Nerd Rage: the Double-Edged Sword

There's a costume update in the works (woot for progress!), but that will likely be the subject of the next post. This entry is a tangential follow-up to last week's dissection of the most common labels ascribed to…well the conglomerates of individuals who would most likely enjoy the contents of this blog and sites like this. It was one of the most-read posts featured on the blog thus far and for good reason. Though being a nerd or geek in some way, shape or form is probably as old as human history (I get a phenomenal mental image of two Indo-Aryan kids arguing about which demon king posed the greatest threat to the gods) we've only been able to regularly extend beyond our immediate social circles, and outside the context of a convention, and observe the geekiness of our brethren for the past few decades. Of course, this holds true for many other social sub-groups, which is why we see the kind of debate surrounding our own self-identifiers that was discussed earlier.

Looking over that introductory paragraph, we can see that 'arguing' and 'debate' seem to seed themselves naturally in those descriptions. Indeed, there are likely few among us who are not at least familiar with just how prevalent conflict and angst are in nerdy society. While some disputes concerning properties have a fairly prodigious history which have, in turn, been used as qualifiers for discerning one's identity as nerd/geek/dork/all of the above, general contentiousness seems to be just as prevalent as this formal discussion. Though these may foment the behavior, these historic discourses are far from the font of all nerd rage.

Oh nerd rage. You are simultaneously as stereotype-reinforcing as you are misunderstood. Nerd rage, like many other nerdy/geeky descriptors, boasts a plethora of potential definitions, but the underlying core of this behavior is somewhat consistent throughout. The Rage is a emotion or series of emotions expressed by our peers (and/or ourselves) when a beloved nerdy property is misrepresented or a long-held belief/expectation concerning said franchise is brusquely called into question by another individual.
Deliberate misrepresentation = nerd rage fodder
While most of us have accepted this reaction, on some level, as intrinsic to our social subgroup, those who self-identify off the Nerd-Geek Spectrum will point to this indignant, sometimes incoherent, ranting as 'evidence' of nerds/geeks being little more than overgrown man-children (or woman-children). What we see as impassioned defense of our long-hewn opinions on a given subject is regarded by others as little more than a temper tantrum.

So what is it? Is Nerd Rage a modern-day form of the Socratic Method as applied to Tolkien, Wizards of the Coast, or Valve? Or is it the periodic outbursts of a spoiled, socially awkward minority accustomed to getting their way?  The burgeoning of the Nerdaissance and the corresponding influx of curious individuals has muddled the line between these distinctions, particularly with regard to video games as the latter arguably has the most crossover traffic between nerds and non-nerds. The interwebs, in addition to allowing for a sharing of nerdy experiences, gives any connected person the ability to vent their spleens at any given hour across any number of forums. This sheer facility, and the volume of complaints related thereto, combined with the illusion of safety that only anonymity can provide has merged to create a certain weight behind this digital conglomeration of semi-public opinion. The angst of this collective is a powerful thing that can be used to bring about change, as we saw with the response to the ending of Mass Effect 3. Though this is comingled frustration concerning what was historically regarded as a nerdy property (video games), can it actually be termed 'nerd rage'? Many geeks/nerds would probably say no; the backlash against EA was the cumulative chagrin of fans of the series who expected a certain experience and were mightily disappointed. The issue is the following: it doesn't matter what we feel this reaction was; the non-nerdy public considers this behavior to be nerdrage, thus equating our frustrations with petulant whining.

This is a disturbing trend to say the least. As the non-nerdy world writes off these paroxyms as the misbehavior of querulous gamers, our own vocalizations are depreciated in kind. Such disregard will worsen if we, as nerds, do not make concerted efforts to understand what is occurring in the industries we helped bring into being and utilize the resources at our disposal to countermand this when possible.

A different sort of raging, but a feeling most of us can readily relate to.
Do we tend to exhibit certain levels of social awkwardness? Sometimes. Does our passion for certain properties occasionally spill over into the realm of anger? Sure. (see: the Star Wars Prequels) Were many of us the subjects of merciless teasing in our youth and now, as adults, tend to be oversensitive and thus highly defensive of the things we hold dear. Definitely.

The above is nerd rage. It's wrought from a childhood often spent on the proverbial fringes and rooted in the defense of the things that brought us comfort and made us feel alive during those times (the social repercussions of nerdiness will be the subject of a future post). It's not always justified and, with the onslaught of the Nerdaissance, more closely resembles the nascent hipster movement in recent years. It is not making aimless demands or lashing out irrationally at an individual who is clearly new to a game. The latter is just straight douchebaggery.

The mis-labeling of nerd rage may temper somewhat when the cycle progresses and nerdy properties fade into the background for a time. What we need to do in the meantime is get smart about how we are regarded by those around us. While it's one thing to maintain your individual thoughts and emotions, we need to realize that the outside perception of our demographic is shaping the industries thatare the caretakers of the properties we love. Dismissing this trend will not likely produce results that are favorable to anyone and we, sensitive as we are, stand to lose the most.

We tend to be an intelligent lot. We just need to apply the foresight and attention to detail that we're capable of to mindful consumption and conscious reaction. What we, as a collective, do now will likely shape nerdery as we know it for generations to come.

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