Hauling Down the Freak Flag

Last week, PAX East came up again as part of the ongoing arguments to define what gamer culture is and should be. As someone who is often guilty of bouncing between being a snob or a borderline otaku, however, I came away with mixed feelings.

See, I agree with this Paste piece from Garrett Martin:

I play and write about games because I enjoy them and am fascinated by the ideas behind them. I don't use this hobby as a one-stop identity shop. I am sure the vast majority of PAX attendees engage fully and thoughtfully with the wider culture, but after walking the floor of PAX East it's easy to view them all as blinkered obsessives who think Chrono Trigger is man's greatest work of art.

...To enjoy PAX you can't just have an interest in games. You can't merely be a person who has liked games for thirty years, who likes them enough to write about them for very little money. Genuinely loving games isn't even enough. You have to love the idea of loving games. You have to listen to music about games and tell jokes about games and dress like characters from games. You must completely obsess over games until you forget how to relate to people in any other way.

I also agree with this response from Alex Raymond:

Does the author of this piece really not understand that fans who go to game conventions actually don’t live, eat, and breathe video games? And that this is, in fact, why they go to conventions? The scolding about not being obsessed with games is completely ridiculous. His job is games. ....The fact that people who go to PAX have lives outside of games is also the very reason they can seem so intense: this is their only chance out of the entire year to be immersed in the game industry, to meet other gamers, play tons of games, and maybe even meet some of the people who make the games they love, so yeah, people go overboard with the geekiness.

...The thing about how it’s cool to be a nerd now is a total lie, and it always has been. It’s cool to like Star Wars and video games, and be socially awkward in a cute and endearing sort of way. ...It’s not cool to be the sort of nerd who isn’t Hollywood-attractive, who is actually socially awkward in an awkward and uncomfortable way, the sort of nerd who can’t make small talk and takes things too literally and obsesses over things no one but other nerds care about (in case it’s not clear, I am describing myself here). So it makes me pretty angry when someone who perhaps self-identifies as a nerd but is a cool nerd comes into a space with non-cool nerds and tells those nerds to stop being so nerdy, already.

Raymond's response is titled "Contempt for Your Audience," which inadvertently highlights the source of the culture clash on display here. I don't for a moment believe that Martin is writing about his audience here. If he's anything like me, his imaginary reader is probably not jamming to MC Frontalot on her morning commute, or working out which costume he's going to wear to the next convention. The problem is that PAX brings together people who think they share the same passion, who believe they are all part of a collective culture that they have defined individually. Then they encounter each other for three days in lines, in restaurants, in panels, and in game rooms and discover something intensely alienating: they can't stand each other.

We know this already, of course. The fastest way to get sick of talking about videogames is to start writing about them, because it puts you touch with so many people who ostensibly share your interests yet relate to them in a completely different way. While Martin admits up-front that most PAXers are not the people he is describing here, PAX can be overwhelming the way it panders to enthusiasts who seem to have slipped over the edge into "blinkered obsession." When gamers meet Gamers, the people who have embraced not just a hobby but an identity, it's not hard to see why they react with revulsion. It's easy to encounter an extreme version of yourself and feel that it is somehow twisted and distorted, that it is the evil that you have successfully avoided thanks to moderation.

I really don't think there's a cabal of "cool nerds" who are going around looking for subcultures to disdain, it's just that you get hit with those alienating missed connections constantly when you find yourself stranded in the patchwork that we mistakenly call "gamer culture." It happens when I try to move a conversation away from nerd commonplaces and get a blank look in response, or when someone finds out what I do and takes that as invitation to monologue about what he thinks of every game ever, and somehow it still all comes back to Sonic or Final Fantasy. It happens when the air gets sucked out of a good Q&A by the halting, awkward questioner who doesn't have a question at all. He just wants to tell these game designers... something. He's not sure what, but he wants to make some kind of connection and he's going to clutch that mike and gasp into it until he feels one.

