The Self-Aggrandizing Nerd and Gamer Entitlement

The underlying cause behind #GamerGate is worth discussing on its own, because it's an invasive attitude that permeates every level of fan culture and enables people to do all sorts of horrible things while thinking their hands are clean. This attitude, born from lashing out against "jocks" and mainstream mocking of niche hobbies, is one that has no place in the modern world, but which remains anyway.

The attitude of the self-aggrandizing nerd.

Cultural History

Nerd, as a word, originated as an alternative to other words which described people who were shy, bookish, and obsessive. It was used by predominantly social people to put down introverts and the studious, usually in order to appear stronger with the overall social heirarchy. It was an insult.

Cue movies like Revenge of the Nerds and other modern stories where the weird science-obsessed introvert saved the day through insight and intelligence. These stories taught an entire generation that it was okay to have niche hobbies, that it was okay to enjoy alternative activities such as Dungeons and Dragons or reading a book a day. They made "being smart" acceptable to the general public, even if doing nerdy things like rolling dice or fixing spreadsheets is not necessarily a measure of intelligence.

As these children grew to adults, they took the new meaning of nerd - somebody with an interest in science, fantasy, or game-related activities - and removed most of the negative connotations of a creepy shut-in weirdo. "Nerd" became synonymous with "fan."

Modern Context

Unfortunately, the self-promotion didn't stop there. While nerds became mainstream through the popularization of traditionally nerdy things, their victim complex and hubris continued to grow. Now, associating with certain fandoms, like science-fiction or games, makes you inherently smarter, or at least better than the people around you. This expresses itself through the often-claimed "rationality" that nerds like to throw around, as though they understand the methods of critical thought or reasoning.

This obsession with being smarter than everybody else quickly swung being a nerd - in the fan sense of the word - from acceptable to annoying. Nerds crow about how great they are, about how rational they are, and about how everybody else can suck it. This is neither rational nor interesting; it's self-promotion of the most annoying kind. For a prime example, read Wil Wheaton's twitter.

I say this as somebody who grew up believing in the inherent "superiority of the nerd." Culture and movies taught me that the nerdy underdog got the girl in the end, that I would hold power over my tormentors, and that I was inherently smarter than everybody else. None of these things are even remotely true, and as I grew older I realized the lie that I was sold on the back of this single term. That's why I don't call myself a gamer or a nerd any more; it would be freely associating with some of the worst people I know.

This negativity means that nerd is now once again a dirty word. Rather than meaning somebody bookish and quiet, it means somebody so obsessed with the basics of fandom and consumption that they build their entire identity around a commercial product. When somebody derogatorily calls you a nerd, they mean that you are being an insufferable asshole so enamored with the thought of appearing smart that you actually come across as an insensitive dick.

Relation to Gamers

Gamers, at least as the original definition of "hardcore gaming enthusiast," fall squarely under the nerd umbrella.

Think about people who play games and identify themselves as gamers. They often throw around their gaming accomplishments as though they mean anything in real life. Chances are they sneer at people who play games that don't fall within a specific definition they agree with. They obsess about the number of games they own and how much they are worth. They talk endlessly about games without ever actually critically looking at them.

Thus, a modern gamer is the perfect definition of the modern nerd. Gamers, as a group, take themselves so seriously and are so full of self-important nonsense that they drive away anybody who dares to extend the definition. This is why nerd is an insult, and it's why people who no longer identify as "gamers" call gamers nerds. They are the worst of the worst, and the term needs to die off before it can be truly revived in a positive way.

Everybody Needs A Dragon

Unfortunately, this ties into the concept that everybody needs to define their struggles within the context they are most familiar with. When it comes to gamers, this means painting real-life arguments, discussions, and controversies in the light of gaming.

The number of people posting things like "They can't stop us; we died hundreds of times in Dark Souls and got up for more" in threads about all this gaming media controversy is unacceptable; that is to say, greater than absolutely zero. The fact that people are even saying this shows a disconnection from reality, much less humor. It supposes that games inherently make you stronger or better by playing them, and that you aren't actually wasting your time when you play a game and beat it.

As somebody who loves games, and who plays them almost every minute of every day: this is complete horse shit. Games do not make you superior. They don't even make you smarter. There is evidence to suppose that games improve your spatial orientation, reflexes, and problem solving skills, but playing football or basketball has the same effect. By painting yourself in a brush dipped in the paint of mainstream consumerist media, you make yourself look like an out of touch moron whose game playing is bleeding into reality in an unhealthy way. And that depiction is totally accurate.

To zoom back camera a little bit here, you can even point to the language of this controversy as being steeped in the norms of violence we experience when playing games. Supporters describe minor events as battles, dissenters as villains to be defeated, and continued discussion as "winning." These aren't healthy ways to look at a nuanced discussion. In fact, they make you look like a sociopath obsessed with tilting at windmills and defeating imaginary dragons because that's all your hobby taught you to do.

The way we approach the world matters, and if the lesson you derived from games is that you must destroy your opponents to make it to the next stage, you approached both games and the world wrong. Games are a construct, a way for us to escape the construct-less world we live in, and applying those same cultural and mental rules to the real world is damaging. Not just to you, but to society at large. It shows that you are an obsessed fan too concerned with their hobby and not concerned enough with problems that actually matter. It shows that you treasure consumerism and consumption over nuance and critical thought.

In short, don't be a nerd.

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