5 Rules of Etiquette for the Clueless Nerd
For a while now, Nerdom has been a thing. I’m old enough to remember when it totally wasn’t—when there wasn’t a possibility of becoming a major league gamer, so your parents always worried when you played video games at all. Back when there was no EVO. And back when people weren’t so proud to be nerds that non-nerds posed to fit in.
But now we are a huge community with rules and guidelines just like any other.
Unfortunately, I’ve realized over the years that among those rules and guidelines, there aren’t many for nerd etiquette. You’ll find very general, unspoken rules on forums or the ever-flaming comments section of whatever website you visit, but it feels like we’re just about at a point where we could use some serious rules to live by.
Here’s my attempt to drop five.
5. When You’re with Non-Nerds, Don’t Make Nerd References
So you’re at a party—congrats. The thing is, it’s not a nerd party; let’s say it’s a friend’s friend’s birthday. It’s at a bar—there are real people who care about things like sports and not the speculated color of the PS4. And among those sports-loving folk, probably the most non-nerdy of all are your friend’s friends.
Now, maybe you totally love sports and can ham it up with these people.
But maybe you keep wanting to talk about your Batarian Soldier. Maybe your friend just said something that would totally work as an awesome launching pad for your one inside joke about web shooters. Maybe, just maybe, it would be totally fine if you do the joke, laugh with your one buddy, and then explain it to everyone. I mean, everyone knows Spider-Man, right? And, I mean, Batman? Who doesn’t know Batman? They’ll probably absolutely love it.
Here’s what’ll happen. You’ll step in and sing “Little Sister” in Big Daddy groans and everyone will be absolutely confused. Everyone but your friend, who will suddenly be caught in that hard place between laughing at that joke that no one else gets and smoothing over the situation with the 18 people at the table who are suddenly wondering just who you are and possibly who invited you.
And you, throwing all caution back like that last beer, launch right into your explanation of the joke, at which point the #*%$ really hits the fan: “Okay. See, cause there’s this game? It’s called Bioshock? (And yes, everything you say at this point will sound like a question.) And, like, alright, there are these little girls running around? And, well… Okay, you have to… well, you have to find them, right? By fighting off these things called Big Daddies? And you have the choice of killing them and eating a slug you pull out of their bodies or…”
And only then do you realize what you’ve done. Everyone’s uncomfortable. And confused. Because the average sports-watching, non-fiction-reading, reality TV-addicted individual has absolutely no threshold for the kind of fantastic concepts you find in video games. Or comics; you’re in the center of a pile of people who look at super heroes and see dudes in underwear and capes with magical pixie powers. And you? Now you’re a stupid kid; immediately, everyone at the table thinks you’re an idiot. And there’s no going back; now the safest route is cutting off the end of your explanation and gracefully trying to bow out of sight or go the rest of the party talking to everyone about things that they, ya know, care about. At all.
Of course, this isn’t always going to be the reaction, but if only for your friend who now feels incredibly awkward (maybe), you just shouldn’t ever try making that reference.
But isn’t there a good chance someone will get the reference / joke / whatever? Of course, it depends, but really, come on—just don’t try it. Maybe everyone at this table will know enough about Batman to get your general reference to the Joker. Maybe only half of them will. But there’s still a chance you’ll weird some people out. And if you’re going to quote Professor Pyg, then you seriously need to reevaluate yourself and your interactions with general society. If you’re preparing to regale even a single person with your detailed thesis about why the Joker can never die, you’d better be damn sure they’re going to appreciate it more than watching the commercials on the TV over the bar.
4. If You Hate It, Hold the Rant
Part of being a nerd is being really passionate about nerdy stuff. Whether you’re a fanboy or a troll, your opinions are a major part of being a nerd, just as it’s part of being a human.
The thing is, and this happens all the time, some people totally lose it with the hate and wind up making @)#(# of themselves. I’ve totally done this in the past as well, but just as an example, a hypothetical situation:
You: “God. Zelda sucks so much.”
Someone Else: “Wha? You don’t like Zelda?”
You: “No, dude. The last good one was Link to the Past. The 3D ones are so terrible. And Link looks like a girl.”
Someone Else: “… Well, alright, if that’s your—”
You: “I mean, seriously, how many guys do you see dressing up as Link for Comic Con? Seriously. How many? Like, I think I saw one last year. One guy and like, ten women as Link.”
Someone Else: “Well, I think it’s pretty awesome when a woman dresses up as Link, actually. I saw one girl dressed up as Skywa—”
You: “God, and I’m so damn tired of hearing people go on about Skyward Sword. Seriously, like it’s that amazing.”
Someone Else: “… Do you even own a Wii?”
You: “I played the demo for five minutes last Comic Con. It was all I needed to affirm how overrated it was.”
Someone Else: <realizes you’re a complete moron> “O… kay.”
In this generation, the rise of the fanboy has directly resulted in the rise of the hater—the troll: people who are so determined to hate something that they become as irrational about it as fanboys do about loving their favorite franchises. The thing is, the average hater is a complete moron who has pretty much no experience with whatever they’re arguing about. It’s not always the case, but 9 times out of 10, if someone says, “I hate Batman,” or “I hate Spider-Man,” or whatever, it’s because they’re just determined to hate those things and / or haven’t experienced enough of them to understand them beyond their own assumptions. Last week, I could’ve been all, “Superman’s super lame,” but over the weekend I experienced All-Star Superman for the first time and pulled a complete 180.
