There’s a conversation happening in geek/nerd culture and it’s a great one, to an extent. See there’s a lot being said about how popular geek/nerd culture is these days. A conversation about how the stigma of being a gamer or enjoying comic books has lessened over the years. And I’m not saying this isn’t true. But there is a theme that arises in a lot of these conversations about the trials and tribulations of growing up a geek when it wasn’t cool to be a geek that I can’t agree with. This theme is one of loneliness and a tough choice between having to be a nerd or dating.
Growing up a geek didn’t mean that I always had a date. Like any teenager or young adult there were times when I did and there were times when I didn’t. But the choice to date, to interact with girls, never came down to me having to choose between the hobby I loved dearly and snuggling up to someone. As a young man I had to develop a skill that has helped me go far in life, time management.
Being a functioning adult means balancing various demands on life. This idea holds true for nerds as it does for anyone else. As a young lad I had to decide when I wanted to spend my Friday night rolling dice or eating popcorn with a pretty girl. Some Fridays I’d game. Others I’d go to the movies. Or I’d schedule gaming related events in the early afternoon so that I’d have my evenings free to be sociable with other people.
Next came developing multiple interest. I was never afraid of being a nerd. These days most of my friends know that if I’m causally reading on my Nexus 7, odds are strong that I’m reading an rpg supplement. But before the implementation of pdfs and tablets I used to carry good ole fashion rpg supplements. You know how heavy those get in a back pack after awhile!!! But that wasn’t the end of my personality or the scope of my interest. Yeah I could go on and on about why THACO sucked, or why Mage was better than Vampire, or why the X-Men combined would never in one million years be as cool as Batman. But I could also hold a reasonable conversation about politics. Sure I didn’t play any sports but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t be caught dead at a college football game (as an fyi they can be a lot of fun). I not only watched Star Trek The Next Generation but also The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In short I developed a varied set of interest and this variety of interest allowed me to have something to say in the company of gamers and in the company of non gamers.
I make mention of this not to understate the difficulties faced by gamers, nerds and geeks growing up. Instead I bring this up to serve as a reminder that not every nerd had a difficult time growing up. Your teenage years and into your young adult years is a very hard time for everyone. Regardless of your hobbies and interest. It’s a time of self discovery. It’s a time when you desperately want to fit in. It’s a time in your life where you start to figure the kind of person you want to be when you “grow up”. I placed quotes there mostly because we never really grow up.
It’s important to remember that everyone faces these basic challenges. And we all adapt differently. It’s important to remember that everyone faces these challenges so that we can come together as people. Focusing on that period of our lives as being some how negative because you had to make a hard choice between gaming and dating is misleading. It’s a choice we all make no matter the hobby. It also scares away people who may otherwise self identify as a geek or nerd. No one wants to be alone. And no one wants to get involved in a hobby that may make them feel alone.
Now I’m not going to claim it’s easy. It takes a lot of work balancing the various aspects of life and my personality. But it is equally rewarding.
Being in this hobby doesn’t condemn you to a life of solitude.