Revenge of the Nerds

Revenge of the Nerds

At first glance, the girl with sparkly flowers painted over her bare nipples didn't seem all that out of place. We were in Las Vegas, after all, and if the city is known for anything, it's vice. A half-naked girl running around with barely-concealed breasts and a see-through miniskirt that showed more than it hinted at seemed like she belonged there more than we did, and who were we to tell her to go put something on? Her house, her rules, as they say.

Yet Miss Flower Nipples was no mere random Vegas hard body. She was the vanguard of a monstrous armada of semi-naked, skanky, flirty, voluptuous and strange women calling themselves performers, but who most of us know as "porn stars." They, along with their over-muscled attendants, were in town for the Adult Entertainment Expo, the annual trade show exhibiting porn of all shapes and sizes. I was in town for CES, the annual, international trade show covering consumer electronics of all shapes and sizes. Two shows, one expo center. It was a monumental clash of clichés; culture clash at its most extreme, and the first time in a long time that I've been proud to call myself a geek.

We arrived in Vegas on Sunday afternoon and, before we'd even left the airport, found ourselves surrounded by Silicon Valley's Finest, a collection of gadget-loving nerdy men, mainly between 18-35, mainly pale and mainly awkward, the likes of which anyone working outside of the industry (or a troglodyte cave) has never seen. One colleague remarked, as we waited in McCarran Airport's infamous taxi line, "I've never seen so few hot women in Vegas." And he was partly right. For every attractive woman waiting in line for a cab that sunny winter day, there were easily a dozen geeky, white males. I believe the affectionate term for this situation is "sausage fest," and, unless you swing that way, it's not as much fun as the name suggests. But the overabundance of testosterone had nothing to do with any dearth of attractive ladies. There were, in fact, a great many of them, some of them stunningly gorgeous. We just had them outnumbered. Even the porn stars refused to shine in the presence of so much nerditude.

Set aside your knowledge of foreshadowing for a moment, dear reader. For at this point in time, it looked as if our trip to the desert town was to be barren of eye candy. Little did we know we were entering a veritable oasis, and would soon be drowning in it.

After filing through the cab line's rope maze for an hour or so, my fellow weisswursts and I hopped in cabs and began the whirlwind tour of sand-meets-money that is the ride from McCarran to Las Vegas Boulevard. Along the way, endless advertisements along the roadside, atop taxi cabs and pasted across the sides of buildings announced the presence of the great white fleet, the nerdcore geeks to whom ogling the latest, greatest technology is as pure a form of sensory overload as a spoonful of the brown; every single one of which sent a cold chill of fear up my spine. I was, I believed, entering the lion's den, the geek Valhalla, and I'd soon be swallowed by it.

Now for the exposition. I've been a geek my whole life. In one way or another, I've appreciated, reveled in or espoused every single facet of nerd culture, up to and including writing for a video game magazine and producing a television show about computers and technology. I once spliced an IDE hard drive cable on live TV, with an X-acto knife, just to prove it could be done. Yes, I'm that guy. But you wouldn't know it to look at me. You wouldn't know it to talk to me, read my work or even be me. My geekitude is something I've willfully tried to hide for longer than I can remember. For years I've considered it my cross to bear, my dirty little secret and the one thing keeping me from being who I've often thought myself destined to be. I've covered it with culture and clothes, attitudes and affectations, style and substitutions. But last week in Vegas, coming face-to-face with a teeming throng of, one the one hand, people with whom I've always felt associated, and simultaneously attempted to disassociate myself from, and a veritable cornucopia of people who on many levels inhabit the exact opposite of the spectrum on the other, I finally realized that my inner geek was not a mark of shame, as I'd supposed it to be - wanted it to be - but rather a light I'd been hiding under a bushel. A part of myself I'd been denying on behalf of the world and for the benefit of others, and that I'd been cheating them as well as myself in so doing.