Those are the moments when I no longer feel like I'm at a celebration of games and the friendships they've helped forge, but just a witness to revelry in celebration of a stunted worldview. And it's not because my friends are like that, or most of the strangers I meet at PAX are like that. It's just because at PAX I think I can see stereotypes I've always hated come to life.

But as Raymond points out, those are my stereotypes, and have little to do with the reality of PAX. It's easy to look around PAX and feel lost amidst the costumes and clamor, but just because people look as if they are game-crazy doesn't mean their relationships to their hobbies are any less healthy than my own. At PAX you see people on a break from their everyday life, embracing a part of themselves they might not get to access very often. You don't really know them, or what this means to them. It's a mistake, a cruel one, to use other people's enjoyment to frame them according to your own preconceptions. One reason we have things like PAX is because gamers spent so long feeling like their favorite hobby somehow "othered" them, and now we come together so we can do it to each other.

But nerd culture will continue to be contested space until we finally admit that the term is so broad as to be meaningless. Because nerd culture isn't just about our hobbies, but the baggage we carry from earlier lives. It's our defensiveness and sense of separation that led us to define ourselves as nerds, and that is what drives the culture wars here in Nerdistan. I come to a convention and instead of kindred spirits, I find people I've always imagined I disdain or resent. There is my freshman year roommate or, worse, self, who covered every surface in anime wall scrolls and wanted to go kimono shopping. There's the guy who would talk with me for hours about Quake 3 maps and EverQuest zones, and then acted like a stranger when he was with his "normal" friends. I find the people who made me feel bad about what I like, and who I am. But that's only because there is a part of me still looking over one shoulder, afraid to find someone judging me.

Comments

I got an email today: Erik the Viking is once more on its way to my mail box.

True fact: That picture is from the show Entourage.

On to a meaningful(?) response

But nerd culture will continue to be contested space until we finally admit that the term is so broad as to be meaningless.

Big truth. Words like gamer, nerd, geek and the like have no meaning to me because their meaning is entirely subjective based on the bias or prejudice of the speaker. I can in all seriousness and accuracy make both the statements "I love nerds" and "I hate nerds" be true, which is why the bickering between the two referenced articles doesn't ultimately hold water.

Does the author of this piece really not understand that fans who go to game conventions actually don’t live, eat, and breathe video games? And that this is, in fact, why they go to conventions?

This is simply not true, and Alex is painting with the big brush every bit as much as Garrett. Possibly more, because at least Garrett is specific about referring to a subset. Either way, I've fallen into the trap described a number of time myself, on both sides of the argument, but ultimately I tend to feel like Garrett's valid point gets lost in the noise, which I take to mean as a judgment against those who define themselves in the terms of any one single quality, asset or hobby.

I agree with that.

just because people look as if they are game-crazy doesn't mean their relationships to their hobbies are any less healthy than my own

To some degree, though, there's validity in being uncomfortable with excessive enthusiasm, even at PAX. One of the hallmarks of maturity and adulthood -- on their best terms, the behaviors that allow us live within functional societies -- is restraint. We draw lines around what we think it acceptable, and there are consequences for crossing them. Being so very close to that line as geeks and peering to the other side, and seeing someone only a few steps removed from ourselves? That's not easy.

Perhaps it's the cold-boned yankee in me, but there's a reason why we feel and fear that judging eye. Hanging out with friendly folk, playing some games together, and not being maligned for it is why we have things like PAX, but shifting from "here's my kinda geeky hobby" into "my hobby is my identity" territory is less OK. It suggests a certain lack of balance and discipline, and an inability to recognize the boundaries between public and private personae. It's especially awkward when the hobby isn't, say, something productive or creative -- like art, not that we don't view bug-eyed painters as being a bit unusual -- but is instead pure escapism.

But as Raymond points out, those are my stereotypes, and have little to do with the reality of PAX.

I disagree. It isn't a stereotype that's making you (me) squirm, it's the recognition of an unhealthy degree of engagement with something that is supposedly just fun. It's akin to the guy who shows up at your company's softball game and proceeds to scream, yell, challenge every ruling, and generally act like it's Really Important To Win. Any lighthearted pastime taken to an extreme becomes disturbing.

