Geek City

TV series explores geek culture in Winnipeg

Quinn Green is the writer, director and host of Geekopolis. “It’s a show about ... what it means to be a geek in Winnipeg and uncovering the geek scene that we have here,” he says. Supplied

Geek is the new chic.

From TV series like Game of Thrones to Hollywood summer blockbusters like The Avengers to seemingly mandatory smartphones, it seems the nerds are having their revenge ... and they’re winning.

Geekopolis - a new documentary series for MTS TV’s Stories From Home - investigates everything geeky in Winnipeg.

Created and produced by Nüman Films, the show is written, directed and hosted by local comedian, actor, filmmaker and most of all, geek, Quinn Greene.

“It’s a show about being a geek, loving geekdom, what it means to be a geek in Winnipeg and uncovering the geek scenes that we have here, scenes that other geeks might not even know about,” Greene says, 29.

“We delve into LARPing, military simulation paintball, Dungeons & Dragons improv and JimCon, which is a local gaming convention. With this show we really wanted to get a lot of different facets of what it means to be a geek and as a host, I just go in and meet these people and they’re all wonderful people. I just met them, hung out with them, got into their lives a little bit and then either got hit with foam swords or got shot with paintballs.”

As mentioned earlier, Greene is a geek.

He’s a 12th level wizard in D&D, he’s a Jedi Padawan, he’s even a card-carrying member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society, a fan club for Marvel Comics, the geeks who gave the world Spiderman, X-Men and The Incredible Hulk.

Still, despite his geek cred, Greene wasn’t exactly open to all things geek before starting Geekopolis.

“I’m a big geek, no question, but there were certain things like LARPing where I was like, ‘No way man, that’s way too much, even for me.’ Then I went and did it and I’ve been back a few times since. It’s super fun. It’s play-acting and you get to hit each other with foam swords.”

OK, it involves foam swords, but unless you’re a LARPer, you’re probably asking yourself, what the hell is LARP?

“It stands for live action role-playing,” says Cliff Stornel, 37, the man behind Fractured Empire, a Winnipeg LARP group. 

“Think of it as improv theatre. We dress up in various costumes. Also, there are different levels of LARP. There is combat LARP where you use foam covered swords and hit one another in fighting scenes. There’s more theatre-style LARP where you’re using hand gestures to indicate what’s happened or what result you had. There’s also LARP that’s just combat, where you’re just doing the fighting and there isn’t much role-play involved.”

Stornel says Fractured Empire is a combat LARP with a fair amount of theatre and role-play, including costuming, props and acting.

Stornel says he really enjoys the creative side of LARP. He says he also enjoys the communal aspect.

In fact, for Stornel, LARP is a family affair. His wife LARPs, his daughters LARPs, his son-in-law LARPs - everybody LARPs.

Greene says community is a huge component of geekdom.

“Most of the time when you ask what it is about this thing that you love they almost always say the people,” Greene says. “They talk about the other people that do it and the friends they’ve made doing it. Some get married to people that they game with. Some are dating. It’s a bonding thing.”

“When you’re being a geek doing geeky stuff, you can become fairly isolated in certain instances and with this show we wanted to show that these people aren’t isolated or hiding out. They’re proud to do what they do and they have friends and families that join in.”

Case in point: Jessica Tait and Lucas Behringer geek out together.

While the geeky couple has separate geeky passions - Tait’s into illustrating the undead and other ghoulish entities, Behringer loves comic books and action figures - they come together for the annual Zombie Walk.

Tait says she loves sharing her love of zombies with her partner, her friends and society at large.

“I’ve met lots of people through Zombie Walk,” says Tait, 26, who’s been taking part in the event since 2010.

I just met them, hung out with them, got into their lives a little bit and then either got hit with foam swords or got shot with paintballs.

Quinn Greene, Geekopolis host, writer, director and 12th level wizard

“There are also after parties, so you meet all kinds of people through it. Also, your group gets bigger and bigger every year. When we first started going it was only with three other people, but every year we add on four more or so. You just keep meeting people. Everybody wants to go with somebody else. Partly because you need help with your makeup.”

Tait - who works for an insurance and financial office - says Zombie Walk is a welcome break from her usual corporate environment. It’s also a break from being a girl.

“Most of the people who come with us on the Zombie Walk are girls,” Tait says. “As girls, we always have to look nice, friendly and feminine, so it’s nice to dress up as a character and be really strong, primal and gory. You’re not yourself for that day. You’re a hardcore flesh-eating zombie.”

For Behringer, it’s also all about escapism.

“I have a crazy job where I’m always thinking and it can be a pain in the ass,” says Behringer, 27. “Comic books are just a fun thing to come home to. I just read some comics and just fall into that world for awhile.”

Greene says for himself and the people he’s talked to, the escapism, nostalgia, inner-child factor is a huge reason for geeky tendencies.

Still, as diversionary and fantastical as D&D or Warhammer (another role-playing game) might be, Greene says there are some real-life benefits.

“Although the stakes might seem low to someone who’s never played D&D, when you’ve been playing your 12th level monk for over two years and suddenly you’re in a fight where he could die, you’re thinking fast and working hard,” Greene says.

“How do I kill that troll, save my friend and stop this fire? What spell do I cast? Where do I hit them?

“You can take those skills away and use them in different settings. Obviously I’m not killing a lot of trolls on set, but the idea is the same. Work smart, work fast and you’ll be more able to make tough decisions.”

Geekopolis is now airing on MTS Stories From Home. Search “Geekopolis” on YouTube and check out the show’s trailer, which features Going Greene, the comedic hip-hop duo consisting of Quinn and his brother, Kane Greene.

Published in Volume 67, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 14, 2013)

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