In his first contribution for 1001Up, Joel picks apart the ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’ stereotype and looks at why it’s important to know what we’ve become.
Joel is a nerd advocate and activist, protesting that they are the best of people and fighting to get them to social prominence in every small way he can – including creating a site for tabletop gamers to share their stories. He is a multifaceted gamer and abuser of long words.
Paint a picture in your mind of the classic image of a nerd. Whether you consider yourself one of us or not, you probably conjured the same image: a twenty-something man-child living in his mother’s basement or attic-conversion surrounded by posters and other icons of his obsession. You probably pictured his day as waking up mid-afternoon to sit at the computer, eating junk all day before going back to bed at 05:00 in the morning, never going out, never making friends, steadily fusing to the furniture.
If he has a job it’s either menial or ‘techie’. If he has clothes other than jeans and t-shirts, it’ll be his Star-Trek uniform that he never wears. If he has a conversation it’ll be riddled with incomprehensible jargon about space-ship specifications or socio-economic details of Middle Earth that one could only absorb by injecting the pages directly into a vein.
It’s a stereotype as old as time. Let’s face it: nerds and geeks are nothing new, and we’ve borne the same stigma for long before we realized it was ours. So let’s start picking it all apart shall we? It’s enough to know we aren’t what we’re assumed to be, but it’s important to know what we’ve become!
We aren’t merely social creatures, we flock and swarm together in pursuit of our passions.
Ever been to a convention? We aren’t merely social creatures, we flock and swarm together in pursuit of our passions and pack games-shops to the point where we can no longer breathe. Behind closed doors we flood the internet with an exchange of stories, opinions and ideas (case in point), we talk and game together.
The boom in geek-culture recognition has caused us to look outward and see each other. The internet has allowed us to communicate faster, pool resources into creating our own celebrations of culture. We are massively international, and very keen to meet one another.
In 2007, Halo 4 outsold Spider-Man 3’s box-office takings and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In that year modern media sat up and paid attention to the gaming market in a new and unprecedented way, but the headline is that the biggest selling items of the year were all nerd-interest items. The rise and rise of the comic book hero movie, the capturing of the public imagination, and the social dominance of computer games have swept the century to date.
I recall being young and seeing one of the earliest computer game adverts to appear on TV at the time. I wish now that I could remember what game it was, but I can never recall seeing another before it. Now companies are using their geekier properties as a selling point, because we are the market to crack. We are the popular culture.
You may have heard the term ‘neck-beard’ used as a derogatory term: “I’m not some neck-beard sitting at home licking the old rulebook and pretending the new edition doesn’t exist. I’m outside for a start!” They still exist sadly (although it should be said, I don’t think I’ve met a ‘neck-beard’ with a neck-beard), confining themselves to their own private club of maybe two or three who firmly believe that things were better without the ‘filthy casuals’.
The rest of us are profoundly interested in hearing about your opinions and finding out your take on our hobbies and interests. We like new people, we want to share the things that make us great with you and we want to have our views challenged, because without you who has never seen Hellsing; or you who’s looking to try out Pathfinder; or you at only twelve-years old who really wants to know about all the cool stuff they’ve yet to discover; we’re going to get boring, and eventually vanish into obscurity.
Hundreds of gamers swarm fields and forests to beat the living hell out of each other with massive swords and axes.
Recently for my series on GeekOut South-West I interviewed my first LARPer. For those of you not familiar, LARP stands for ‘live-action role-play’. I’ve seen friends’ pictures from their weekends away, and I can say unequivocally that it is not an indoors activity. Hundreds of gamers swarm fields and forests to beat the living hell out of each other with – mercifully fake, but still painful – massive swords and axes!
We’re a long way free of our basements, we’ve braved the streets beyond the library and invaded the world. We’re on your TV indoctrinating your children, we’re on the internet subverting your beliefs, and we’re knocking on your door with a copy of Transmetropolitan in hand. We’re taking hostages, and we expect your surrender at our doorstep any day now.
Yeah, we can keep that one. All nerds are intelligent. That’s just fact, so shut up.