What The Hell Happened To Our Nerd Culture?
Once upon a time the concept of being a nerd was one that was forever linked with social dogma. Being labeled a “nerd” or “geek” reserved you a spot at the school lunch table with the rest of the social “outcast”. It caused you to be bullied, harassed and generally treated like a third-rate human being. Then one day, almost magically so, the term nerd was no longer held in such disdain. Due it to the rise of billionaire nerds like Bill Gates, the stardom of Google or the fairy tale story of Mark Zuckerberg, nerd culture had fully baked into a goody that all could appreciate.
It rose and flourished as game systems invaded into every household and into the hands of the older adult. We invaded mainstream culture as shows like Chuck and Big Bang Theory brought nerd jokes to the forefront. We even managed to get not one, but two TV channels devoted to our needs: TechTV and G4TV.
Then, almost as silently as it rose it seemed to die out. TechTV was eaten by G4 only for the latter network to proceed to die a slow death at the hand of declining viewership. Chuck was cancelled and gaming seems to be in the hands of the casual IPhone-centric market.
What happened to us? How did we lose so much ground without even the slightest of provocation? What happened to our culture? Our Nerd Nation if you will.
Now one could always state that saying we have a nerd culture is a bold and illustrious statement greatly out of tune with the rest of the world. But for those that call themselves, nerd and geek, we know that our interest typically go over the head of an “average” person. You start mentioning terms such as overclocking or 4chan and you can see the glazed look of boredom and confusion wash over their face. The things that we love, the things that we have nourished are unique to our group. No one can pretend to be a geek nor is it something you casually subscribe to. You are either in neck-deep or have absolutely no clue as to what it is.
Perhaps it’s that “Do or Die” mentality that has done us in. Nerds are a notoriously cliquish group. We choose who to associate with very carefully, either it be platform lines or main hobbies, we have a bad habit of segregating ourselves from the outside world. Perhaps more damaging is that we do it with full knowledge and pride. All to often I’ve seen my fellow nerds shut out outsiders or fledgling noobs due to their inexperience, “OMG you never played Chrono Trigger? What? You never played Final Fantasy VII? You are not a gamer, begone poser.” Our numbers seem to hold steady even as our primary interest, video games, have increased in numbers. Somewhere along the line we’ve become the old people on the porch that would rather sneer and scare off newcomers rather than engage in conversation.
Has anyone bothered to look at G4 lately? Most of the cast and personalities that we knew fondly have moved on; Kevin Rose, Olivia Munn, Adam Sessler and most recently Kevin Pereira. The network shows more episodes of cops and other reality shows than it does actual video game related ones. Remember shows like Cinematech where they played cut scenes and trailers from games? Or Arena where you watched teams fight against each other in multiplayer games? Remember those shows? I hope you do because we will probably never ever see anything like that again. And worse yet, we’ve let G4 suffer a slow death as ratings slide and television providers like DirecTV drop it. How did our one, I mean literally ONE channel devoted to one of the aspects of nerdom fall to ruin?
Actually you know what our real problems are in the Nerd Nation? The only time we get up and bitch is to complain about dumb and frivolous shit. “OMG this game isn’t in true 1080p.” “OMG this game was only 40 hours long you totally said 60 hours.”. All around us the industry is in turmoil and upheaval yet we refuse to support it. We are vocal, but always in a destructive and unproductive way. The only time we are willing to organize is to form camps devoted to a non-existent console war
In fact that’s another thing that’s broken in our culture. Xbox Vs. Playstation Vs. Wii Vs. PC. WHO THE HELL GIVES A CRAP! Enjoy every damn system you can humanely afford. It doesn’t matter which one you get, as long as the games are enjoyable YOU WIN. There is no flag to fly, no army to join and no spoils in this invisible war. Yes Microsoft and Sony talk shit, but ya know what? That’s their job. Its business. But for us the consumer, we have no position to lose. Their war causes better games and cheaper prices which is a win for us every time. We are literally killing our own industry by drawing these invisible lines in fictional sand so we can fight and win useless internet epeen points. Entitlement and consumerism has crept so deeply in the concept of a console war that some gamers don’t’ even remember WHY they care about which console “wins”.
Games, comics, books, whatever form of geekhood you choose to delve into, you win. I think that being a Geek is singlehandedly the best title, the best sub-culture anyone can ever belong to. Few things are as wonderful as the banter between nerds at a midnight release for a game or console, or the laughter shared by friends over a match of Halo, of the thrill of downing a raid boss on Heroic in World of Warcraft. We can be painted as social outcast all day long, but we know at the end of the day that we truly LOVE what we do. That we not only conquer these things by ourselves but we also share them with other nerds. And that being accepted by anyone outside the Nation of Geekhood doesn’t mean a damn to us.
So why. Why I ask, have we let our kingdom fall to ruins? Haven’t we all had enough of our beloved studios like Clover and Working Design being closed? Have you seen all the crap surrounding 38 Studios and Big Huge Games? Politics. POLITICS? When in the flying flaming hell of Sonic’s rings did we let treacherous-back-stabbing-gilded-tongue-grey-suited politicians into our hood? The media and fans have literally crucified Curt Shilling over the course of the week, all because we thought he was dooming his studio to failure. But in truth, sad truth, he was being played by people with political power. So what are we doing about it as consumers, as constituents of the Fellowship of the Nerd? As members of Nerd Society? Nothing, not a damn thing. We should be sending Rhode Island and current governor Lincoln Chafee enough letters and emails to constitute stalking.
Do you think a governor would have pulled that crap on a church? Or a football team? Or a movie studio? Or to Justin Bieber? Fuck no. But to a lowly gaming studio that produces intangible products like video games, no respect is given, not one fuck was given. Where’s Anonymous now? Where’s Lulzsec? Where’s 4Chan? Or Reddit? We can mobilize to attack pop stars and ourselves but not to defend the livelihood of over 200 developers.
What we do is great, its special. Games are in the Smithsonian for godsakes. Who would have thought that 20, 10, hell 5 years ago? If everyone hasn’t figured it out by now, we’re kind of a big deal. And we need to act like it. We need to organize and participate, work together to shield our industry from the prying hands of politicians and corrupt watchdog groups. We need to support the indie developers trying to get noticed and stop attacking big name publishers because they didn’t publish a sequel to the game no one bought.
There is no being Adam Jensen yelling out, “I didn’t ask for this.” We’re not Kratos, the gods haven’t abandoned us. We shouldn’t be rolling over for anyone unless its Peppy telling us to barrel roll. We number in the millions, we have money, smarts, sarcasm and photoshopped meme’s at our disposal. There is nothing we shouldn’t be able to accomplish if we don’t want to, and its about damn time we started wanting to. We should be out supporting our devs with battle cries like “Vae Victus” in our best Kain impression. We should be dressed up like Colonel Campbell yelling “Snakkkkeeeeeee”, whenever a state tries to label our games as “murder simulators”. Because there is no one else, it’s just us, it’s always been just us. The Nerd Nation. I don’t want to see us lose anything else because of our apathetic nature.
All Our Base Are Belong To Us, right? It’s about damn time we acted like it.
*Image from the Nerd Power shirt at www.linux.com. Support the Nerd Power!*