Something that has always bothered me, especially the teen years, was the label “nerd”. I can admit I’m a nerd. I can admit it to myself, I can admit it to close friends, I can admit it to the internet. I cannot, however, admit it to an actual crowd of people. You see, despite all this “progression” that nerds and geeks alike have done, from that awkward to kid who got wedgies, like, all of the time, to the respected celebrities we look up to who are so obviously nerdy, it hurts (Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day are really good examples), it’s hard for me to be able to say to peers that yeah, I’m a gaming nerd.
I grew up in a small town. I didn’t move to a small town, I grew up in one. I grew up in Mulino, Oregon. Mulino, Oregon has a population of at least twenty people WITHIN the “town” itself. Outside of that, a couple hundred, maybe. From Mulino, I went to school in Molalla. Nerds and geeks were frowned upon. And this was in the 2000s. You did not admit you liked MMORPGs like World of Warcraft unless you wanted to be in the very dredges of middle school/high school society. You didn’t admit that you liked anime or manga, except under very special circumstances. No, the only thing online that would make you “cool” was Myspace (at one time) and then Facebook. And as a kid who wanted at the very least to stay invisible, it was hard. I had my friends, of course, and we did talk about gaming or what we were reading/watching, or we’d all admire Kati’s art, because she was seriously the best artist ever — at least in our eyes. When Kiana came along, we admired hers, too.
Other than that, you kept your mouth shut and you didn’t talk about things that could get you beat up. And I’ll admit, for such a long time, I was ashamed of what I was. It wasn’t enough that I was fat and awkward, I didn’t need to let people know what I did in my spare time.
But you know why I’m a nerd? Because of my family. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing still, but it’s okay. And seeing my brother fully accept he’s a nerd? WONDERFUL. I don’t think I’ve met a kid who’s embraced he’s a nerd like my little bro has in… well… ever. He’s got friends in high school who play Dungeons and Dragons in a computer shop in Redmond. Could you get any nerdier? That is like the epitome of nerd success right there.
I never minded staying up into the, uh, early hours of the morning playing video games (some of which they need to bring back or make sequels of — LOOKING AT YOU, BALDUR’S GATE: DARK ALLIANCE) or, playing Dungeons and Dragons late into the night. You don’t know people until you have to role play with them. Trust me on this. And I grew up with a dad who told stories based off of different scenarios from the game books. Pretty sure that’s why I’m into fantasy novels over any other genre.
It was hard, though. Because I always felt, somewhere in the back of my mind, that if I admitted it to admitted it to my peers, no one would like me. It probably didn’t help, either, that kids who were into the same things as me, thought I was a poser (to be honest, I’m pretty sure I could’ve kicked their asses in a duel any day of the week). Why admit anything but the charade I was normal if all I was gonna get was laughed at by both the cool kids AND the weird kids? It wasn’t worth it. Not then, it wasn’t.
But it’s okay to be a nerd in society today. Maybe we should be going outside a little more often, but hey, there’s been a significant decrease of being thrown into garbage cans. Might be we will even help you with your homework if you’re nice.