Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Not Easy Being Nerdy

Very, very late update from my last post. I recently moved into a new house (yes, a house!) so I don't have internet there yet. Most of my last two weeks has been very busy moving things, packing, unpacking, and so on.

This update is going to be about the media, and specifically about how they don't get along with us nerds. It is a rant. It will not be full of very much useful information.

It seems like every time I hear a news story about the Internet, gaming, or anything nerdy (eg. furries), it's portrayed in a distinctly negative light. It seems like anyone who surfs the internet is a hacker, software pirate, or child molester. Most older people I know who have never touched a computer claim that they're afraid that someone will hack them and steal everything they have.

As we all know already, video games teach our games to kill, and modern video games are indistinguishable from real life. It seems like every time a kid picks up a gun, a first-person shooter or Rockstar game is at fault. If video games actually teach something or promote something, it is pretty much always overlooked in favor of the violence they seem to create. I think the fiasco surrounding Mass Effect (where a person who had never played the game accused it of being sexually explicit) was particularly indicative of how the media is willing to jump at anything in order to portray games in a bad light.

Perhaps more hilarious is the whole idea that 4chan or other imageboards are 'hacker havens' or homes to child molesters. I think 4chan is bad too, but not to the same degree that the news portrays it. What is even more annoying is the misconception that there are numerous malicious hackers ready and waiting to get inside your computer and steal your personal information or destroy your computer. Most good hackers get well-paying government jobs and the bad hackers can be stopped with easy to install security software. Even then, the internet is mostly a safe place. Malicious hackers number a tiny fraction of the internet's denizens. Most non-nerds will never meet one, and many nerds won't either.

On the other hand, child predators on the internet are an issue, but the issue is not as clear-cut or easy as one might think. Not everyone talking to your kids on the internet is a child predator. If your 15 year old daughter is flirty on the internet and picks up attention from guys because of it, she is partly to blame for anything that does happen (this doesn't absolve the criminal but it does put some blame on the girl). What puts the girl more at blame is the fact that they will often arrange RL meetings and lie about their age! Is it the guy's fault that he tried to hook up with a girl on the internet? (answer: still yes, but girl is very much to blame too)

When I was going through college I had to deal with this stereotype a lot. Both left-wing and right-wing groups tend to dislike video games for some reason. Left-wing people tend to ignore that restrictions on video game publishing pretty much strictly violates the rights to free speech, which I find somewhat hypocritical. When I stood up to defend gamer rights and absolve developers of liability in a very liberal education society, it seemed like everyone would rather blame games rather than their parents. Maybe in another 20 years things will be different.

Or will it? The world looks brighter, or so a billion other blogs tell me. Barack Obama is in office, and he's the first nerd in office, ever. He told the Secret Service that they could pry his BlackBerry from his fingers, and now he's the first president to have email at his fingertips all the time. He's got a Twitter account. He reads Spider-Man. Hell, Marvel gave him a Spider-Man cover.

Hopefully the world will change its view of us a little sooner.


  1. If rumors are true, Barack Obama is even more of a nerd than that. To quote one of my favorite web sites,
    "American President Barack Obama has demonstrated a deep familiarity with Star Trek, joked at the Alfred E. Smith memorial dinner about being sent by his father Jor-El to save the planet Earth, apparently dressed as a wizard to take his daughters to a midnight release of a Harry Potter book, and according to a possibly apocryphal report on is familiar enough with Internet memes to make Zero Wing jokes."

    You can see the whole entry, here:

    In fact, that entire article promotes (albeit in a way that lacks notability) the idea that "Nerd Culture" is on the rise in the mainstream media, which is undoubtedly a positive turn for our sub-culture.

  2. I actually talked with the blogger guy who coined the Zero Wing reference, who got it from a fellow reporter. I challenged the idea that Obama, or any person, would play Zero Wing for more than a few minutes. He said he wasn't 100% sure on his source's reliability, so we might never actually know that information for sure.

    The game has a really bright screen flash every time an enemy ship dies, and most gaming critics describe it as 'seizure-inducing.'

    I'm pretty sure Obama knows about AYB though, because the Jor-El joke is probably slightly more obscure.