If you look up the word “geek” on Google, the definition you will find is “an unfashionable or socially inept person.” The entire culture of geekdom is often portrayed as individuals who isolate, use fantasy for escapism, and lack creative thought. Yet anyone who is a part of the Geek community can tell you all of that is false. We are social visionaries with a strong sense of self, as we understand ourselves and the world around us through our passions. We are a diverse group of innovators who covet the connections we make with other fellow Geeks. Anyone who attended the first-ever Therapeutic Geek and Gaming Summit from April 9-11, 2021, will have seen this first hand.
This year’s theme was “A Seat At The Table,” highlighting inclusion and diversity. From the guests – to the speakers – down to the presentations, this event embodied this theme. TAGGS, as it’s now been affectionately dubbed, was a gathering of over 70 presenting professionals who proudly don the title of Geek. Professionals from various settings, including therapists, educators, engineers, life coaches, mental health advocates, and gamers and parents (trust that these last two are professions). Each top in their field, with the desire to incorporate their passions into their work. They gathered to provide guests with a variety of panels, workshops, and presentations centered around geekdom and its ability to connect and heal. During a pandemic, where social distancing can lead to isolation, this event gave all in attendance the experience of connection and camaraderie. It was the professional Comic-Con that we Geeks in the healing and relational professions were craving.
As a participant, I couldn’t have been more thrilled with TAGGS. Virtually brought to us by Geek Therapy & The Bodhana Group, from content to pricing, I was ecstatic. I bought a combined ticket for live events and recordings, which ended up being less than the last continuing education presentation I attended, which only had one presenter on one topic. The beauty of the pass I got is it allows access to the recordings for an entire year. This meant that some of the panels that piqued my interest I couldn’t on live, like “Cowabunga! Finding Your Turtle Power” presented by Elisa Gamibl, LPC, I was able to catch next week. To be honest, I’ve now resorted to watching all the panels and am almost done with day one of the convention.
As a moderator for the Geek Therapy Community Facebook Group, I’ve been sharing my journey watching the recorded panels. Essentially, I share my thoughts on a panel I just completed and how I plan to use the presenter’s information. The sentiment from comments to my posts mirrors my experience: excitement, belonging, and ingenuity. Group members have shared stories about their favorite panels and how they organize their time to fit them into their daily schedule.
I’ve yet to encounter a panel that hasn’t, in some way, fed my inner Geek Therapist. I’ve learned how to use video games to discuss the difficult experience of grief and loss, how to create a more inclusive space in my role-playing therapy groups, and how my chosen theoretical framework is actually a superpower. Having access to various professionals using pop culture with clients has also given me fresh perspectives for my work. I attended the “Incorporation of Video Games into Mindfulness Activities,” presented by occupational therapist Hilary Andreff, OTR/L, who introduced mindfulness and gaming into components of building blocks, similar to other ways she teaches occupational skills. Though honing down a skill to simple parts is something I teach clients when learning new skill sets, the way Ms. Andreff conceptualized it gave me specific language, which has helped all my clients since the training.
I wasn’t only a guest at TAGGS but also a presenter! I had submitted a request to present two panels, one on documenting geek and gaming interventions and one on Disney princesses. I honestly thought Hades would freeze over before I would be considered. It was only by the push of my virtual friend and fellow panelist, Jamila Mahfudh, LMFT, that I had even submitted any proposals. Somehow, though, both my panels were approved! I was floored. I also had a few panicked nights, wondering how I would present in front of my peers. I had reached out to the event hosts, ensuring this was a mistake. Nope. It wasn’t.
So, with the aid of coffee, I was able to craft two presentations. Not wanting to be in the spotlight alone, especially presenting a panel so close to my heart (I mean, my name is Ariel), I convinced my best friend, educator, and fellow Geek professional, Stefanie Bautista, to present with me. We worked together on the “Evolution of the Disney Princess.” She was even kind enough to attend my “Documenting Geek and Gaming Interventions” panel (which, of course, was the first panel of the first day). I do not regret one bit of it. The attendees to my seminars were affirming, engaging, and supportive. The TAGGS team was also helpful, both setting up the tech and calming my nerves. I hope that next year I will be invited back.
This event was so affirming and inspiring that it led to a new adventure: taking over the Happiest Pod On Earth podcast channel on the Geek Therapy Network with Stefanie as my co-host! Sharing insights about our favorite fandom at TAGGS through an educational and mental wellness lens was validating and empowering. It hasn’t been a month since our presentation, and we knew we wanted to continue our conversation and expand it out to the Disney franchise and its acquisitions. So, with the fantastic support of the Geek Therapy team, we were approved to be the new hosts of the podcast.
Though the event is over, individuals can still purchase access to the recordings, access that will last until April 2022. This event is a true example of how Geeks are creative innovators and geekdom is a community of resilient diverse people using fandoms in their professional callings. I can’t wait for the second Therapeutic Geek and Gaming Summit, which is scheduled for April 2022!