Tech Life IT'S A TIME TRAVEL MOVIE, RIGHT?

Nerdfotainment

I was introduced to Ask A Ninja via this podcast. In the podcast, the Ninja complains extensively about the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The gist: “Every single character has their own damned plot line and it’s incredibly hard to figure out what the hell is going on”.

The third movie, At World’s End, only compounded the complexity problem. More characters, more plot lines, and more confusion. I just watched the third movie for the third time and discovered another subtle moment of “Oh, that’s why Calypso said that random thing in the second movie. I get it now.”

Back to the Ninja. His final pitch was: “Movies shouldn’t be this much work”. He’s wrong. Movies can be this hard, especially when they’re designed for nerds.

Nerd Generation Theory

According to my math, there is a huge pile of nerds who are traipsing around their 30s. This is the Apple ][ generation and they’re making some bucks. Financial types call this decade of life “the accumulation years” because, traditionally, this is the time of life when you start gathering piles of cash for use during the rest of your life. You’ve found your ideal gig and you’re hitting your stride.

Advertisers love these 30-somethings because they have large disposable incomes. Consequently, content creators love them as well, which means that for content creators to generate their own piles of cash, they need to develop entertainment targeted at the nerd demographic.

What do we know about nerds? Well, we know a lot. They need a project, are systematic thinkers, and they love puzzles and games. This brings me to a whole pile of entertainment that has shown up over the past ten years. All of which, I believe, is specifically designed for the nerd demographic, since all of the content shares a common characteristic: it’s terribly complex and nerds enjoy making it more so.

J.J. Abrams is a Big Nerd.

One of the more prominent recent examples of nerd entertainment is J.J. Abrams’ Lost. If you don’t follow the show, here’s the pitch: “A plane leaving Sydney, Australia, headed for Los Angeles, crashes in the middle of the Pacific. The survivors end up on a mysterious island where an endless stream of bizarre, unexplained shit goes down.”

I’ve just told you the basic premise of Lost, but I’ve actually told you absolutely nothing about the show. This is because Abrams has constructed a seemingly infinite set of intersecting plot lines involving all the major characters, both on the island and before they got to the island. Combine these elements with the usual science fiction elements such as immortality, time travel, and a creepy black smoke monster and you’ll quickly realize that one of the biggest criticisms of the show is “I have no fucking clue what is going on”.

That’s right. That’s the point. That’s why nerds created the Lost Wiki. That’s why we replay all the trailers in slow motion. We’re looking for that tattoo on the shark in the third episode of the second season because AH HAH! That explains something. I’m just not sure what… yet.

Nerds are systematic thinkers, which means, for entertainment, we want to exercise our systemic comprehension muscles. We want to stare at a thing and figure out what rules define it. In the case of Lost, Abrams get this. He sprinkles hints of systems within the system of the show. He tinkers with time and with personalities to paint brief glimpses of clues. And then he changes everything because he knows that if we ever feel we’ve figured it out, we’ll bail.

Captain Kirk doesn’t know he’s a Big Nerd.

Our search for entertaining complexity is not new; it’s just gone mainstream. In fact, if systemic complexity doesn’t exist in a nerd-appropriate show, we’ll go ahead and create it. Think about the original Star Trek series, which, in my opinion, was one of the first pieces of serious nerd entertainment.

Like Lost, the amount of content and discussion regarding the original series, which hasn’t seen production in FORTY YEARS is mind-boggling. Yes, we’re still arguing about whether Captain Kirk could actually build a cannon to kill that lizard-guy . “In a battle between the Enterprise and a Star Destroyer, who would win?” (cough: Enterprise, duh, Star Destroyers can’t fucking steer.)

I’ve no idea how much backstory Gene Roddenberry constructed behind his characters and his stories. But I know that nerds, with their love of this show, have forced systemic complexity on it. Because if there is no project, no problem to solve, it’s not engaging.

Feluf, also a Big Nerd.

Feluf is my Level 70 Night Elf in World of Warcraft. I was running Karazhan with my guild the other night and I landed two sweet Epics: Ferocious Swift Kicker boots and the Steelhawk Crossbow.

Many of you have no clue what I just said. Some nerd crap about World of Warcraft. If you have no clue whether World of Warcraft would float your boat or not, my question is: what’d you do when you read the previous paragraph? Did you Google Karazhan? How about Epics? If you did, you learned that Karazhan is a dungeon and Epics are apparently really good gear.