This reminds of the last time I went to a concert. Everyone there was just so into this band, they were dancing around, I saw one guy singing along, they were buying merchandise from the little table in the corner. Can you imagine anything more pathetic?

Switchbreak wrote:

This reminds of the last time I went to a concert. Everyone there was just so into this band, they were dancing around, I saw one guy singing along, they were buying merchandise from the little table in the corner. Can you imagine anything more pathetic?

I think the equivalent, though, would be the guy in the audience who is dressed up like the guys playing, loudly singing along, and who awkwardly jumps on stage in the middle of the performance and has to be removed by the bouncers. In other words, you have to find the generally acceptable line of social engagement (dancing, singing, buying merch) and then hop over it to draw a proper analogy.

TheHipGamer wrote:

I think the equivalent, though, would be the guy in the audience who is dressed up like the guys playing, loudly singing along, and who awkwardly jumps on stage in the middle of the performance and has to be removed by the bouncers. In other words, you have to find the generally acceptable line of social engagement (dancing, singing, buying merch) and then hop over it to draw a proper analogy.

Well I was standing alone in the corner scowling the whole time so I didn't see, but I'm sure they were all exactly like that guy. I mean why else would they be there?

From Garrett's piece, the second part quoted is mutually exclusive with the first. He says he's talking about a 'vast' minority (or thinks he is), but then says you can't enjoy PAX without being part of that minority. So, probably he's just trying to dodge well-deserved flames in the first part?

I am sure this incongruity makes sense in context, but after reading him as quoted it's easy to view him as a mean, judgmental snob who thinks cosplay is man's greatest sin.

Wonderful writing (again) Rob. I hope you're going to PAX Prime this year so that we can meet. And I can judge you. ; )

Switchbreak wrote:
TheHipGamer wrote:

I think the equivalent, though, would be the guy in the audience who is dressed up like the guys playing, loudly singing along, and who awkwardly jumps on stage in the middle of the performance and has to be removed by the bouncers. In other words, you have to find the generally acceptable line of social engagement (dancing, singing, buying merch) and then hop over it to draw a proper analogy.

Well I was standing alone in the corner scowling the whole time so I didn't see, but I'm sure they were all exactly like that guy. I mean why else would they be there?

Going to PAX is like trying to assault a band by jumping on stage? Seriously? Everyone who makes you uncomfortable is automatically so far over the line as to have to be physically restrained?

There are people who have their entire identity wrapped up in gaming. Are they the ones standing in line to play a game? How long do they stand in line before it's too far and they should get a life? What if they are wearing a geeky t-shirt? A costume? You're obviously not comfortable wearing a costume, so that last one must surely get a life, right? If you like making costumes because you're a professional tailor and enjoy making weird clothing every once in a while, you need to calm down and get a life man.

How do you tell when someone has gone too far in their hobby? When someone has their entire identity wrapped up in gaming? Can you tell by glancing at them for 30 seconds at a convention? You know they have no identity outside gaming? No charity work, no "normal" friends, no fulfilling personal life?

How many "normal" people have you met with their identity wrapped up in something equally frivolous? People who clearly need to emotionally mature yet are seen by society as the ideal? The salesman who has crippling emotional issues but is damn good at his job. He gets to drive around in a Mercedes and treat people like sh*t while nobody can stand up to him. But let's make sure to kick these nerds in the one place they feel safe because nobody will even raise an eyebrow.

How about the too cool for school writer who goes to a gaming convention and is sickened by the enthusiasm of those around him? What's his identity wrapped up in?

There are people who need to emotionally mature to lead a happy fulfilling life. One of the signs of this can be that they have their entire identity wrapped up in gaming. Another sign of this can be that they feel threatened by those different from them.

