Fans Are Hackers

On my own blog I had recently posted a rather extended rant called “You Hack Or You Die.” Yes, it’s heavy handed title-wise, yes I slipped in a “Game of Thrones Reference,”  but my basic theme is that you have to learn to modify and make things in order to survive anyway, and that it’s true in this environment and economy as well. The problem is we’ve often forgotten its importance, which is downright dangerous in these troubled times.

Yes, the thesis is depressing in some ways, but depressing or not I think it’s true – to modify things and to create is how we’ve always survived. Right now we need those skills and abilities more than ever because the world is changing fast and not always in a direction we want. Right now, I’m not sure “hackness” is being encouraged.

In fact, it can be discouraging now. People feel they have no control. People feel they can’t do anything. People feel they’re not creative, not able to make, not able to engineer, not able to hack and modify things.

This is one place where I value the HELL out of fandom, geekdom, and otakudom.

Because it’s filled with hacks and reminders of hacks.

Its difficult to remember that you can control your environment. It’s difficult to remember you can create. It’s difficult to remember you can make things. It’s difficult to remember you can change things. In our down moments we think we can’t affect, we can’t do, we can’t make an effort.

Then there’s the world of fans, geeks, and otaku at a lot of us are in, if only partially (or probably in a few cases, reluctantly).

This is the world where people spend hours, days, weeks making picture-perfect costumes out of materials not normally associated with costumes, clothing, or ordinary reality.

This is the world where people spin tales out of other tales, hacking narratives, storylines, and ideas to make new tales.

This is the world of the game mod, of Minecraft levels built to duplicate entire settings, of re-skins and downloads.

This is the world of the fan vid that remixes things in ways you’d never imagined without the help of sake.

Fans are hacking all the time. Even a simple jam to discuss an idea, an online RPG, anything is a kind of hack. Yes, the giant cross-fandom RPG where the King of All Cosmos goes on a road trip with Thor from “The Avengers” may seem pointless, but you have to admit it takes imagination and effort.  You have to admit at least someone is doing something, even if it’s scaring you.

It’s important because it’s a reminder of our ability to create, to modify, to bring to life. Even the most seemingly pointless activity is at least an activity where someone is accomplishing something. Even then most seemingly pointless hack is showing someone can modify and control their surroundings.  Some may argue that more can and should be done, but in today’s world and today’s economy, we may need to start with the reminders.

So when you’re down, remember what you’ve done in your hobbies, it’s a reminder of what you’re capable of. When you fear people aren’t creative, seriously, go look at pictures from a convention. When you wonder if anything new can be done, just surf indie games or game mods. All of this is a reminder that we can, and we are, all hacking the world and our lives.

If, by the way, you think “but what more can be done?” Then may I recommend you contact me because that’s what we’re about here . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at