Unlike popular TV and movies, World of Warcraft is clearly targeted at the nerd mind set, which means it’s designed with brutal system complexity in mind. Sure, they’ve designed the beginning of the game to be simple and approachable, but that’s how any good drug dealer builds his business: the first hit is free.

Significant engagement in World of Warcraft reveals a world chock full of complexity. You want to stop running all over the place? Well, you need a mount, and those guys show up at Level 40. To get there, you’re going to have to figure out what gear is good for your class. You’re going to have to learn how to make money to buy your mount, either via your profession or via building and selling goods at your local auction house. And once you get your mount at Level 40, you’re already going to know there are faster Epic mounts out there. Shit.

There’s a point where all this complex game drudgery sounds like life, and yeah, there is a lot of social interaction between players and guilds. But it’s intersections within the system to support the system. Warcraft is built to be impossibly complex, but every player is always secretly thinking, “I can totally figure this out”. Which is why Blizzard changes the system every few months.

Kaiser Soze. Unpronounceable Big Nerd.

The Usual Suspects, Memento, and Donnie Darko. These movies represent some of the best of nerd entertainment, and two of these movies didn’t do great at the box office. Yet all of them eventually made a pile of money because of the unique system puzzles they presented. Most folks walked out of those movies thinking, “I’m, uh, not sure quite sure what just happened to my brain”. Whereas we nerds rushed home to the Internet to begin the quest of figuring out the system. IT’S A TIME TRAVEL MOVIE, RIGHT?

We followed that line of questioning up with the immediate purchase of the DVD. In the case of Donnie Darko, this not only made the movie profitable, but also resulted in eventual release of the Director’s Cut of the movie, which only created more mysteries regarding that bunny who is still freaking me out.

Mr. Darcy is a Big Nerd. No, really.

Nerds have no monopoly over mind-bendingly complex plots. Anyone with a girlfriend has already endured multiple adaptations of the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice. Yeah, I’ve been there. Yeah, I know the A&E version is the only adaption worth anything and I further know it’s because of that annoyingly charming Colin Firth portraying Mr. Darcy.

Yes, Mr. Darcy. Like the plots of J.J. Abrams, the arrogant intensity of Captain Kirk, and the devious hidden intentions of Kaiser Soze, Mr. Darcy is great nerd entertainment. I mean it.

Once you get past all the “doths” and “thous”, and realize there’s a lot more going on than social climbing and gold-digging, in Mr. Darcy you find a complex and nerd-worthy character. Why’s he being such an arrogant prick? SHE’S NEVER GOING TO LOVE THAT… WAIT… WHAT?

Argument about the natures and motivations of the characters in Pride and Prejudice might seem different than those in Lost or The Usual Suspects, but ultimately, we’re yelling about them because they are beautifully crafted unsolvable puzzles.

And that’s nerdfotainment.

47 Responses

  1. I’ve had a blog post in the works for almost a year on another aspect of nerd/geek entertainment: continuity. You see it in comics, in long-running TV series (Doctor Who, the various Star Treks, the Whedonverse, etc.), in gaming (WoW’s Lore), and in any number of other nerd-friendly media. I’m of the opinion that continuity appeals to nerds because it 1) rewards sustained, in-depth attention (obsessive much?), and 2) provides an effective border between the in-group (of other nerds) and the out-group (who don’t know the one line from episode 3×12 that CLEARLY explained all of the fourth season)

  2. I love to read (although mostly non-fiction as of late) and I’d be interested in hearing about books that would be considered classified under this nerd/geek category. I think Neal Stephenson (Cryptonomicon, Snow Crash, etc.) is a no-brainer as well as maybe Mark Z. Danielewski (House of Leaves).

    Anyone have any others?

  3. Have you seen Primer yet?

  4. I’m so very relieved that you wrote the last bit about Pride and Prejudice. I was convinced I was the only male who’d seen the A&E version in its entirety and enjoyed it!

  5. I second Anon’s question. Primer definitely crossed my mind while reading your post. Good movie and pure nerd-targeted entertainment.