Just to be clear I'm mainly ranting at Garrett, who I feel is masking his elitism and overly broad condescension in a semi-valid point. Yes, there are people who have their entire identity wrapped up in a subculture. It's way more common than you think, and beating up on the dude in the elven cloak is just targeting the weak because you know you can get away with it.

Side Rant: I am sick of people bringing up MC Frontalot and Protomen as some kind of abomination that you should never listen to if you're an emotionally mature human being because they have no appeal if you've ever had sex or experienced "real" culture. You know what? I consider my musical tastes fairly diverse and The Protomen are good prog rock. MC Frontalot is funny and just because he talks about a culture you may not be a part of it doesn't mean he isn't speaking truth. f*ck your elitism.

So in summation:

IMAGE(http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_PCmBBmkUYsg/Srko3UJiyBI/AAAAAAAAAUA/2LkhChffjug/s400/nerds.jpg)

Is there that much of a difference between the behaviour being described and what goes on at an NFL game, including the tailgate parties, the costumes and the makeup? Is the issue just one of social acceptance?

IMAGE(http://sportsfascination.com/files/2010/12/Raiders19.jpg)

Every time I click on this article--and it's a good one--to read a new set of comments, I can't help but think of this.

It seems even BroS cosplay.

Is there that much of a difference between the behaviour being described and what goes on at an NFL game, including the tailgate parties, the costumes and the makeup? Is the issue just one of social acceptance?

And I've met plenty of sports fanatics I don't want to hang around either because their obsession and single-minded identity isn't appealing to me.

Elysium wrote:
Is there that much of a difference between the behaviour being described and what goes on at an NFL game, including the tailgate parties, the costumes and the makeup? Is the issue just one of social acceptance?

And I've met plenty of sports fanatics I don't want to hang around either because their obsession and single-minded identity isn't appealing to me.

And if you've seen Big Fan, then you know we also have Patton Oswalt in common!

PyromanFO wrote:

Side Rant: I am sick of people bringing up MC Frontalot and Protomen as some kind of abomination that you should never listen to if you're an emotionally mature human being because they have no appeal if you've ever had sex or experienced "real" culture. You know what? I consider my musical tastes fairly diverse and The Protomen are good prog rock. MC Frontalot is funny and just because he talks about a culture you may not be a part of it doesn't mean he isn't speaking truth. f*ck your elitism.

Thanks for putting this in here, hadn't heard of the protomen before and went and sampled them. They are awesome

I thought the original piece was a pretty brilliant bit of writing. This line: "I was standing in one of these lines somewhere at PAX East when it hit me: the easiest way to feel like an outsider is to hang around people who obsess over something you like..." is the kind of thing that defines a professional writer. I think anyone who is an older (25+) gamer has had thoughts along these lines. What is this thing I do so obsessively? Who are these other people, and what is their deal exactly? Have you seen the bizarre imported Japanese stuff I--I mean they--buy? It's an article about the author's muddled and conflicted thoughts on his bizarre hobby/living, and just how valid it is as even a part of your life, much less a significant part.

I find the second piece less useful. It's missed the entire thrust of the original article in order to score nerd points. And I find the reflexive cry of "you just don't understand" less than useful.

Man. Both guys seem totally wrong. Because, quite simply, all kinds of people go to PAX. Some people go there and don't even care about video games. They're there to play board games or card games or role-playing games with others like themselves.

The ones who stand out are, despite Raymond's beliefs, fans who go to game conventions because they "live, eat, and breathe video games." They cosplay, they wait hours in line to hear their favorite game designer/celebrity speak. They would loooove to tell you about their latest Shaman build.

And then there's the huge crowd that easily gets overlooked because of the guy dressed like a Big Daddy. They look like regular people (spooky). Contrary to Martin's assertion, they have a blast at PAX without obsessing over games to the degree that they "forget how to relate to people in any other way." They wait in some long lines, sure, but with packs of their friends or with an iPhone or DS to pass the time.