The thing is, the average nerd uses their preferences as a major social tool. And a lot of them are clueless enough to walk into a pile of fellow nerds and lay down the wide, all-encompassing hate blanket of, “Well, I think Halo totally sucks and hasn’t contributed nearly as much to gaming as Battlefield 3.”
Maybe you feel justified for saying so. And to a degree, you are. Because, really, at the very least, Battlefield 3 has definitely contributed more to your gaming experience than Halo has. But it doesn’t change the fact that it being your opinion doesn’t make it any more correct than someone else’s opinion. Believing wholeheartedly that your opinion matters more than everyone else’s, however, regardless of evidence and experience, just makes you a close-minded idiot.
And you should never be a close-minded idiot about anything. “I was never really into Halo—I’m more of a Battlefield 3 guy,” can totally express your preferences and mark you as an intelligent non-jerk.
3. Not Everything Is a Segue to Your Nerdcrush
You’re sitting with your friends, having lunch. Someone asks, “How’s French class?”
And immediately, one of your friends, who was completely silent until then, launches in with, “Allons-y!”
Everyone remains silent while she giggles.
Someone says, “So… Yeah, about French class—”
And your friend butts in again to regale you with the current events of David Tennant’s life.
Or Nathan Fillion’s (that would be if someone asked, “How’s Chinese class?” instead, I suppose).
You would really, really think that this would be common sense, but it somehow isn’t. Entire conversations get lost in talk of Matt Smith or… whoever. I know I keep bringing up male nerdcrushes, but I’m sure there are guys out there who also do this (I’ve just honestly had a very serious experience with one friend who did this pretty much every time I saw her).
The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with having a crush on any character or any celebrity. Of course there isn’t.
But if you are the kind of person who thinks about whatever crush so much that you interject them into conversation on a daily basis and then use your own interjection as an opportunity to talk to a group of people about that crush (and to hell with French class!), you probably need to reign that crush in.
At the very least, juuuuuust enough that people don’t start absolutely hating you.
2. For the Love of God, Cut That Stupid Noob Crap Already
This is something that’s blown my mind for quite a while now. The noob phenomenon. When it first started, it was extremely “whatever” to me. It spread quickly and it wasn’t long before I found myself being called a noob on Halo (probably).
The thing is, “noob” is probably the saddest, most embarrassing insult ever. For the person who’s saying it.
“Wait. What? Nah—he’s got it backwards.”
No, dude. I don’t. I totally don’t have it backwards.
In the Spanish language, there are tons of insults. Cursing someone out in Spanish is awesome because it gets super specific. In contrast, cursing someone out in English is incredibly bland and meaningless. You have the one guy shouting, “You’re a stupid idiot!” And the other guy shouts back, “No, you’re the stupid idiot!” Really, it barely means anything.
And that’s the problem with “noob” for me; it barely means anything. And as an English major, that just blows my mind.
But here’s the part where you say, “Well it still barely means something!”
To which I say, yes. Because it actually means that you’re so new at something that you suck at it.
The kicker though is that everyone’s a noob. Everyone. Even if there’s a game you’re amazing at, even if you’re the king of CoD, you were still a noob at them when you started, so in what way does it matter if someone else is also bad when they start? It’s like insulting someone by calling them “a breather” or a “involuntary, internal organ user.”
And really, even if you are the CoD King, someone could still pass you an arcade stick and embarrass the hell out of you in Street Fighter 4 (and vice versa).
And even if you make the claim of, “I could beat anyone at any game,” well…
… either someone’s going to take you out to the park and kick your #($ at soccer or any other physical activity…
… or they’re going to go back to their life that is, guaranteed, more amazing than yours. Because, really, if you’re sitting around every day trying to master the 360 no scope, someone’s probably out there making out with your crush. Or landing that career you’re not working towards. Or making that grade you’re completely blowing off.
And making you the biggest idiot in the world when you point at someone else and shout, “NOOB! HAW HAW!”
1. Don’t Be a Complete $*# Online, Particularly to Women
Multi-player has become a mainstay of modern gaming, even surprising us by being awesome when we least expect it (because how many of us thought ME3′s multi-player would be as awesome as it is?).
The problem here is that multi-player is also a major breeding ground for complete and total stupidity. I don’t mean people who are not playing whatever game mode or stealing kills.
I mean people who run around calling everyone a n*gger on Halo or seriously abusing or hounding women online. Granted, I haven’t encountered any crazy racists on Reach, but… seriously, Fat, Ugly or Slutty is a website.
I wasn’t intending to make this part all about treatment of women on gaming networks, but really, it should be (just looking at Fat, Ugly or Slutty just now totally convinced me). Because seriously…
Here’s the thing; I don’t really have a female friend who’s also a hardcore gamer. You know what I think would be absolutely awesome? Having a female friend who is also a hardcore gamer. You know why I’ll probably never find one?
Because there are countless morons out there belittling women on Xbox Live every day for reasons I totally do not understand.
Maybe these guys are ten year olds. Maybe they’re just stupid teens with absolutely zero tact. Maybe they’re older guys who are embarrassed because all of the time they’ve devoted to achieving maximum pwnage have just been undermined and they’re now distraught.
But regardless, what they need to understand is that women. Play. Video games.
And that the kind of abuse that women get on line makes me, at the very least, honestly ashamed. I would say, “Ashamed to be a man,” but, let’s face it—someone that calls a women a slut or threatens to rape her over Xbox Live or any other network because of the outcome of a video game—a video game—honestly does not deserve to call himself a man.
I honestly don’t know how to wrap this one up aside from telling anyone who’s ever done this to grow up.
And, hey, maybe throwing on this video will also help.