  6. Typo: should be “they’re making some bucks.”

  7. Damn – I’m third to mention Primer – http://imdb.com/title/tt0390384/ – pure nerdish plotting

  8. While your argument is very interesting, and quite convincing, I can’t help but wonder if there’s another reason for this ‘nerdfotainment’. I’ve been noticing that even though there are still big differences between the quintessential ‘nerd’ and ‘normal people’, what has interested me is how nerd culture has become more accepted by these ‘normal people’ and mainstream culture. Part of the reason might be, as you say, the nerds growing up, but I think a bigger reason is the effect of technology on life in general.

    I’ve been following Lost with non-nerds from the start. They loved it for the stories, the weirdness and the intricacies, but they didn’t bury themselves in the nerdy details of it all. They left that to me, and (mildly) enjoyed my explanations and findings. I was the ‘expert’ who explained these things to them.

    I see the same in many other traditionally nerdy areas of life. Everyone games, but often on a much more superficial level (console gaming?). Huge numbers of people play World of Warcraft, but might not really care for the intricacies of the ruleset. Everyone chats, builds websites, joins internet communities (forums, social network sites), and chats.

    The lines have been blurred to a degree, because without technology, you don’t get far. It’s not just the nerds that google for facts anymore; now everyone does it.

    Nerds are still different, it’s just their monopoly on technology and its related activities that disappeared.

  9. FOURthing Primer, but I think I know why it might not have been listed. Although the omission surprised me at first, I realized the other examples (Lost, Star Trek, Memento, Pirates, …), to varying degrees, had some appeal to non-nerd fans.

    Primer, on the other hand, is such a “whoah, what the hell happened” experience the first 1-2 viewings that I don’t think it holds much appeal for non-nerds. (Those I’ve enthusiastically recommended the movie to hated it.)

  10. JohnO 9 years ago

    I think Hilko has a point. The “nerd” culture is not disdainful anymore. While they were were being picked on they secretly plotted to rule the world – and now they do. Most of the guys in the top100 wealthy list are nerds.

    The mainstream has found something redeeming about it.

  11. One thing about Lost… I’ve stopped watching it, when I heard that actually the show creators had no clue what they were driving towards and that it didn’t actually make sense without some silly magical explanation.

    It’s worth pointing out that stupid endings really kill the entertainment value for a nerd. Another good example of that was Otherland by Tad Williams. After reading four freaking huge volumes of reasonably enticing puzzle-building, the answer to the great mystical mystery of life was… a mutant telepathic brain in a satellite. Yes, I’m not kidding you. The effect of a really crappy ending are as devastating as those of a clever puzzle: I’ve vowed never to read a Tad Williams book again in my life, no matter how good a recommendation it may come with.

    So when you construct your carefully complexified puzzles, make sure they’re not just stupid!

    Daniel

  12. I have to agree with Daniel, it’s not just a puzzle that I (nerds?) want, but a *clever* puzzle. With an actual clever solution.

    “Usual Suspects” is a good example. The ending comes as a surprise (to most), but still makes very much sense. You can look at the movie a second time, and it still makes sense. It’s not the “and then he woke up” stupid type of solution.

    Again agreeing with Daniel, knowing that the creator really just makes it all up as he goes really puts me off. It’s not just that I don’t know if there will be a clever solution, I know that there wont!

    So, disagreeing with your last paragraph which says we want a “beautifully crafted unsolvable puzzle”, I’d rather have a “beautifully crafted solvable puzzle”.

  13. One more: Patrick O’Brian. 20 books of early 19th-century naval adventures, and to understand them you have to figure out the the history, the laws and customs, and the complex layout of the ships.

  14. sandrift 9 years ago

    One more show: the late, much lamented Deadwood.

    I’ve watched all three seasons multiple times just because every time I do, I pick up on something that I missed the previous time. There are twists and turns and little lines that get dropped like crumbs here and there. It’s fun to go back and look for them once you know where the story’s going. Watching multiple episodes in a row gives a different perspective than watching original air dates. With original airings, you forget little things from week to week. When you can re-watch, or watch multiple episodes at a time, you smack yourself on the forehead every 15 minutes, saying to yourself, “*Now* I get what Swearengen’s planning!” (Not to mention giving yourself one hell of a headache.)

