Meeting in the Middle: Gateway Geek Products

No one in your family will sit down with you to watch all the extended editions of Lord of the Rings. Your girlfriend is not the slightest bit interested in World of Warcraft.  Your coworkers don’t know who either Russell T Davies or Joss Whedon are, and your sister’s boyfriend didn’t understand why you named a stuffed Halloween raven Edgar.

We’ve all been there.  In fact, I’ve often been the one left entertaining the less-geeky relatives and friends of people I know.  Luckily, though, I have a pretty good sense of what’s appropriate to talk about, and what will even draw in the less geeky.  Here’s some of my favorite icebreakers.


  • Back to the Future – Well-loved by geek and non-geek alike, pretty much everyone aged 15+ has seen this movie, thanks to DVD.  They might not have ever thought about time travel in any other context, but they understand that if Marty makes out with his mother he won’t be born.  Also, that the whole idea is pretty gross.
  • The Fifth Element – It’s an action movie – or is it?  This movie is funny and exciting enough to hold the attention of most, if they haven’t seen it before.  And if they really like it, you’ll be right there to recommend more.


  • Heroes – Many who don’t want to see movies about comic book mutants are perfectly willing to watch this batch of network superheroes, for reasons I haven’t quite determined.  And now that Zachary Quinto is in Star Trek, you have a perfect segue into that subject.
  • Quantum Leap – You can still catch this in syndication, as well as on DVD (though the music isn’t the same in some seasons, I believe).  Again, time-travel, but in a light, fun way.  Also, lots of cute nods to actual events in history.  Also, nice segue into Battlestar: Galactica, since Al is in both.

Video Games:

  • Rock Band – I found that Guitar Hero didn’t always work in mixed-company parties, since people who might even want to give it a shot would feel intimidated by Expert Players.  In Rock Band, however, you can sing, help out with the cowbell or just dance around like a backup singer.  The important word to remember here is “fun” – don’t expect to be getting any achievements that day.
  • Kingdom Hearts – In the non-party game category, this one is great for drawing people in on a one-on-one basis.  Most people are familiar with at least some of the Disney characters, and I have witnessed more than one person get into Final Fantasy after completing this game.

What are your tried and true gateway geek products?

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