PyromanFO wrote:

Side Rant: I am sick of people bringing up MC Frontalot and Protomen as some kind of abomination that you should never listen to if you're an emotionally mature human being because they have no appeal if you've ever had sex or experienced "real" culture. You know what? I consider my musical tastes fairly diverse and The Protomen are good prog rock. MC Frontalot is funny and just because he talks about a culture you may not be a part of it doesn't mean he isn't speaking truth. f*ck your elitism.

The reason it gets brought up all the time is because these acts have become the official house bands of gamer gatherings. You resent elitism? Fine. I resent pigeonholing. I don't need nerd-approved music to headline at my nerd convention where I listen to nerd-approved speakers. It's suffocating! Oh, you like videogames? Then have I got a treat for you! Let's all sing "Still Alive" for the millionth time, and then maybe for an encore we can dance to chiptunes. It sounds like the games you love!

It has nothing to do with whether I think it's music for uncultured celibates, and everything to do with the kind of conformity it represents. When energy drinks advertise themselves and Gamer Fuel, it bugs me in the exact same way as someone presenting "gamer music."

Lucky for me, I am large, I contain multitudes.
That way, I can stand in line and keep myself company.

On a serious note, I do find it hard to relate to someone who seems to solely define their identity on a single thing. Whether that be a sports team, a slice of culture, or a book written hundreds of years ago. But to Pyro's point, you won't immediately know if that aspect you see on display at a place like PAX is the sum total of their identity (or they desperately want it to be) or if it is just them taking advantage of an opportunity to indulge for a bit.

the decision by PA to set PAX awash in gamer overtones ( e.g. the by-gamers for-gamers music, etc) could be seen as pandering to a stereotype, or could be a way of highlighting the artists and vendors who identify with the culture and have come up with a way to contribute to it.

I certainly won't be serving GamerFuel (or whatever it is) or playing MC Frontalot at HedgeCon.

Rob Zacny wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:

Side Rant: I am sick of people bringing up MC Frontalot and Protomen as some kind of abomination that you should never listen to if you're an emotionally mature human being because they have no appeal if you've ever had sex or experienced "real" culture. You know what? I consider my musical tastes fairly diverse and The Protomen are good prog rock. MC Frontalot is funny and just because he talks about a culture you may not be a part of it doesn't mean he isn't speaking truth. f*ck your elitism.

The reason it gets brought up all the time is because these acts have become the official house bands of gamer gatherings. You resent elitism? Fine. I resent pigeonholing. I don't need nerd-approved music to headline at my nerd convention where I listen to nerd-approved speakers. It's suffocating! Oh, you like videogames? Then have I got a treat for you! Let's all sing "Still Alive" for the millionth time, and then maybe for an encore we can dance to chiptunes. It sounds like the games you love!

It has nothing to do with whether I think it's music for uncultured celibates, and everything to do with the kind of conformity it represents. When energy drinks advertise themselves and Gamer Fuel, it bugs me in the exact same way as someone presenting "gamer music."

The music industry has kinda collapsed in on itself. I can't blame artists for finding a profitable niche and playing to it, as long as they're making good music.

And this isn't pigeonholing, because this isn't about these bands being the only ones you listen to. Or even encouraging that kind of behavior. It's the fact that PAX is a convention about video games and who are they going to get to be at the concerts? It's a gaming convention, of course these guys are the house band. You don't want to hear it go do one of the other billion activities going on at the same time. How are these bands pigeonholing people because they're about games?

How is any other band less guilty of this? If you go to a metal festival, is it pigeonholing that all the bands are metal? If you go to a hippie-fest and it's all folk music, do these people need to stop pigeonholing themselves? Or maybe they want to go get immersed in that part of their life for a few days then leave it behind and go back to their other activities.

re: "Still Alive" for the billionth time. Because no musician has ever had a breakout hit they have to sing at every concert because fans demand it. I probably won't go to a Coulton concert again because of that, as it did annoy me how it was basically everyone singing the songs they already knew. I don't blame people for liking it though, or judge them for it. I also don't blame people going to Aerosmith concerts for the 3000th time and hearing the same songs over and over again.

edit: Sorry for the hostility, I'm toning it down a bit

Switchbreak wrote:

This reminds of the last time I went to a concert. Everyone there was just so into this band, they were dancing around, I saw one guy singing along, they were buying merchandise from the little table in the corner. Can you imagine anything more pathetic?

