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 Q&A: Can You Profile Someone in a Video Game Arcade?

Chris Ainsworth - Tron
I love this question:

What can you learn about someone by going to video game arcades (Dave & Busters, Gameworks, Chuck E. Cheese's) with them?

If you have the time, and the tokens, I think you could work up a complete psychological profile on a person just by observing them in a video game arcade. I think this merits a longer article, but for the moment I'm going to consider the simplest cues.

The most obvious thing you can discover at a food and games type arcade like Dave & Busters is if the person likes playing games. Someone who hangs out at the bar the whole time probably doesn't like games, although it's possible he's just embarrassed to play them. That's significant information--I know not to have that person's birthday party in an arcade--but if I really wanted to know more about someone, I'd take him to an arcade with nothing but games, so he can't hide out behind a plate of nachos.

Here are some quick things you could figure out about a person by watching her in an arcade.

Does the person prefer meatspace games like Skee-Ball and Whac-A-Mole over video games? This shows a level of comfort with her physical abilities, and possibly a pragmatic consideration for the reward of tickets that can be cashed in for prizes. Preference for these games also shows a significant self-confidence because they are often viewed as more nerdy than video games. The exception to this last observation are the games where you toss basketballs in a time trial, or you punch a target as hard as possible.

Does the person gravitate toward highly interactive games with detailed peripherals such as rifles or a replica motorbike? This tells me that he puts a premium on immersion and a willingness to step into the game persona, whether it's a Terminator-hunting rebel or an outlaw Hell's Angel. These are some of the least nerdy video games (yes, I just said that), and could indicate that the player has a desire to engage in "dangerous" activities, but is reluctant to put himself at real risk.

Does the player go straight to classic games like Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong? This shows a level of imagination that doesn't rely on props for entertainment value, and a non-competitive nature that's more into fun than winning. It also may reflect an older player's nostalgia, or a younger player's fascination with vintage popular culture.

Does your friend prefer head-to-head fighting games like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter? This says the person has a competitive nature and enjoys showing off her skills (and perhaps dominance) but isn't afraid to lose either. Fighting games take a lot of time and practice to master, so a really good Mortal Kombat player has either spent a lot of time in an arcade...or has a machine at home.

And then there's the person who refuses to go to an arcade. But, if you're asking this question, do you really want to hang out with a person like that?

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