  15. Erin Mary 9 years ago

    Mr. Darcy is great nerd entertainment? It’s the entire complexity behind Elizabeth Bennet that makes for much more interesting nerdfotainment. Her relationship with her father, her initial infatuation with Mr. Wickham, her disapproval of Charlotte’s marriage, and the final recognition of where she’d gone wrong in all of it. In Mr. Darcy you find a complex and nerd-worthy minor character. But it’s Elizabeth who is dynamic, cynical, naive and clever. Elizabeth Bennet is the puzzle.

  16. In related news: Monty Python’s Flying Circus and everything written by James Ellroy (Not so much the films, though) are highly nerd-worthy. But you *SPAM* know that *SPAM* already.

  17. William 9 years ago

    I recall Dune being one of the first books that I had to read over and over due to the interwoven plot lines and subtle crossreferences.

    But I’m still trying to work out Mr Darcy!

  18. I remember reading through Robert Jordan’s Wheel of time first 7 books during my Gap year, and being amazed at the major plots and subplots, where each and every character mentioned will pop out again later, throwing the already complicated plot into another angle. Another author that I thoroughly enjoy is Haruki Murakami, where even a cat, matters.

    Talk about Nerdtainment, me being a self confessed geek and nerd also enjoys watching Heroes. Though it’s considered lighter than Lost, it also has many different subplots, and the whole nerd thing about it is the whole genetic theory, (even though hollywood did dumb it down a little); I agree wholeheartedly that Lost did keep me very much enthralled and frustrated coz in my mind, i have my own plot about how the show should be. I love JJ Abrams. There are also many other nerdworthy tv shows here that aren’t mentioned, like House, west wing etc.

    I think the need to be kept thinking even when we’re supposedly ‘at rest’ is what makes these nerd-tailored forms of entertainment sells.

  19. Re Pride & Prejudice

    – There isn’t a single ‘thou’ or ‘doth’ in the version you cite. They’re in the eighteenth century, when largely they spoke as you or I do (well, as I do, anyway) but slightly more elegantly

    – That version? BBC, not A&E. It was just distributed in the US by A&E

    – As Erin Mary says, it’s not about Darcy, it’s about Elizabeth. It’s also Darcy’s arrogance and prejudice (hello?) about the Bennet’s low origins that repels Elizabeth. It’s only when he comes to see his class is not innately superior (Wickham’s caddish behavior, Lady Susan’s gross snobbery) that he becomes a human and drops his previous ‘nerdish’ pose, making it possible for him to relate to Elizabeth as a human and an adult.

    Go back and watch it again 🙂

  20. Purrrrr 9 years ago

    I agree, the A&E/BBC P&P isn’t the best because of ‘the charming Colin Firth’. Nope. It’s all about Jennifer Ehle.

    Purrrrrrr

  21. Rob S. 9 years ago

    You think WoW is nerdfotainment? You should try Eve Online. It’s a hugely complex, fun, MMORPG with the best crafting engine and player economy that you’ll find, plus the manual that is available only covers the basics of the user interface. Everything else you need to either learn on your own, or find help from other players that have figured it out. Supremely frustrating at times, but even more rewarding.

  22. aczarnowski 9 years ago

    My wife is an Austin fan and I’ve sat through the BBC P&P a couple-three times now. I’m happy to hear I’m not the only one that realized there was something in it for me. Nicely done fingering P&P in your post.

    The idiot younger sister is nails on a chalkboard for me though. *shudder*

  23. Charlton 9 years ago

    I think there’s another potential explanation for “nerdfotainment.”

    When recording music became possible and common, the style of music changed. First, composers started creating more complex and subtle works, that depended less on the listener following the work on the first try, because listeners could get a recording of the work and listen to it over and over. Second, the recording became the most important thing, where previously the score or the tune had been.

    The same thing is happening with Lost: because we have the technology to back up to the second scene before the credits and watch it in single-frame-advance mode, because we have the entire archive of the TV show so we can pull out the second episode of season 2 to see if that’s the same strange marking on the whatsit that the whoosit had on its underside, the writers of the TV show don’t need to make sure we see every detail the first time.

    My only real concern with Lost — I’m all the way through the second season on DVD, having stopped Tivoing it when ABC started playing games and starting it at X:59 and making it last until x:01 to prevent me from Tivoing shows on other networks, so I’m a bit behind — is that there may be no *there* there. This is what happened with The X Files: every time things started to slow down, Carter & company threw in another twist in the conspiracy, until by the end of the show it was clear he had no idea where he was going with it.

