February 25, 2020

Why being a nerd matters

My past columns have been written for people like me — nerds. But I wanted to write something for everybody else. To give a little context as to why everything I’ve been talking about is so important to me and many others.

Being a nerd, or liking nerdy things, is a lot more than just enjoying a hobby. It is a passion.

But why are video games, comics, science fiction and fantasy and so much more so important? Because for most of us, they’ve done something incredible at one point.

I’ve had friends tell me stories about awkward childhoods where they didn’t connect as well with the kids in their class as they did with a book about spaceships or magic. Or, even worse, about kids who were bullied and found a community amongst their peers of video game lovers.

I wear my nerdiness on my sleeve with pride because of what I’ve seen it do for others, but also for what it has done for me.

When I was 11, I moved away from the town where I spent my entire childhood. Leaving behind, what were then, life-long friendships. Worse yet, I did it in the middle of the summer, when the new kid is far less likely to meet new friends. And when school did start, I realized my timing couldn’t be any worse. I had moved in the year all the schools merged into one. So everyone from school A thought I was from school B and vice versa. Meaning I never got the new kid status and had a tough time making friends at the beginning.

So everyday I would come home and the only thing keeping me connected to my friends back home was a broadband connection and my Xbox. Every day we would get on and play together. It wasn’t just about the game we were playing, though, it was about us being together again.

Now eventually I made friends at my new home and relied less and less on video games to keep me happy. But still, I remember what they did for me for those few months where I was miserable, except those few hours online with my friends.

Now these mediums give us a brief escape from our stressful lives and let us play the hero or read a fantastic story about a hero of unspeakable power. Or even interact with friends who are hundreds or thousands of miles away.

So, of course, we hold the games and stories that have changed our lives so dear to us. Rather than write-off or laugh at our hobbies, try to understand them.

Even today while all of my friends are off at separate colleges, we still get together at least once a week online just to play a quick game and catch up. While we may be making our own lives and growing apart, our nerdy hobbies keep us together.

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