Growing up as a Geek in Brazil
I was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. When I was growing up, I always wondered how the life of geeks around the world must be. How do they feel about being geeks where they live? How are the geek communities there? What do they like the most about being part of this tribe and what is their history?
So now, I would like to talk about my experience growing up as a geek in Brazil. I also interviewed some friends of mine about this subject, and I will share their experiences as well.
First, for you to have a context, it's important to say that, in Brazil, broadband internet wasn't available around until 2003. I didn't have it at home until 2006, and nowadays, even though broadband connectivity has become common ground, we still face terrible services and complications with our connections on a daily basis, due to the lack of competition on the market.
It's also tough for us in this country to get access to technology of any kind, because there are massive taxes on any imported hardware. I mean it; the taxes are insane. Therefore, no small or medium business owner will buy hardware to resell on the market and the big companies that will buy it, usually distribute it with a price that only rich people can afford. Comic books and mangas are not any easier to get, but not because of the cost, it just doesn't always arrives here for seemingly unknown reasons.
My friends and I are middle-class. We have a good living standard, but we can't buy tech easily, and when I say “tech,” I mean PCs, consoles, laptops, tablets, webcams, cell phones, and headphones. It's not easy to find or to buy any hardware here, and if you're an MMO or MMORPG head like me or a MOBA fan like one of my friends, then it's complicated to play anything up to a minimum standard.
Secondly, bear in mind that Rio is not like Los Angeles. To be a weirdo here is not common at all. If you walk around in a cosplay costume or say you're going to an anime event or a game tournament, most people WILL stare at you. They WILL judge, they WILL criticize, and they WILL probably be in a bigger group than you and your friends are. It doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl around here, if you're a geek, then you're a geek in other people's eyes, you're just a weirdo, regardless of gender. A geek boy WILL NOT be considered normal or acceptable just because it's a "boy thing." Here, there are many other things people would consider a "boy thing." Being a geek is not one of them.
I believe that now I have given you the whole context that was you needed, so let's start with my story, shall we?
I was a child that liked books, classic heavy and punk rock, had a skateboard, loved anime, manga, TV series, was crazy about games and technology and had a terrible relationship with the beach and the sun (I still have, because my skin is too sensitive and too white).
The combination of all these items made it hard for me to fit in as a child and as a teen (for three of the friends I interviewed too). Most of the time, I felt lonely and like a total outsider. I got introspective and anti-social over time (just until the end of my teens, now I'm a little better). However, one day I met a most marvelous and incredible technology: the internet.
The internet gave me Ragnarök Online, a South Korean MMORPG that was famous in the early 2000's. Along with it also came social networks, the anime and manga communities, websites, and YouTube.
Suddenly, I wasn't alone anymore; I had people to talk to about the things I liked, and I had a much more exciting world to explore, and everything felt real because I could talk to people and play games with them every day, all day long. Through social networks and the websites dedicated to the anime and manga communities, I got to know about conventions where people could be as fanatic, crazy and weird as they would like to, and everything was ok. I felt that I was not alone.
As time went on, I started going to the conventions and so did my friends. One of them ended up being a cosplayer, and he still is. This experience was crucial and useful for me, and for my friend, it was the way he found his place in the world. People with the same interests as him now admire him.
There's just one thing that hasn't been that great, and it is happening nowadays: the toxicity of the community.
I remember how the geek and gamer communities here in Brazil and all around the world (on the web and in online games) once were. They used to be very friendly, welcoming and warm back then. Now, unfortunately, I can't say they're still like that. Whenever I get to play a game now, discuss something on a forum, or start a friendship in a game it's just terrible. The communities are too toxic.
I remember going to local LAN houses, and I was always treated extremely well, even though I was younger than most of the people there and was also one of the few girls frequenting those places. People there would help, teach, be nice and hang out with me.
Now, years later, it suddenly became a problem to be a girl. In some games and geek communities, it never really bothered me. It was never an issue. Now, just when the whole world is discussing how to treat women more equally, it became a problem, because people started being more offensive and toxic as years went by. This is something that saddens me, but when I get together with my friends and go to events or try new games, it gets a little brighter and better.
The internet made me and continues to make me happy every day (okay, nowadays we get apart sometimes because social media and game communities have changed a bit for the worse, but in the end, we always get back together). Without the Internet, being a geek in Brazil, through part of my childhood and my whole teenagehood, would have been utterly terrible, but thanks to it, it was great, and it gave me very different and amazing experiences, friendships and knowledge.
I hope you were able to relate to something in this story of mine, and I would love to hear your story of growing up as a geek in the country you're from.