  24. Shalev 9 years ago

    Of the movies listed, I’d never seen the Usual Suspects. Serendipitously, I loaded up the new version of Hulu this morning to find that it had gone public and, lo, it now had a selection of full length movies streamed right to your desktop.

    For those who haven’t seen it:

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/12286/the-usual-suspects-the-usual-suspects

    On a different note, your example pinned me perfectly. After watching Donny Darko, I spent quite a while figuring out exactly what every piece was there for, including that bunny. I even took a class in college where one of the main themes was that movie.

  25. Just a quick word on Lost. I’m a Lost nerd (no pun intended), and from what I’ve seen so far I can safely say that the writers do know where they’re going. The Lost plot system is too complex to be just a product of improvisation, no matter how brilliant that improvisation can be.

    By the way, another film I’d add to the nerdfotainment list is David Fincher’s Se7en.

    Cheers,

    Rick

  26. funtime42 9 years ago

    If the O’Brien books are nerdfotainment, then what does that make Naomi Novik’s? I found myself questioning not the existence of Dragon’s in Nelson’s Navy, but rather the tactics they used to fight them. Would the 19th century military mind have that kind of multi-dimensional thinking (hey, a Kirk reference!)? I decided they did…

  27. This made me think of two things:

    1. Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good for You, which charts the increasing complexity of television plotlines from Dragnet to The Sopranos (and has awesome illustrative graphs). Particularly, he says everyone is developing a taste for Nerdfotainment, including non-nerds, and it’s making everyone smarter as a result.
    2. J.J. Abrams’ TED talk on “mystery boxes”, which made the round on some blogs a while back (available on their podcast). This was super interesting, because it revealed that Abrams was not only comfortable with uncertainty, but that he often prizes it over certainty.

    With Cloverfield, we are seeing the dawn of mass market entertainment that may not tie up every narrative thread, because: (a) There are too many threads, and (b) Creators are unwilling to fully explain the story. Nerds, of course, love this; it will be curious to see if everyone else will go along for the ride.

  28. Thomas Pynchon 9 years ago

    Older nerds have a love of complexity too.

  29. I actually watched P&P for the first time the other night, rather than just sitting in front of the TV while my wife watched it. So rich and interesting. Nerds should definitely identify with Mr. Darcy, with his correct but socially inappropriate “I’m madly in love with you, but you obviously shouldn’t expect me to be happy about it because you’re so poor” speech.

  30. As a edge case of the demographic you described (forties/wed dev), you have perfectly articulated the slush of thoughts in my head regarding a BBC tv show I’ve been sucked into: Life on Mars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_on_Mars_(TV_series) – it’s only now been broadcast in Australia where I live.

    Apparently set in the 70’s with an insane/time-travelling/comatose (pick one) current day protagonist it’s the perfect combination of 30/40-something in-jokes and nerdish, clue festooned plots.

    I couldn’t understand why I liked it. Thnx

  31. A. Peon 9 years ago

    The Lost writers have their shit together, which means they have a story to tell, they know the ending, and they’re dragging it out to collect the ad revenue. This sounds good in theory but ends up feeling more like “wasting my time” than “entertainment,” especially because these serial dramas mean you’re hopelessly.. lost.. if you miss a single episode.

    I can’t help thinking this appeals to nerds because nerds have no lives and nerds need an excuse for Tivo (or elaborate homebrew Tivo-equivalents).

    In contrast, episodic TV has a reputation for mindlessness but takes a lot more skill on the part of the writers; it’s amazing how some shows can continue to be compelling and accessible no matter when you first tune in. MASH ran longer than the actual war it was based on. Certain other popular shows (mostly mystery-based) have an episodic core and manage to throw the serial character-development in around the edges, satisfying everyone.

    I have the opposite problem with movies, though — a lot of popular films pretend at world-building knowing they won’t be called out unless there’s a sequel. Thus, characters are prone to spout a lot of vaguely important or deep sounding bullshit without anyone in the chain from script to print having a clear idea of their motivation. Maybe that’s another reason why movies based on existing properties where the backstory is already known are so popular.