Your comment made me think, especially since I go in for the kind of shows where the crowd turns into more of a rugby maul than a listening experience. I guess the difference is a gaming convention is not gaming, though. You're actually listening to the music at a show--at a gaming convention, you're not playing the games.

PyromanFO wrote:

And this isn't pigeonholing, because this isn't about these bands being the only ones you listen to. Or even encouraging that kind of behavior. It's the fact that PAX is a convention about video games and who are they going to get to be at the concerts? It's a gaming convention, of course these guys are the house band. You don't want to hear it go do one of the other billion activities going on at the same time. How are these bands pigeonholing you because they're about games? Gaming doesn't define you, remember?

How is any other band less guilty of this? If you go to a metal festival, is it pigeonholing that all the bands are metal? If you go to a hippie-fest and it's all folk music, do these people need to stop pigeonholing themselves? Or maybe they want to go get immersed in that part of their life for a few days then leave it behind and go back to their other activities.

Don't know if that's a fair comparison, for basically the same reasons as mentioned above to Switchbreak. Why does gaming *need* some kind of associated music? Metal heads obviously love metal. Hippies like folk music because, well, hippie was sort of a 'back to the way we used to live before the big bad industrial world came along' thing and folk music fits in with that quite nicely.

Gaming though? Isn't gaming...too diverse to have certain music associated with it and not others? There's all kinds of music in games--the dude that raps at the end of CoD, the soundtrack that comes with Persona 4, the stuff Three Dog plays on Galaxy News Radio, "Baba Yetu" at the beginning of Civ4, etc.

If we're going for 'video game music' well, that's a pretty broad 'genre' isn't it? That could be everything from a show by the bands you're talking about to a throwback dance hall experience modeled on Fort Frolic.

Nerd and Hipster need to duke it out for the title of "least useful ubiquitous cultural descriptor".

I identified with parts of both pieces. I don't really identify with or enjoy most of "nerd culture" (imagine those quotation marks being much bigger), and a lot of people who self-identify as "nerds" make me want to get into it all the less. But I also understand that there are lots of people who do identify with it, and do so with an intensity I don't begin to share. And that's totally ok. That's awesome, in fact.

I love video games. I love to play them, I love to chat with friends about them, I love to read about them and I love to listen, while I work, to people talking about them for hours every week. If that makes me a "nerd" or something, that is fine, I suppose. My lack on interest in the career of George Lucas and my inability to find pirates or ninjas cool/funny might brand me as a "snobby nerd" to others. Even having that type of conversation is just so... childish. If someone has terrible social skills, it's not because they love Tolkien. They just happen to have terrible social skills. There isn't a "class" of people who "are nerds". It's a lazy, prefab identity delivered like a death sentence to some, worn with pride by others, and clung to by a few as a mark of how the world just doesn't understand them (whether it does or doesn't).

The big problem -- I feel -- is the sort of scummy elitists seem to want a trade show rather than a fan convention. If you don't like the 'nerds' polluting your space with their fun, I'd suggest skipping PAX. Head to E3 or GDC if you're some sort of writer who's above the unclean masses.

Let me preface this statement by saying I have never gone to PAX, however, I would be loathed to see it become the video gaming equivalent to the local boat show.

This is like showing up to Pride Fest 2011 and getting mad there's a dude in a leather harness with a pink feather boa. How in the f*ck did you put yourself in that position in the first place to get pissed about it?

TheHipGamer wrote:

It's especially awkward when the hobby isn't, say, something productive or creative -- like art, not that we don't view bug-eyed painters as being a bit unusual -- but is instead pure escapism.

Easy, fella. You may be wandering into a sketchy corner of town.

bombsfall wrote:

Nerd and Hipster need to duke it out for the title of "least useful ubiquitous cultural descriptor".

bombsfall, I've said it before but I think I love you.