The buildup started slow. By the time we reached the hotel, I was convinced that I'd be in hell for four days, and I was, but not for the reason I'd supposed. The occasional room-sized poster of scantily clad ladies, and the Adult Entertainment Expo's obnoxious signage advertised the presence of the vast majority of the porn industry's finest as loudly as the bevy of HDTV billboards belied ours. CES had rented a hall in the Sands to house a select few exhibits, and as we filed in Sunday afternoon to begin the long march toward covering the whole of CES, we saw our counterparts beginning their own long march, hauling signs, cut-outs, video machines and each other into the adjoining hall, backs straight, faces proud and assets, if you will, bared for all to see.

The next day, the halls were filled with silicone-injected females and men whose limbs can only be described as "bulbous." The two crowds, we with our logo-emblazoned swag bags and pasty faces, they with their over-tanned skin and facial muscles lax from extended expressions of ecstasy, eyed each other warily. Some of our crowd were surely looking for familiar faces and perhaps daydreaming, but there was no mistaking what they thought of us. Time after time, as timid geek eye met brazen performer glance, the latter responded, not with indifference, and definitely not deference, but scorn. As if we, with our penchant for gadgetry, were the freaks. After the eighth or ninth time I endured the same look from a similar performer, it occurred to me to be offended. I was being judged, and not for who I was, or what I was, but for not being one of them. For being, as hard as is this is to believe, normal. For that, in the eyes of a porn star, is what I was. What we all were. And they hated us.

The realization struck me to my core and unearthed a near lifetime of recrimination, doubt and regret. Is geekery only skin deep? If so, from whom have I been hiding mine? To what standard have I been holding myself, believing I've been attempting to pass as "normal"? If, in a crowded room, I, who've lived a lifetime in the throes of nerd ecstasy, can be looked upon with scorn by the wandering eye of someone who has sex for money, in front of cameras, for the enjoyment of people they've never met, can be considered a freak, then how stupidly vain, how arrogantly ignorant have I been to fear judgment from my peers for playing games? It was then I realized that I'd been dousing enthusiasm with cynicism and ruining my own fun in the process. That I'd been suppressing my dreams for the sake of a reputation, all the while advising others to simply "be themselves." I was a hypocrite, and worse, a betrayer of those whose support I'd sought and whose company I'd kept. I decided that enough was simply enough.

By the last day of CES, the ratio of porn star to geek was more than 5:1. Bare breasts were everywhere, and instead of being elated, as many a man in my position would have been, I was ashamed, but not by the spectacle - by myself. I resolved to stop worrying about who might be judging me, and why, and most of all to not judge myself. I resolved to enjoy my inner geek, to revel in it, give it what it wants and not be ashamed of thinking spaceships are cool and playing games, alone, in the dark, on a Friday night, is a good way to be. I resolved to lighten up and try, for once, to be myself. So far, it's working out quite well for me, and I feel better about myself now than I ever have, regardless of how "normal" I may have appeared. I went to Las Vegas and all I got were two sore feet, a handful of published articles and a life-changing realization about myself. And I have a porno convention to thank. Yes, it is a mad, mad world, but I'm happy to be a part of it.

Permalink

lol wonderful article.

What, no photos ?

<pause for effect>

I want photos of geeky tech !

Good article, reminded me of my four years at university. I was really paranoid about being seen as a gamer geek in the first year and tried to fit in, but ended up pretty miserable as I wasn't getting involved in the things I loved. By the start of the second year I couldn't pretend to be someone I wasn't any more, and just embraced that side of me.

Ended up having a fantastic time for the rest of the course meeting up with people with similar attitudes, and even found a lot of people who didn't share my love of all things shiny and gamey but still got along with me perfectly.

Anyone else come out of the (tech) closet?

I've always been the Nerdy guy at school... Until my Sophomore year in High School, when a freak lab accident left me without eyebrows and reeking of waffles for about three days...

It was then that I earned my new title... Psycho Nerdy Guy

rjwtaylor:

Anyone else come out of the (tech) closet?