    [I’m still trying to work out why stereotypical ’80s movies seemed to do better at this basic exposition than anything produced since. Maybe characters and plot points weren’t getting added and dropped by focus groups, and maybe they were shallow enough that a director actually could get their backgrounds across in 5 minutes or less.]

    Also, Doomsday sucked. Stay away.

  32. Another vote for Primer. I was grabbing the IMDB info before even clicking the comments link, and it’s nice to see others thought of it as well.

  33. Jim Stewart 9 years ago

    I have to admit I’m rather surprised that anyone could find Primer had enough depth to reward repeated viewings. The whole plot is explained in great detail at the end, just in case you missed the bit where it was all explained at the beginning.

  34. And then he changes everything because he knows that if we ever feel we’ve figured it out, we’ll bail.

    No, he doesn’t. He spins out something that might be brought together, realises that he can’t do it, and walks away. Saying it’s deliberate, for the viewers’ benefit, is simply an attempt to rationalise his talent for exposition and lack of talent when it comes to denouements.

    In fact, the hallmark of Abrams is ‘it’s all exposition’. Past experience suggests he can’t complete the circle. The way he treated Alias is the reason why I’ve never watched Lost: I don’t want to be sold short again.

  35. And, clearly, debating what forms of culture & society do and do not properly fit under a various constructed rubrics is itself time-honored nerdfotainment (cf. High Fidelity, this comment stream).

  36. Westacular 9 years ago

    Nick S: I agree that was the case for Alias, but you’re missing out with Lost, which as of mid-season 3 started to show that it really does clean up after itself. They know exactly how many more episodes the show will have, and they know (to a suitable level of detail) the stories that will fill that. The show is answering mysteries, although it’s not always spelling out the answers — sometimes it’s just giving the nerds in the audience all the clues needed to make the appropriate conclusions (or at least drastically narrow the range of hypotheses).

    It’s also worth noting that Abrams isn’t really involved in the day-to-day running of the show, and has had exactly one writing credit since the first season. He helped create it, set the tone and the rules, and he’s still an Exec Producer, but the show is now really the child of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. In other words: Abrams did the part he’s good at, and has wisely left the rest in more suitable hands.

    There seems to be a recursive structure developing with many of the mysteries on the show. Whereas other shows (e.g., Alias, X-Files) developed the habit of half-answer one set of mysteries, calling it done, and moving on (never to return), Lost increasingly seems to be nesting its mysteries. So, where some might say the show seems to get distracted and ignore older mysteries, it is the case that in the telling of that new storyline/mystery things are revealed that will ultimately be needed to explain the original, bigger ones. In this vein, I think it’s fair to say that many of the earliest mysteries will be among the last to be answered… which is probably as it should be.

    The posing of a new question tends to attract more attention then the answering of an old one — especially when the delivery of the answer is understated. Non-nerds see this as an additional, unending layering of new mysteries, but they fail to notice just how much the viewers have learned. It’s like when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, and the other lanes always seem to move faster.

    … comparing the viewing of a TV show with being stuck in a traffic jam probably wasn’t the wisest metaphor for my argument.

  37. The shark? You haven’t figured out why there was a marking on the shark? After Jack spent how many episodes trapped in an aquarium?

    n00b. (Just kidding!)

  38. Another excellent example is Futurama, which not only has many mat, science, and sci-fi in-jokes, but also has a Babylon 5-style “plot arc” that ties several widely-spaced episodes together.

  39. The tattoo on the shark was a joke by the crew. Of course, once it made it into the show, then it’s continuity and Must Be Explained/able.

    For two other examples of the Nerd Axis:

    * David Lynch. I spent more time talking about Mulholland Drive than I did watching it, and Twin Peaks is… just… well… yeah.

    * The Legion of Super-Heroes. 50 years old as of two weeks ago, with five distinct major continuities (maybe 6; includes a cartoon show with its own comic, so there are three conflicting continuities being published right now every month!), and fans who track each, have favorites, and can mutually explain all discrepancies. Requires being able to quickly establish a mental matrix of 20-30 character names, real names, superpower sets, and home planets, plus relationships between them. (Most of which are the same in each continuity. Except the ones which are not.)

  40. You write so well about us nerds.

    Descriptions of “the cave”, “the snap”, “nerdfotainment”, “care and feeding”…

    -Wonderful- stuff. It makes work bearable.