I used to think I was a nerd. Some people still refer to me that way. Having come into closer contact with some facet of American culture on this forum, it seems to me that I'm not and never have been.

For some reason, the one common aspect of being a nerd seems to be some sort of oppression. That's the undertone I got from both articles. The reason Garrett Martin has disdain and despite for any kind of nerd stereotype seems to me to be because those stereotypes were applied to him and were used to humiliate and oppress him earlier in life. The reason Alex takes such offense is because he's (mistakenly, IMO) relating his game interest to his inability to make small talk.

I can understand and sympathize with both viewpoints, from my own perspective, they're both just voices crying out for help coming from abused teenagers who've never been comforted.

I, myself, have never been abused for having an interest in gaming. Where I live, games are hideously expensive. Only the top 10% of income earners can even buy a set of D&D books for their children. Only a small minority in addition to that can spare money to photocopy the books and have children who can read English enough to enjoy playing D&D.

Thus, playing games carries an inherent badge of economic superiority, which would be foolish to ridicule. At the least, the economically superior person can just ignore the teasing (because his family can afford things like plane flights and cars). At the worst, he can pay people to beat you up.

Further, not being an obsessive type myself, I enjoy a breadth of hobbies, and the obsessive personality doesn't merely exist in gaming. Neither is social awkwardness restricted to those who choose to game to spend their leisure activities. I've met cyclists who couldn't talk about anything other than cycling, who had bad breath, and had terrible hygiene (relatively speaking), and no ability to small talk. I've met triathletes who had the same shortcomings, as well as basketball enthusiasts, shoppers, gym rats, and hot rodders.

IF nerd means that you can't do small talk and are obsessive, then it's clear to me that we're mislabeling the majority of gamerdom as nerds, and missing a great deal more nerds in subcultures that don't game.

TheHipGamer wrote:
Switchbreak wrote:

This reminds of the last time I went to a concert. Everyone there was just so into this band, they were dancing around, I saw one guy singing along, they were buying merchandise from the little table in the corner. Can you imagine anything more pathetic?

I think the equivalent, though, would be the guy in the audience who is dressed up like the guys playing, loudly singing along, and who awkwardly jumps on stage in the middle of the performance and has to be removed by the bouncers. In other words, you have to find the generally acceptable line of social engagement (dancing, singing, buying merch) and then hop over it to draw a proper analogy.

Dude. You should never wear the band's t-shirt to the concert.

bombsfall wrote:

Nerd and Hipster need to duke it out for the title of "least useful ubiquitous cultural descriptor".

I identified with parts of both pieces. I don't really identify with or enjoy most of "nerd culture" (imagine those quotation marks being much bigger), and a lot of people who self-identify as "nerds" make me want to get into it all the less. But I also understand that there are lots of people who do identify with it, and do so with an intensity I don't begin to share. And that's totally ok. That's awesome, in fact.

I love video games. I love to play them, I love to chat with friends about them, I love to read about them and I love to listen, while I work, to people talking about them for hours every week. If that makes me a "nerd" or something, that is fine, I suppose. My lack on interest in the career of George Lucas and my inability to find pirates or ninjas cool/funny might brand me as a "snobby nerd" to others. Even having that type of conversation is just so... childish. If someone has terrible social skills, it's not because they love Tolkien. They just happen to have terrible social skills. There isn't a "class" of people who "are nerds". It's a lazy, prefab identity delivered like a death sentence to some, worn with pride by others, and clung to by a few as a mark of how the world just doesn't understand them (whether it does or doesn't).

Whilst my personal specifics vary, I deeply agree with the sentiment presented by Bombsfall here. Most people, whether they label themselves or not, are a mix of a wide variety of social types. I myself am very nerdy compared to my workmates (I work in the technical side of the Australian Timber Industry), but my work makes me very "manly" (my apologies on that) amongst my social group of WoW players and Magic: The Gathering weekly game nights.

