Getting them to the geek

Nerdy couples bond over board games, video games, cosplay


Jennifer Angelo and Stephen Whitman are sitting in Games People Play, struggling to articulate what they like most about the other person.

“She’s got a great personality, a sense of humour and is cute,” Whitman says after a moment. Angelo takes a little longer.

“Geez, it’s easy for you,” she says. “I just – I don’t know, I like you.” She squeezes his hand and looks at him.

The couple had come into Games People Play – a gaming store in downtown Halifax – to play Dungeons and Dragons, but they took some time to answer the most important questions facing geekdom: how do I find a date?

For Angelo and Whitman, it was “a fluke,” she says. They met through mutual friends nearly three years ago. She took him out dancing not long after.

“I dragged him to a cosplay dance,” Angelo says (“Yup,” says Whitman), “at a gay bar.” (“Yup.”)

“I didn’t tell him that part.”

“She didn’t tell me until we were already half-way there.”

Angelo was dating someone else that first time at Menz and Mollyz Bar, but by summer they were a couple – and their first date was that same cosplay dance.

Now, they live together. “We just lay around watching anime half the time,” Whitman says. When they do go out, it’s to get dinner and see a Marvel movie.

For lonely geeks, these two won the jackpot: a partner eager to engage in your geeky interests.

It’s not always easy to find.

Geeks have “absorbed a lot of bogus ideas about what makes a geek, and that tends to permeate all of the way they see themselves, it affects their behaviour,” says Harris O’Malley, alias Dr. NerdLove.

O’Malley is a self-proclaimed geek dating expert (based on “sheer bloody experience”) in Austin, Texas. He operates the blog Paging Dr. NerdLove, aiming to help geeks move past these dating hurdles.

He says the belief that geeks are unlikable or socially awkward can “become an excuse for not doing better.” Bitterness stemming from being excluded in high school or university can seep into relationships and “colour everything they do.”

O’Malley’s blog posts, ebooks and occasional in-person consultations are all meant to help geeks and nerds move past these hurdles. But there’s another problem: where to look?

Finding partners online has become more popular than ever, and for people suffering from stereotypically geeky anxieties that can be a good place to start.

“Feeling like … you have a chance to compose your thoughts before you send that first message,” O’Malley says.

“That can be really comforting to people who might have a problem having that same conversation in person.”

Some dating sites cater specifically to geeks and nerds – and are two of the better known ones – but there are also web forums and online games.

Laura Marriott met her husband Ollie Marriott on the massively multi-player online game Final Fantasy.

In the game she was an Elezen dragoon, a dragon knight from an elf-like race. He was a Lalafell white mage, a healer from a small, elfish race.

“They are like adorable, little elfish kind of, but really small,” she says about his character. “I think that was probably one of the reasons why I was first attracted.” The race was unusual in a game that sees most people playing strong, humanoid characters, she says.

In early 2014, on a break from his master’s program in astrophysics, he came to Halifax to visit her. It was the first time they had met in person.

While he was here, they decided to get married. The wedding was planned in two days; Laura Marriott walked down the aisle to music from Final Fantasy.

It wouldn’t have happened without the game.

“He’s a scientist; I’m a musician. I’m older than he is – we run in different circles,” she says.

“We have so much in common: we like the same music, the same video games, we like the same movies … But we probably would never have met outside of Final Fantasy.

For Lindsay Pidgeon and Marc Teffer, it was the opposite. They met in Halifax by joining the same circle in high school – one that played board games, video games, Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering.

But they didn’t start dating until nearly 20 years later, when Pidgeon rejoined the high school friend group. Both had previous marriages, and for Teffer, finding a geeky partner was refreshing.

“She was not into gaming, not into geek stuff at all: comics, games, board games, movies, any of it,” Teffer says about his ex-wife.

“Now, we have so many shared interests that it’s phenomenal. If I went gaming without her – short of her actually being at work – she would get upset.”

“Well,” Pidgeon interjects. “OK. I’d be jealous.”

The couple moved in together last Christmas (“cutting out the middle man,” Teffer says) and they still get together with the same people to play board games and Dungeons and Dragons.

“You can be whoever the hell you want,” Pidgeon says about the group.

That’s a good thing for geeks, once you find places where you can be yourself.

“You find people that actually care about you and care about those same things,” she says. “And way better relationships, romantic or otherwise, come out of being who you are.”