by Laura Donnell
There are very few actual universals in the wild world of Nerdom. It's what makes this subculture so fascinating and exciting! There are so many new games to try, new fantastical worlds to explore, new science-fiction concepts to grasp and argue about over IHOP pancakes at three in the morning.
I do believe, however, that because the sub-culture is so full of content spanning multiple mediums, the following discussion is almost unavoidable at one point or another.
“Wait, Susie, you’ve never seen/read/played/heard of X, Y, Z?”
“No, I haven’t, actually.”
The typical response varies from “How is this possible, have you been living under a rock?” to “You’re bad at nerd things! Come, luddite, let me teach you the ways of true nerdiness.”
We have all been victims of this conversation. We have all been the perpetrators of this conversation. It is very hard not to get really excited about something you love so much, especially if you get to show off a little nerd cred in the process. However, you should be careful about how you go about it. The conversation above, despite being very common, often has the opposite of the desired effect. Any game or series that is long-standing or in-depth is a daunting prospect for anyone new to it. Lord of the Rings has anywhere between twelve hundred and fifteen hundred pages, and it has nothing on A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones) or the Dark Tower books. Doctor Who has thirty three seasons (Well, 26 seasons and 7 series if you're picky) and no one I have ever talked to can agree on where you should start. The newbie already knows they have a lot of catching-up to do. And not matter how much as we tell ourselves it's about the journey and not the destination, it's still a lot of time one has to allot for a series they are already under pressure to know and like.
Fear not. In order to make this process a little less stressful for newbies, and to help die-hard fans not chase people away, there are a few helpful suggestions listed below.
Games – From Magic to Dungeons and Dragons to DOTA 2
Newbies: Be. Patient. Everyone starts at the beginning. If your friend who has been playing Dungeons and Dragons for twenty years knows all the secrets to building the perfect paladin, it is because they have been playing for twenty years. If they have clocked three thousand hours in League of Legends, they probably already know all of the excellent item combinations. You can get there too if you want to, but understand that you will not get there right away and forgive yourself. If you want to speed up the process a little, don’t be too proud to take advice. Ultimately, despite the teasing, your friends love you and want you to get better so that they can go back to playing higher levels. It does not mean you are stupid, it just means you are new.
Die Hard Fans: I cannot stress this enough. If you want your new gaming friend to play your games with you, and not pick up their ball and go home, do not screw them over the first time they play.I had a friend teach me magic in middle school. She taught me the rules, then proceeded to give me a clearly (to everyone but me) inferior deck and destroy me for the next five games. She had a cheap thrill being the big fish, but I never played magic again. This is not a unique story. It happens in all sorts of first person shooters, MMORPGs, and team games. People love “ganking n3wbs,” it’s the way these games are played, but do not do it to your friends. Yes, there is a learning curve, and at some point you have to let them get dead enough times to learn their own strategy. But not everyone has been playing battle arena games since the womb. Go for the long haul, teach your friends what you know. A cheap win will feel a tenth as good as actually kicking the butt of a new peer.
TV Shows – Dr. Who, Star Trek, and anything spanning multiple decades and mediums.
Newbies: Do not look at the project as a chore, if you do you're already starting on the wrong foot. Remember that these shows were ultimately created for entertainment and have lasted so long because they are so enjoyable! If the time-dedication seems daunting, try tying it to a chore, hobby, or a particular time. Only watch Old Doctor Who when you are sick. Just catch up on Firefly while you clean, or write thank you notes. Make it your haven against boredom instead of your daunting journey.
More importantly… This is going to be unpopular advice… but it’s important. If it is not for you, it is not for you. You do not have to like everything. You do not even have to like everything of a particular genre! (Angel vs. Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica vs. Star Trek Voyager, etc.) If the show does not grip you, it is okay, despite the persistent cries of “you just have to get through the first hundred episodes. The second hundred episodes are spectacular!” We only have so much time on this planet, and there are so many wonderful things.
Die Hard Fans: Resist spoilers as much as possible. Part of the joy of a new show is that it is “new.” For the newbie, this is their first time. Also, if you really want them to watch it, set up times to watch it with them! Knitting hour, wine and Firefly Nights, cookies and Clone Wars, whatever tradition you make, make it fun! Also, don’t be upset if their interest catches fire and they watch a few episodes without you. You have seen them. Most importantly, if they do not seem to be into it, do not be upset. Maybe they just watched it in the wrong mindset, or at the wrong time of their lives… It does not make the show less special, and it does not make your friend dumb. (But seriously… who does not love Adventure Time?)
|C'mon. How can you not? (Image via Clinton-Hatfield)|
Books – Harry Dresden to Harry Potter, Philip K. Dick, Wheel of Time, Anything that is considered a “Classic”
In many ways, books have defined several genres, and their generational influence is much farther reaching than any of the other mediums…
Newbies: Not reading a classic book of the genre does not stop you from being a “true fan.” You can be a sci-fi guru and have never picked up a Heinlein book in your life. Do not be ashamed. Trade books as often as you can, ask questions, and let the book take you on a journey. There are billions of books on this earth, and you are not going to get to read all the ones you want. Do not feel bad if you skipped some “essentials,” because that word can only be applied as an opinion, no matter how many people love a book. However, if you do start a long standing series, and start to like it, in order not to feel rushed reading it avoid bringing up in large groups. You will receive spoilers from over-excited friends, no matter how hard they try.
Die Hard Fans: Have you read every “classic” book? No. Have you read every “classic” book of your genre? I doubt it. Have you absolutely loved every one of them? Again, I doubt it. This is the hardest section, and where I have found myself most guilty of sin. I was dumbfounded when I found out my husband had not read the Dark Tower Series, and actually picked a fight about it. Books are about immersion. They are about getting lost in a story and following it, at your own pace, to its conclusion. It is about loving characters that you may have not understood before, exciting new worlds, and learning about the human condition from another perspective. If you spend all the time someone has borrowed a book from you asking them if they liked it, what they thought, or if they’ve finished, they could be more inclined to finish it because of outside influence rather than personal enjoyment… is that the legacy you want to give your favorite life changing book?
In the end, no one is trying to belittle anyone else for their taste. We all get excited, and want to share that joy with the people we love. It is because of that fervent desire we have to share those stories with our friends and family that give those long standing games and series their immortality. By doing so, you are helping the creators carry their vision farther than they could have even imagined! You could also introduce your loved ones to worlds that change their perspective, alight their imagination, and better their lives.
Newbies, if something looks good to you, try it at your own pace, but avoid letting your own pride get in the way of some pretty serious good times. But die-hard fans, do you remember your first time watching through an entire series in one night because it was so amazing, or reading a book under your desk because you could not put it down? Do not rush your friends to the end… it’s always sad when a good story is over. Be patient, be understanding, and remember that it is all in good fun.