Around 5 years ago I would of heavily identified myself as a gamer, a nerd or a geek. As I aged (early 30's now) I identify myself as a Husband and Father more than anything else. Do I still play video games, HELLS YES! My daughter goes to bed at 7:30 and I am blessed with a wife that lets me pursue my own entertainment (eg; I do not have to watch bad drama with her). Did I go to Thor / Sucker Punch with a life-long friend as our monthly man-date as a guilty pleasure, absolutely. I have not 1 but 5 max level World of Warcraft characters (sad but true). Whilst all this makes me out to be a "nerd" I had no idea (and now wish I could return to that state of ignorance) who MC Frontalot is. Outside of gaming, sci-fi and reading my nerd traits start to fade into the shadows. I hate Buffy, but love The Big Bang Theory*. Joss Wheton directing the Avengers worries me, but I am wait with baited breath for the 3rd Christopher Nolan Batman movie. I have said for years that I would "jump the fence" for Dave Grohl (true story) but despise so much of the "nerd-music" some of my friends listen to. I play Magic: The Gathering (almost) every week yet shudder at the notion of returning to actual role-playing.

What’s the point I am trying to get out? If you saw me walking down the street with my 20mth old daughter and wife in tow I would look no different than the vast majority of people around (ok, maybe a tad louder and with a propensity to swear), yet the very same afternoon if I was with a few mates having a BBQ at home, the hyper-nerd conversations would make the average person swear I was all the way down the Rabbit Hole and living in Wonderland.

I have always believed that when you start labelling people and subjective topics you start limiting them. I myself am part-Nerd, part-bloke, full time Dad, BBQ-extraordinaire, Red Wine snob, Movie critique, Foo Fighters tragic, casual mountain bike rider etc etc. Classifying people as "Nerds", "Jocks", "Elitists", "Hipster", "Goths" is a modern version of a class system in many ways. It makes me sad. Thank f*ck I married a psychologist.

* The sheer joy that my 20 month old daughters favourite show is The Big Bang Theory cannot be described. Whenever she replies with "B-Bang" to the question of what she would like to watch, my little cold heart skips a beat

Going to PAX is like trying to assault a band by jumping on stage? Seriously? Everyone who makes you uncomfortable is automatically so far over the line as to have to be physically restrained?

Wait, what? I didn't say that, at all. I went to PAX, and loved it. My concert comment was comparing a hypothetical uber-fan at a concert and the uber-fan gamer described by the original poster, and was a rejection of the weaker (strawman, I suspect) analogy that Switchbreak made.

How do you tell when someone has gone too far in their hobby?

I'm not the arbiter of what "too far" means. Maybe it's the sales guy in me, however, but I think it's pretty obvious when someone is "off". When enough social cues are missed, or when the right big ones aren't in place, that person makes me back off a bit. That was my original point: as PC as we all like to be, there's nothing wrong with saying, "Hey, I like X, but there's a point at which X ceases to be a hobby and becomes creepy and definitional. I don't want to cross that line, and I'm uncomfortable around people who have."

But let's make sure to kick these nerds in the one place they feel safe because nobody will even raise an eyebrow.

I am not certain what you think my position is, but it's not this.

beating up on the dude in the elven cloak is just targeting the weak because you know you can get away with it.

Pointing out, in a blog format, that the dude in the elven cloak gets negative attention because he's crossed a social boundary that most of us steer clear of isn't really beating up on him. It's looking at our own subculture and recognizing that the people within it are not homogenous, and that there are behaviors on the ends of the spectrum that are discomforting.

Oh, you like videogames? Then have I got a treat for you! Let's all sing "Still Alive" for the millionth time, and then maybe for an encore we can dance to chiptunes. It sounds like the games you love!

Amen.

A folk singer I like has a line in one of his songs that says, "too much money can ruin anything / I've seen it ruin music, I've seen it ruin sports". The problem is (as with other industries that have deviated from pleasure to profit) that there is money to be made by creating and marketing a particular lifestyle and image.