Nerd Cred and the Gateway MMO

One year, when I was still in elementary school, my mother found that she needed advice. Dad’s birthday was coming up, and she simply did not know what to get him. So, being the kind and thoughtful person she is, she phoned Uncle Pat, one of Dad’s best friends, for some help. “Try Everquest,” he said. “I’ve got it and it’s a lot of fun. I think he’d like it.”

After that, our lives were never the same.

Mom unknowingly went down to the store and picked up what I like to call the gateway drug of MMOs, and much to her dismay, both of her daughters and her husband have been hooked ever since. Though I never played Everquest myself, I enjoyed watching my dad play. To my eight-year-old mind it looked like a movie, but you were the main character! It was YOU who got to slay monsters and explore a new world and outfit yourself with armor befitting a great hero. When I got a little older, I stepped into the online worlds of Guild Wars, SWG, and others, and never looked back.

I think, because I grew up with games, I have learned how to not let them affect me too much. I have an ‘rl’ life much larger than the one I have online, and never let a game release get in the way of homework. I’m also pretty picky about which games I like, so I’ve never had to watch my spending either. It’s the way I present my gaming to the world at large that has always required delicacy. Mostly it’s a matter of who I’m talking to. When asked what writing seminar I was taking by a fellow first-year, I would say, “The one where we get to play video games for class.” Though this is somewhat inaccurate, it allowed me to not only avoid the social stigma of the ‘online gamer’ but to arouse jealousy in the questioner, who usually had a seminar in the wonderful and captivating field of British War Writing. With my friends, however, I could brag all I wanted about the fact that not only was my homework to watch The Fellowship of the Ring, I got to play LotRO for college credit. It’s all about the audience. Not everyone responds to the same things.

That’s not to say that I am not proud to be a nerd, a geek, or a sci-fi aficionado. I just know how to balance them so that those on the outside (you know, the normal people. There’s one! Did you see him?) can still be friends with me–whether or not they speak Klingon (just for the record, I HAVE NEVER STUDIED KLINGON–seriously). Though gaming is one of my favorite things to do, it’s not all I do, nor is it ever all anyone does. If anything, gaming this semester has merely given me extra nerd cred with my high school friends, and made some classmates green with envy. So why is there even a stigma associated with gaming? I could go on all day on that, but, it’s another post.

May the Force be with you!


Social Suicide

“Are you serious?” I nodded; preparing myself for the inevitable onslaught that was to ensue. And, predictably, it came. “Worlds of Wordcraft? You are such a nerd. You realize everyone’s going to judge you for this class and yada yada yada.”

I got this response from everyone after telling him or her my English seminar class choice. To be honest, I didn’t really understand why I wanted to take the course. I had stopped playing videogames after freshman year (aside from the occasional super smash bros. on N64) and I really had no burning desire to learn about gaming. The nagging doubts persisting in the depths my mind shut up long enough for me to finalize my decision and send in my course request form.

I walked in to the first day of class apprehensive, but excited. The room was pretty much what I expected, two large screens, lots of wire, laptops out and powered on, being controlled by normal kids who had a guilty pleasure for gaming and knew it. My slightly embarrassed classmates took sheepish glances around the room, attempting to figure out who else was brave enough to sign up for this class and commit the social suicide we all were convinced would be the inevitable result. I smiled and grimaced at the same time, sat down, and accepted my decision, suddenly optimistic about the rest of the semester.

The class, unlike the people in it, was not at all what I expected to find. Rather than focusing on videogames, the class has proven to be a useful way to integrate the future of professional and academic communication with good writing practice and stimulating class discussions. Videogames seem to be solely supplemental to the class and I find there to be much more to the class than MMORPG gaming. Instead of spending copious amouts of free time in an attempt to level up for the class, I have discovered how to use Microsoft Office Live, Bootcamp my computer, use a Windows operating system, relate qualities inherent in creating a game to real life, and more than I ever want to know about Lord of the Rings. I would venture to say that he videogames I have played as a result of the class have enriched my social life. I now analyze the concepts behind game design for everything I play and as a result, I understand gamers better and can relate to them better than I could before. Rather than look down on gamers, I have broadened my perspective and can now see the world through their eyes and understand them. Plus, I get to play videogames for a class, who can argue with that?

By Aneel Henry