About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


Nerds According to Myers-Briggs

Nguyen Hung Vu - Introvert
If you ascribe to the Myers-Briggs personality type indicators, a psychological assessment tool in use since the 1940s (and re-purposed by nerds to classify their favorite fictional characters), a nerd isn't just some strange creature from an alternate universe (although he might want to be), there is actually a psychological imperative behind nerdy behavior.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) classifies basic personality across 16 different types based on variations in four specific characteristics—extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. Nerds tend to select the INTP, ENTP, INTJ and ISTJ personality types (although they can certainly fall into other types).

*NOTE: some people believe that the MBTI is a valuable assessment tool, while others think it's poppycock. Often times bias against the MBTI is based upon the distortion of personality types in popular culture memes, and may be justified. If you know a nerd who scoffs at an MBTI reference, that's his choice, so keep this segment to yourself.


Nerd Specializations: Gamer

Simon Liu - GARC

If it has dice, cards or a board with tokens, a gamer nerd has probably played it. Gamers are highly competitive, so don't be surprised if the gamer nerd you know races you to every door, and makes bets out of any situation that involves even the tiniest element of chance. Further specializations of gamers include RPG nerds who can sometimes script month-long tabletop games full of as much drama as any episode of Real Housewives, and LARPers who craft medieval costumes and foam swords, and do battle in public parks. Of course, most people are familiar with video gamers who have a stable of online characters who make Rambo look like a hippie.


The Power of Glasses

via Camera Eye Photography
If you do a Google image search for “nerd” the majority of hits will feature someone wearing glasses, but if you take a look at any large group of nerds you'll notice that, while a lot of them wear glasses, most of them don't (and even fewer if you're at a cosplay convention). On the other hand, if you looked into the eyes of nerds not wearing glasses, you would find that many of them wear contacts. So what gives? Are nerdy glasses a myth?


Nerdism: FPS

Wolfenstein 3-D, an early FPS
FPS is an initialism for first person shooter, the type of video game where the point of view, what you see on the screen, is through the main character's eyes, or sometimes a point of view very near the character's head. Of course, the main action of these games is shooting, hence the name. When FPS games were first introduced, gaming graphics left a lot to be desired, but the first person perspective immersed the player into the game world, giving FPS games an advantage over side scrollers that kept players at a distance from the main character.

People don't typically use the term FPS in daily conversation, so if you hear the term used liberally, it's a safe bet you're in the presence of video gamers.


Nerd Specializations: Culture Nerd

The guy who actually likes opera, knows why a Bordeaux can only come from a particular area of the planet, and can tell you the stylistic differences between paintings from different parts of Picasso's career: this is a culture nerd. The focus is on high culture, but can encompass any time period and anything from Brahms to bowling. Culture nerds can be snobs, although they aren't always, and their interest in art, theater and classical music isn't remotely pretentious. They don't care what people think of their preference for Bach over rock because they're thinking about the common themes running through Diego Rivera's murals and 1950s Hindi cinema. Cultural nerds prefer quiet art galleries, live theater and orchestral music, but they may also enjoy popular films that comment on society, music that mashes up genres as a social experiment, and lively political debate.


Nerds Make Great Friends

Sebastiaan ter Burg, Nerds Unite
So you've met this really interesting person--smart and a bit shy--but after a couple of conversations you notice a few quirks: she loves science fiction, he's into gaming, she watches a lot of Doctor Who, he collects comic books...

Oh, wait, you've met a nerd.


OK, so you already knew you were talking to a nerd or else you wouldn't be reading this. Here are some ideas to help you develop a better relationship with your new friend.