Ryan Omega has been many things over the years – his past roles include director, producer, writer, and host – but his latest venture might be his most intriguing. Inspired by the panel discussions at various conventions, Ryan decided to launch a new project called Geek Public on YouTube. We caught up with Ryan to discuss how he got started, how he chooses which topics to discuss, and what he hopes to tackle next.
Steve Jackson Games: What inspired you to create Geek Public? Did you see a particular need for this kind of show?
Ryan Omega: In April, my friend Eric (who is now one of my producers) asked me on a whim what I wanted to do in the geekspace. Without thinking, I said, "I wanted to run Geek NPR." So we looked on the internet and saw there were channels and names associated with that idea, but we were stunned when no one took the combination of words "Geek" and "Public" on X/Twitter, Instagram, or a website. It's incredibly rare to find two common words with only 10 letters total that weren't taken. My brain went, "I have to do something with this, but not sure what."
I attended and was a guest on several panels at conventions and realized there were incredible discussions and information at these panels. I wished more people could see them or were aware of them because they were so useful or inspiring. However, most conventions don't have the setup to record these panels since their concentration is making sure the attendees have the physical room to have the panel, and a regular convention room isn't an ideal filming or audio space.
BUT if we could replicate those same panels with high-level audio and video equipment and put it on YouTube, and then caption all the videos to make those discussions accessible, then it has the best chance of reaching people on the internet who need it.
SJG: Your show covers a broad range of topics – some episodes cover geeky topics (like old "Legend of Zelda" commercials), while others cover broader themes (like finding motivation despite fear of failure). How do you decide what you want to cover?
Ryan: Because we're new to YouTube as a platform, we don't know what will resonate with a YouTube audience.
So instead of having a set list of topics that we want to cover, sometimes I will gather everyone I want in a group and then figure out a topic that we can all discuss. Because if it's interesting to us, it will be interesting to some group on the internet, even if it's not everyone's flavor of geek. Other times, a topic or idea is so inspiring that I'll gravitate toward certain people and assemble an episode that way.
The only rule I have is that I wanted the discussions to be more evergreen or culturally significant rather than "it's only relevant right now." If I'm going to take 10 hours to edit an episode, the topic can't expire in 3 weeks.
Some people might call that process chaotic. I call it organic.
SJG: What do you hope viewers get out of your series?
Ryan: I hope they get inspired to do things and learn the value of long-form discourse in the geekspace. Because we are on social media, many people stress the importance of getting that first impression within 7 seconds before you move on as we do on platforms like TikTok and X. But this means that we, as geeks and nerds, are forgetting an important tenet of our own identity: Critical Thinking. Geeks and nerds are supposed to be "good thinkers." We have forgotten that sometimes because we are used to valuing a quick reaction because there is a sense that a reaction is "more honest," but if we really want to affect change in our community, we have to embrace the longer discussion where we think things through.
Also, geekdom takes several forms and looks like everyone. When I did my research for this YouTube channel, it was disheartening that all YouTube recommendation channels were full of the same type of people who did not look like me. (And no disrespect to them: they've put their time into their content and I've learned from how they did their videos how I would like to approach mine.) The ONE video that included a woman or person of color in that recommendation was affiliated with Critical Role.
I wanted some space that shows you did not need to look a certain way or be famous to have a valid viewpoint.
SJG: What is one thing you haven't yet accomplished that you want to tackle in the near future?
Ryan: Most people can take the larger names in the geek world and say that to have any of them on the show is a goal.
For me, it's more interesting if I can get that larger name, put them in a discussion group with someone doing significant work in the geekspace who isn't as famous, and listen to them talk, sometimes about a topic that neither of them are known for.
When we talk about "geeking out," we're talking about "being highly passionate about a thing." And I hope this channel inspires people to find that spark to go do the things they are passionate about.
-- Katie Duffy