Bones, Betazoids and Battleaxes: Life and Times of an Anthrogeek

My mother was (and is) a fan of all things science fiction and fantasy. She named me Rayna after an android from the Star Trek TOS episode “Requiem for Methuselah.” My first introduction to gaming was when I was six, when she brought me to her D&D group, and when I finally got an Atari. Needless to say, the influence of geekdom on my life began early on. My fascination with Ancient Egyptian culture started to grow. Through this framework, my interest has always included psychology, history of humanity and people’s individual stories, since my childhood exposed me to a mixture of science fiction and real world characters.

Rayna Vampire

The author as a vampire, mwahahaha!

Once I became a teenager, death narratives took more of my attention and I wanted to explore them further. I started researching death rituals of Ancient Egypt and then eventually explored them in different cultures. I found the ideas of how and why humans perform such death rites fascinating. My geekiness continued as I began to play table-top games such as World of Darkness’ Vampire: The Masquerade, Wraith and Changeling.

I currently study as an undergraduate anthropology student at York University and I have a strong interest in liminal states between life and death. Delving further, I have come to respect the research of Margaret Lock, Sharon Kaufman, and Tiffany Romain, all of whom tackle the complex nature of the body. Other research interests include classism, social advocacy, science and technology studies and outer space ethics.

Malinda Lo

Galaxy Art

Throughout all of this, I have maintained a strong interest with studying space exploration and the alien “other.” Among my favorites are Star Trek:TNG, Deep Space 9, Stargate SG1, Farscape, Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and Firefly. For me, these stories showcase different possibile scenarios that we can observe. As an audience, we watch the narratives being played out through the creative vision of the writers, producers and directors. When doing anthropological research, I find that the television medium offers plenty of information to work with.

Skyrim Screen Shot

For a more immersive experience, I regularly play RPG’s via video games. I have more control over what my character does and how she interacts with other characters and alien species. Some of my favorite games for character development are Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Mass Effect, and Legend of Zelda. JRPG’s (Japanese) including Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Chrono Cross, Tales of Symphonia and Graces F, and Studio Ghibli’s Ni No Kuni, also offer interesting character growth options. When playing video games, the anthropologist in me arises from time to time offering critiques of the portrayal of women and analysis of possible new kinship forms.

I want to contribute to this blog as a way of creating further conversations about what it means to be geek and what issues may be looked at through an anthropological lens. I will explore, in particular, topics such as vampires, video games and space narratives.

To me, being a geek is about breaking social norms in order to explore ourselves and to learn and grow as individuals. People use their imaginations to think deeply about potential scenarios and use science fiction stories as mirrors for our own humanity. I have learned much about myself and others through the exploration of characters in these fictional worlds, and I would not change a thing. Geek for life!

Find out more!

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About raynaelizabeth

My name is Rayna and I am currently an M.Ed. Candidate at York University and my background includes knowledge in the fields of Anthropology and Psychology. My research interests include death studies, human factors in space, homelessness, poverty, stigma, ethics, and science and technology studies.

There are 2 comments

  1. katherinejlegry

    Clarification: Actually, the game I mentioned was only like for 17 years that we played… and not 25. I just did my own math and either I aged myself or gave myself more credit than I deserve…
    Anyhow, have fun with your studies and work!

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  2. katherinejlegry

    My friend’s husband has been working on his Phd and his thesis work is about how science fiction has changed history. As in shaping and influencing our choices in real science as much as real science shapes and influences science fiction. Maybe this is interesting as anthropologists always have to concern themselves with how their interactions will influence and change the indigenous peoples. And then how pure the actual observations are after they do. (Like that whole “prime directive” thing that means trekies don’t get overly involved with the politics of other planets…? And yet which episode can be recalled where they did not interfere completely?)
    Anyhow, I had not thought of the study of gamers/characters through an anthropological lens before. I’m from the days when TSR outdid video games. D&D never satisfied me… but it absolutely inspired me. A college chum and I actually played a game starting in college and it evolved for 25 years where I found it more fun to create the universe/dimensions/realities that would challenge her characters. Maybe sad to many a gamer, I outgrew it and gave it all up. Like quitting a heavy and most beloved drug.
    I offer any of this information…for what it’s worth… to the geek anthropologists because I’m enjoying the various articles on witches, aliens and science fiction you are engaged in. 🙂

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