BY SCOTT BLINKHORN
There has never been a better time to be a nerd. Gone are the days when the label could mean bullying or harassment. Now it is a label of pride for millions and elements of geek culture have even become mainstream.
Only a few decades ago it was normal for someone who preferred video games to sports, or science documentaries to cartoons, to be ruthlessly picked on and bullied. For years the only solace that a geeky kid had was that there was a good chance they would be more successful than their bullies and for the smartest geeks that was true, but not everyone who reads comic books gets to found a tech company. So the nerds did what many subcultures before them had and conquered popular culture.
Two of the top TV shows are Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. The former is based off a bestselling fantasy series, while the latter started life as a comic book. A similar phenomenon has occurred in film, with science fiction and comic book movies dominating the box office in 2016.
Shows that delve into nerd culture are among the most original out there. The Netflix series Stranger Things, for example, was one of the most talked about new shows of 2016, and the show is chock full of nerdy goodness. Dungeons and Dragons, the popular role-playing game, gives the series its launch point and contextualizes how several of the characters view the events of the show.
The expansion of nerd culture is not just a takeover of film and TV. Video games, one of the standard-bearers of geekiness, are now a primary competitor for film and TV. The video-game industry is worth approximately $100 billion and growing. Many gamers feel that their hobby provides more entertainment than TV, movies and music.
The nerds have taken over popular culture by dominating film and TV with their subjects and bringing video games into the mainstream, but things become more pronounced once you look past major industries. The Internet, particularly social media, has allowed people to connect on a level that would have been unheard of only a few decades ago, and no one has benefited more than nerds. YouTube, the largest player in online video, is dominated by channels devoted to gaming.
Outside of digital media, things are much less pronounced, and you have to look a little harder to see how things are improving for geeks. Board game cafés are the newest trend in the food industry. These restaurants supplement their menus with selections of games, which diners can enjoy with a latté, beer or sandwich. The selection of games on offer is distinctly in the nerd camp with a heavy emphasis on abstract strategy games, a longtime geeky staple.
It is now OK to be a geek, and the label has begun to lose much of its negative connotations. Of course, popularity sometimes comes with its own set of problems, and nerds can sometimes be heard arguing over who is a real nerd, in the same way a film snob might tell you that if you haven’t seen Citizen Kane, you know nothing about movies. On the whole, however, the 2010s are a good time to be a nerd.