The Evolution of “The Nerd”
Growing up, if I was called a nerd, it was an insult that had to be refuted. I always needed a quick retort to save face, which still helped me to appear cool with the ladies. The truth was different. I spent my evenings at a friend’s house drawing maps of Zelda dungeons, searching the couch for quarters that I could spend at the arcade, and trying to beat Mike Tyson into submission. I never knew at the time that as a nerd I would get the last laugh, and that I would get revenge in a way I could never imagine.
As the gaming culture developed, so did I. Changes were made, dial-up internet was invented, and Doom multiplayer matches were played. I made frequent trips to the grocery store to get another free 1000 minutes of AOL to game with online. I talked WarCraft and StarCraft strategy, while spending hours memorizing the patterns on Section Z. I was a nerd, and I walked, talked, and slept gaming. I could not imagine then, that my casual obsession would turn into a lifelong outlet. It gave me an escape from being a “professional adult.”
Now as a “businessman” I try to let my inner nerd escape when the opportunity presents itself. In the presence of another possible gaming nerd, we tend to conduct a slow dance of coded questions, and comments that are meant to authenticate one another. For the younger crowd out there who may not understand the need for such a process, you have not lived with the ridicule and prejudice that came with Halo LAN parties, or text based gaming. I am sure most of you do not know how to call “next” in an arcade. Or have ever felt dejected because you were called a nerd, and you knew it to be true. This is when "nerd" had a stereotype. We were seen as virgins who lived in our parents basements, read comic books, and enjoyed National Geographic wwwwwaaaay too much!
A funny thing happened though. These “nerds” grew up, became successful, some of them founded Microsoft or Valve, or some have written the comic books that have woven themselves into pop culture. They became fathers and business men. They have snuck in every corner of society. They have focused on building sophisticated computers with maxed out graphic capabilities, game consoles that changed how a living room is used, and they spend money, A LOT of money. Last year gamers spent 46.5 billion dollars on gaming. This is more than the film industry (31.8 billion) which incidentally is dominated by nerds. Think Star Wars to Star Trek or Aliens to X-men, nerds have not only become a socially acceptable term; moreover, it is now used in a positive light. It has become a compliment, and it has become almost cool to be a nerd.
Ironically, we now have genres of nerds, which would be unimaginable 25 years ago. The question really is… what kind of nerd are you? Are you a gaming nerd, a computer nerd, comic, anime, or cosplay nerd? It is an important distinction that will be a litmus test for your knowledge in that area. It is a label that will let other nerds of your genre know where your expertise lies. There are exceptions, of course. These are in the form of a rare super nerd. Otherwise known as the unicorn of the species, the feared and respected “plain ol' nerd”. He is the renaissance nerd if you will. He answers Star Trek Trivia in detail, and states the episode number to source it. He watches the movie with the director’s commentary, and does a review on the commentary itself. This nerd does not care for social conventions, and would relish in a spirited debate on virtually any subject. He happily challenges the validity of the physics used in Star Trek, and writes a 3 page blog detailing the 30 second trailer of the latest Marvel movie. This nerd is your next door neighbor, your boss, and maybe your husband or wife.
All nerds are experts in camouflage, and one will only show their true nerdiness after authentication. This may also be done during the mating season known as Comic Con. This nerd however, wears his nerd on his sleeve. His success will be in whatever venture he put his mind to, whether it be an app, or movie script, a website or newly developed game. This nerd has found the secret to happiness. He lives life on his terms, surrounded by his people, and his special edition 1980 Soundwave action figure in its original packaging. He was successful doing it.
I tip my hat to all nerds and whatever genre you represent. I ask you to remember one thing, we outnumber the “cool” kids now. The ones who would rather spend a night out drinking than finishing a raid. The ones who would rather pick on a kid for his Robotech shirt, than to see the deep and immersive worlds that us nerds get to enjoy. Do not let their mistakes be our downfall. We must encourage the open-minded and welcome the hungover and uninformed. The sad truth is the best revenge for a nerd is success, so keep plucking away at the keyboard, keep gaming into the night, and keep building a foundation for the young nerdy generations to enjoy. Your contributions are making a difference. Your success will cement a world where our 6 sided dice is not bought in dark corners of a game store, or the anonymity of the internet. Our legacy is watching our children, born from actual women, growing up in a world free from nerd prejudice. A place where cosplay is accepted, and having an imagination is not a check mark against you; rather, it becomes a badge of pride on your virtual resume. In other words, our best revenge is being authentic and letting our inner nerd shine with pride. Nerd on.