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.


Nerd Entertainment: Games

Thomas Quine - Games Table
Games have been around as long as people, possibly longer, since even animals play, and everyone is familiar with how much fun (and how frustrating) games can be, but nerds often become heavily involved in games that other people may not have even heard of. Sometimes this involvement can seem obsessive, but there’s a deeply rewarding aspect of gaming that encourages this level of involvement, and games provide a safe context for social interaction that can grow beyond the playing surface.

All games have certain characteristics that make them appealing, even if they might look odd at first glance. If you're willing to give them a chance, you might find that you enjoy the same things your nerd friend does. There is a solid sense of achievement when you beat a game's level, or manage to overcome the obstacles and win, something that is less tangible in real life. Story is a large part of many of the games nerds prefer—although the plot might be thin in some of the tabletop games or paintball—and it's the sense of progression from one plot point to the next (again, often difficult to find in real life) that adds to the sense of achievement. Games that involve multiple players offer an opportunity to socialize around a common interest, and compete without fear of long term fallout. Of course, plain old fun is a huge part of the attraction.

Video Games
Perhaps the easiest to understand. Nearly everyone's played some kind of video game, whether it's an app on your tablet or a first-person console shooter. If you already like video games, it's easier to get into the games your nerd plays. Maybe you enjoy World of Warcraft and your nerd is addicted to GTA, you can each play your own game during game time and not feel like you're ignoring each other. Better yet, you can take turns playing as team members on each game, and show each other what you enjoy about the titles you love.

If you don't know much about video games, it helps to have some basic terminology so you can decide if there might be a game you would enjoy playing with your nerd. Most multiplayer games can be played cooperatively or competitively.

First Person Shooter (FPS) – a game where the point of view is through (or close to) the eyes of the main character. Usually the character spends much of his time shooting monsters or criminals with guns, although he may have more primitive weapons such as a bow and arrow, or he may not shoot anything at all. These games are highly immersive because the character behaves like an extension of yourself. 

Simulation – a game that simulates real life things that most people can't afford to do, such as driving expensive cars on a race track, flying airplanes, or creating entire civilizations. 

Real Time Strategy (RTS) – commanding large groups, anything from troops to short-order-cooks, while the computer or other players are doing the same.

Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG, MMORPG, MUD, and other acronyms) – most games have an online multiplayer facet, usually two and sometimes a handful of players competing against or working with one another, but MMOGs have multiple thousands of players accessing the game simultaneously. These are games like World of Warcraft that allow your nerd to interact with a multitude of people from around the globe.

Tabletop Games
These are the games people played before the Internet; you know the big titles—Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk, Battleship, checkers and chess—but there are tabletop games for everything from battling with miniature monsters to farming a homestead. They're played using things like boards, dice, cards, spinners, tokens and even fake money, and can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours to play. Usually they don't take long to learn, and you play them face to face, so they're a great way to interact with real people.

Role Playing
A more complicated version of tabletop gaming that relies heavily on a well-developed rule system and the players' imaginations. Role playing games function more like really good books, immersing the players in a detailed world that can run the gamut from fantasy to science fiction, ancient history to the far future, and while the rules comprise the backbone of the game, it's the players who bring it to life. Setup can take a lot of time, and everyone needs to be conversant with the rules, which can be daunting at first, but it's also why nerds obsess over a game like Dungeons and Dragons, because the more detail they add, the more interesting the game. Role playing is epic: players don't just play a game, they embark on a campaign, which can last for weeks or sometimes years (although not at a single sitting, obviously).

Live Action Role Playing (LARPing)
Take everything from role playing, add costumes and a lot more players, and take it outside. This is LARPing. It may look weird, but it's usually good exercise and you get to hit each other with foam swords.

This is a game where nerds overlap with jocks and everyone can have a good time. It’s understandable to be afraid of paintball, which can be a little intimidating because there are guns involved, but if you don’t have a moral aversion to guns you should give it a try. There are no bullets, instead the guns are compressed gas powered and shoot marble-sized balls filled with gel paint. A paint pellet can sting if it hits unprotected skin, but you usually wear thick clothing and plastic armor so you don’t feel them when they hit you. There’s more to it than just running around shooting each other. Usually there are goals like capturing the opposing team’s flag, so the game involves a lot of strategy. Paintball is exceptionally competitive, and involves a lot of mental and physical exertion, so it’s a good exercise option.

If you have a nerd friend who is heavily invested in a type of game, give it a shot. If you don't enjoy it, that's fine, but at least you’ll show him that you care enough to at least try, and if you do enjoy it you'll both have a way to enjoy some time together.

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