I'm afraid I'm still safely locked away in my closet.
Where I work is so full of the biggest nerds I have ever met that I'm afraid if I admit to anyone even that I can write some html, for example, that they might drag me down into their parents basements and transform me into something far beyond what my inner nerd could even imagine.

Its much safer to hide behind my gym membership and cricket/football team friends and pretend like I'm "normal" so to speak. I have better things to do than develop a WoW addiction so I can keep up with the guy down the hall. And on the plus side, its easier to pick up girls that way too.

I have to admit that I'm sorry to hear you say that, Goof.

I learned the hard way that girls who are not into nerds are not for me. I once had a particular object of my affections (and twice-over girlfriend) mock two of my favourite nerdy hobbies in a conversation with her friends while I was standing right next to them. She didn't know I enjoyed those things. If she had, she would almost certainly have refrained out of courtesy, but this way I discovered her true feelings toward nerds.

Of course, being a teenager, I didn't let that stop me from being hopelessly infatuated (hence the "twice-over girlfriend" bit). It wasn't until much later that I came to my senses. That's not to say that I wear a pocket protector, but I don't actively hide my nerdiness from people anymore.

I also have a gym membership, but it includes a weight training regimen stored on a digital key that I insert into the weight machines so they know what to do with me. Even my exercise is nerdy!

Ajar:
I also have a gym membership, but it includes a weight training regimen stored on a digital key that I insert into the weight machines so they know what to do with me. Even my exercise is nerdy!

Dude, that's awesome. I have to carry around a piece of paper with months' worth of numbers scribbled on it. Is this a new thing?

There's a company called Technogym that makes this stuff. Maybe there are others too, but the ones at my gym are all by that company. Even the treadmill and recumbent bike have key slots, so I can use those as well when I want to do cardio. It took a session with a personal trainer to sort out what should go on the key, and I can get it adjusted whenever I want.

This is just at the local YMCA, and the machines don't seem that new. Actually, they put in a bunch of even newer equipment pretty recently. I have no idea how widespread the phenomenon is, though.

Joe:

Ajar:
I also have a gym membership, but it includes a weight training regimen stored on a digital key that I insert into the weight machines so they know what to do with me. Even my exercise is nerdy!

Dude, that's awesome. I have to carry around a piece of paper with months' worth of numbers scribbled on it. Is this a new thing?

Yeah thats very cool, I get sick to death of carrying that damn piece of paper around all the time.

I should probably rephrase what i said about still being in the closet. All my close friends and ex girlfriends are well aware of my nerdiness and some of them even join in when I'm playing games (even the most anti-videogame friends of mine have a blast with wii sports!). But when you work somewhere like I do its a good idea to try and make some separation. For example, one of the guys on my site is 45 years old, still lives at home and as far as I can tell has never had a girlfriend, at least not in the last 20 years anyway. I never ever ever want to end up like that! Which is why I cling to the parts of my life that many would consider "normal" as tightly as I can.

Goofonian:
I never ever ever want to end up like that! Which is why I cling to the parts of my life that many would consider "normal" as tightly as I can.

One feels as if you may have missed the entire point of this piece, Goof. Although I'd be lying if I said I didn't understand where you're coming from. I'd also be lying if I said I'd be "coming out" if I weren't in an accepting work and life environment right now.

It's a tough deal trying to juggle the nerdic impulses against the demands of "polite" society. Which, I realize, makes it seem as if we're pederasts, but honestly, who hasn't felt "unclean" at least once or twice because of movies we watch, games we play or toys we have in the house?

Ya know its funny, I really didn't miss the point of the article at all. In fact I would love to be standing next to you, helping to build the fence that separates us from the people to whom the "no, I will not fix your computer" t-shirts refer. But from my end of the world, the best way to assimilate outsiders into our fold is to act like I'm one of them, and then subtley introduce them to the wonders of guitar hero and wii sports.