    Only thing I would add would be that some of us nerds (even those of us past 30) don’t really like our jobs. We don’t hate em, but our real “project” is usually at home.

    I mean, in addition to our “families and friends project” which we know should always take priority one (although we tend to play with that priority a lot).

    My real project, for example, is my midi sequencer.

    Not so much the fusionworks mediation system at work…:P

    Thanks so much for some great readin!

    …SteveH

  41. I have to second Beau’s recommendation to look at Everything Bad Is Good for You. It argues that it’s not just nerds, but a general pattern of increasing TV complexity in our culture.

  42. Beau mentioned Johnson’s book Everything Bad is Good for You. It’s the first thing I cmd+F’d for when I finished reading this entry. It really is an excellent book, tremendously easy to read, and anyone who’s interested in this subject should give it a read. I read it in one sitting.

    No I was not paid to say this. 🙂

  43. Jason 9 years ago

    Cancel your WoW account. Get into EVE-Online. Now.

    Spaceships > Epic mounts.

    Capital ship fleet warfare > Raids.

    5 year multi race skill training queue > Killing rats for exp.

    I want to tell you about the EVE server. Not the game, just the server.

    The EVE server… (there is only one EVE server…) is a single, completely interconnected cluster of blade servers, each blade hosting one of a thousand different solar systems. Each blade simulates a solar system in its entirety, including marketplaces, space stations, ship pilotage, and combat. Travel between systems is handled as a serialization of ship state, followed by a database transfer to a neighboring system simulation process.

    There is no instancing in EVE. EVE has had a peak concurrent user count of over 42,000 simultaneously connected players, in one self-consistent universe, hosted on a single clustered server. Each of those 42,000 pilots can interact with any of the other 41,999 pilots. They can shoot each other, buy things from the market from each other, negotiate alliance politics with each other, through this massive seamless server cluster.

    With a company that makes a server like that, do I really need to explain that the game itself is a nerd’s dream?

  44. I’m really glad you mentioned Pride and Prejudice. Growing up as the only boy (for a while, anyway) among 4 sisters and my mother, I grew to appreciate good “chick flicks”, and that is one of my favorites. Although, I think I’m going to have to agree with Erin Mary concerning the intricacies and what draws me to that movie. Elizabeth Bennett is central in my opinion. I love her interactions with the other characters and the puzzles those interactions present. Thanks again for bringing this one up.

    Beau wrote about Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You, which is an incredibly well written treatise on what amounts to nerdfotainment, and how and why it is becoming mainstream. He really digs into how our entertainment as a society has become increasingly complex, especially over the last four to five decades. Definitely recommend it, if you’re hankering for a fun/intriguing read.

    JJ Abrams TED talk, as Beau also mentions, is really rather cool. If you guys/ladies aren’t watching TED talks, that is some _SUPER_ nerdfotainment. Funny, informative, intriguing, mind blowing

    Anyway, great post! I love reading your stuff, you keep me coming back.

  45. Nthing the recommendation for Everything Bad is Good For You. The charts illustrating narrative complexity are comfortingly nerdy.

    Also, amusingly, the story-arc/continuity aspect of “nerdfotainment” reminds me of a women’s studies course I took in college…traditional “women’s” film, books, etc. tend to emphasize a similar kind of thinking, with characters in complex social environments. Your reference to P&P is right on the money there!

    The lunchroom where I work has a TV, and there’s a group of women who follow one of the soaps, and OMG, following the complexity of characters…. These are also some of the longest-running shows on TV, period, not just years but DECADES. (4th oldest TV show: Guiding Light. 56 years. Only news shows, Disney, and pro bowling (?!) are in the same league.)

    Y’all nerd dudes are just catching up. 😉

    Oh, and for story arcs, impressive continuity, and all-around nerdy weirdness, I highly recommend The Venture Brothers.

  46. (Also: just saw that Guiding Light was on radio before it was on TV. Started in 1937.)

  47. Donnie Darko indeed was boring.

    “oh…its time travel movie…so what?” I instantly figured it out.

    Maybe Im just more nerd than I should be.

    In Brazil the nerd generation is more around their 20 yo, with a few 30yo nerds…Thats when we got our hands on out first MSX’s and IBM PC (here, they were quite popular – On the other hand Apple ][ were not)

    keep the good job going on with this blog 😉

    []s