When I was a kid, being a nerd (and boy, was I ever a nerd) was about loving a lot of different weird stuff.
That’s it. You just went out there and loved stuff. The concept of nerd culture wasn’t formed enough “a thing” to do anything else.
You’d find things — in the back of book stores, in the bargain bin at K-Mart, in the musty halls of the Compleat Strategist on 33rd (yes, that’s how you spell it). Things no one else knew about.
Finding such things was like capturing some special kind of wildlife. Something you’d bring back in a box and take care of and study and take notes on. If you met like-minded people, you’d bring it out, you’d show it to them. Sometimes you’d even lend it to them.
These things were rare.
But most of the time you’d run up and down the halls of your Junior High School screaming about it:
It’s a comic book where a guy in a inkblot mask cuts up a guy with a meat cleaver
It’s a game where you pretend to be adventurers in a Dungeon
It’s a book set 8,000 years in the future about a genetic messiah who can see divergent timelines
Shout these things I did. I was the major nerd vector in my school, responsible for Amazing Spider-Man outbreaks, for the Gamma World pandemic of 1984 and for the great WATCHMEN infection of 1986.
I was like a dealer in sci-fi, horror and fantasy — all of it — throughout my school career. Video games, movies, comics, books. I had it all.
I loved it all.
It wasn’t easy to find these things. At least, from 1983 to about 1990, it wasn’t easy. You’d write away for catalogs next to grainy black and white pictures in the back of Dragon magazine, and then you’d obsesses over a tattered flyer recieved from some odd business in Lake Geneva.
It was odd, but fun.
Back then, there didn’t seem to be as much bitterness. There wasn’t a lot of us or them; hell, there wasn’t a lot of us. There weren’t enough of ‘us’ for nerd-dom to be further split amongst itself. There weren’t enough products. There was no sub-culture, just tiny pockets of the weird spread in odd places throughout the world. When you saw someone like you, no matter what they liked, you were eager to share, it was a rare enough thing.
Today, though, I see a lot of bitterness. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of joy too. A lot of people discovering new ideas, getting the word out on things they love, and working hard to spread around what they think is fun, interesting or cool. These people are awesome, but there’s also a lot of bile.
A heck of a lot of bile.
There’s a lot of belittling and yelling and complaining and a lot of politics and ideal-wielding and holier-than-thou speeches, and I don’t want to add to it here. But I do want to say this, just in case this is a revelation for someone out there (though I doubt it, it couldn’t hurt, right?):
You can dislike a piece of art, and it can still exist and be enjoyed by others. That doesn’t hurt you.
In nerd culture now, we’re spoiled, I think. There’s too much cool stuff. There are too many nerds. It’s too easy to get things, to judge things, to discard them, to dismiss people. This explosion in numbers, availability and interaction has seemingly diminished the value of these pieces of art over time. They are smaller now, or the sea of art is bigger. Either way, it’s easier to attack them, and more people are attacking than praising, I think.
I’m guilty of these things as well, but I’m trying to move on. I want to be one of the good guys here, and in such a case it means trumperting the things I love about nerd-dom, not the things I hate. So, there’s that.
This has been your anti-rant of the day.
About Me (Dennis Detwiller)
Dennis Detwiller is an author, artist and video game designer. His work includesMagic: The Gathering the PROTOTYPE series for Activision, DeathSpank!,Delta Green, GODLIKE and Wild Talents.
His latest work Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rooftop Run was #1 in the App Store.
He is the four-time winner of the Origin Award for gaming, and two-time winner of the Ennie Award for RPG excellence.