I'm doing my bit as best as I can, but to help myself I really need to separate myself from those who truly understand where I'm coming from. Its a disappointing state of affairs I know. On the other hand, tonight is friday night (saturday morning depending how you look at it) and I know that I had much more fun at the pub tonight getting pissed and dancing with drunk sl*ts than I would have sitting at home playing zelda (as much as I love zelda, and I do!!!!) So I'm starting to wonder if there is a happy medium somewhere and that maybe I'm existing within that happy medium. If a person grew up playing atari 2600 games and bought an N64 at the first chance they got to break into their childhood savings, does it make them less of a gamer? Just because they spent as much time playing cricket and football and soccer and smoozing women as they do conquering Azeroth?? I'd like to hope not!

Goofonian:
On the other hand, tonight is friday night (saturday morning depending how you look at it) and I know that I had much more fun at the pub tonight getting pissed and dancing with drunk sl*ts than I would have sitting at home playing zelda (as much as I love zelda, and I do!!!!) So I'm starting to wonder if there is a happy medium somewhere and that maybe I'm existing within that happy medium.

I like drinking and dancing as much as the proverbial next guy, but what I've realized is that I don't have to stuff my "inner nerd" into hiding to enjoy those things. Some Friday nights I go out and get schnockered with friends, others I sit at home playing Gears of War with friends on Xbox Live, or Viva Pinata alone. The deciding factor is what I feel like doing.

Fletcher:
It's a tough deal trying to juggle the nerdic impulses against the demands of "polite" society.

For a long time I was very much on the wrong side of that balance, consciously hiding my inner nerd to avoid what I assumed would be the scorn of others. Part of it was that my parents didn't understand what it was I saw in video games, or in science fiction. I've worked on changing that, though: I bought my mother a DS for her birthday last year, and now she has Brain Age and Clubhouse Games. I also got her hooked on Firefly and the new Battlestar Galactica. It's helping.

Now, when I entertain, I do nothing to disguise my nerd lair. It is what it is, and I'm not ashamed of any of it. I often wear nerdy t-shirts -- the save game scene from Ico, Firefly's Blue Sun, the Questionable Content "Pintsize Flying V," Megatokyo's "Tokyo Police Cataclysm Division" -- when I'm out with friends. If anyone asks, I explain, making it clear that these are things I like and appreciate. If anything, I've made more friends than when I pretended to be someone else on those occasions.

I guess what I'm trying to say with all of this, Goof, is that I don't think there has to be a fence; it's the preconceptions and stereotyping on both sides that creates the fence.

Ajar:
Now, when I entertain, I do nothing to disguise my nerd lair. It is what it is, and I'm not ashamed of any of it.

Is that your setup Ajar?
thats a nice little corner you've got going there. I wish I was as musically inclined as you obviously are.

My nerd lair so to speak is my lounge room. My PS2 and wii sit proudly front and centre with my HD plasma, where everyone can see them. Regardless of what the internet may say or think I'm a true believer that nintendo has really hit the mass market with the wii. People used to recognise my PS2 in a way they wouldn't look twice at the gamecube, but since I got the wii more people than you would imagine have come to my house and said "oh my god you have one of those wii things! can we play it?" or "oh cool, can I make my mii?" or "sweet you have a wii! how good is zelda!?!?". Its quite a phenomenon.

Goofonian:
Is that your setup Ajar?

The first pic is all of the home studio equipment I have so far, with my computer. The second pic is the home theatre you can vaguely see in the background of the first pic. All of this is in the "living room" area of my apartment. :)

As you can see, I'm the same way as you are with my consoles. The consoles and games are more prominently displayed than even my DVDs.

I've been "out" as a geek for really all of my life, but it has never affected me in any real negative fashion. I LARP, game, go to cons, and i still have loads of friends. Ive had girlfriends who are both "normal" and geeks. So i am quite happy being myself around everyone, and it doesn't seem to be bad!

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here