great thing, but if we want to preserve its real value and not see it diluted down to nothingness, we need to be a part of it. That means listening to and supporting Geeks who raise their voices – and adding our own.