I have been reading a few of books lately that have focused on the geek/nerd subculture. Benjamin Nugent’s American Nerd: The Story of My People does the best job of providing an overall examination of the subject. His conclusions say that nerds like a rule-bound world and sites examples that include amateur radio operators (to include those who favor Morse Code).
Two other books focus on the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing culture. Mark Barrowcliffe’s The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange is an autobiographical look at Mark’s adolescent life growing up as a roll playing enthusiast who takes his gaming desires to a bit of an extreme.
Ethan Gilsdorf’s Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms is the latest. Ethan is a journalist and former gamer who, when he stumbles across his old stash of Dungeons and Dragons material, turns his journalistic talents towards a journey of self-reflection through the current growth (and acceptance(?)) of the gaming culture.
I rented this on my Apple TV: Monster Camp. A hilarious documentary about folks who take role playing to the extreme – leaving the table top and miniature figures and donning the garb of their character to spend the weekend bringing fantasy gaming to life.
These examinations of the geek/nerd subculture have been very enlightening. The recent ground swell is probably due to the maturity of those who lived through the hay-day of Dungeons and Dragons (late 70s and early 80s) which also paralleled the computer revolution. Whether it is for recreational escape or gravitating towards rule-based environments, the geek/nerd has come out of the high school A/V closet and has proudly integrated as a member of society… no longer on the social fringe.
Finally, Cory Doctorow’s Makers is a book I got for Christmas. I actually thought it was non-fiction… I hadn’t read much about it but I enjoy Cory Doctrow. The book is actually science fiction, based in the not to distant future based around a changing world economy that is driven more by small groups of creative individuals reather than large, corporate monoliths. The book has bogged down a bit towards the middle but I am hoping it starts to pick up again.