Tuesday, May 05, 2009

They may work at Best Buy, but they live in Gondor!

TJIC and David Friedman touch on the phenomenon of the social maladroit who really only blossoms within the greenhouse of their hobby. Speaking as someone who has always had a foot in the nerd camp herself and who has experienced the phenomenon from a first-person perspective, I completely... er, "grok" what they are saying.

Myself, I've been happy to turn my nerd gene to things firearm-related, but in the grand scheme of recognized social success in this society, using your knowledge of firearms to get a gig running a gun store is right up there with using the fact that you've memorized every plot twist from the X-Men to get you a job at the comic book store; neither one is likely to finance that vacation condo in Destin.

I think what Friedman's post overlooks is the old saw about the one-eyed man being king in the country of the blind. In the milieu of World of Warcraft or the local SCA joust or NerdCon '09, the person who is too timid to ask their boss for a raise is suddenly transformed into Thog the Troll or Ensign Danielle of the USS Excalibur; surrounded by like-minded people, they feel free to utilize talents which they are too socially-inhibited to use in the real world.

Hence the phenomenon of the convention organizer or chapter president or whatever who in real life does a job that demands none of that organizational skill or passion. You see it in every hobby, really, from book clubs to military reenacting to stamp collecting. In a subgroup where social status is derived from a different coin, then different people are going to be "rich", as it were, and it's unsurprising that it doesn't translate back in the real world when the wooden swords get put away or the Spock ears come off.


Matt G said...

The accompanying syndrome is the He Who Knelt At The Foot Of The Prophet Is Here A Guru Himself. Gunsite Orange Alumnus? Thunder Ranch Texas graduate? LFI 1 through 762 attendee? Blackhawk! student? Put enough classes together, and pretty soon some begin to think that they've Seen The Elephant, and the baton of teaching has been passed.

Not that I don't want to have attended all of the above. And I've seen myself infected with it. Anytime someone tries to teach me a technique that's not the Modern Technique, I have trouble taking them seriously, because that's not the way my dad was taught by Jeff Cooper. And then I was taught by Dad, so do *I* get to take on the mantle of authority, having sat at the foot of he who was taught at the foot of the Guru? :)

We all seek our own little celebrity, in our own little niche of our own making.

Tam said...

"We all seek our own little celebrity, in our own little niche of our own making."


Do you know who I am on the internet? :D

Jay G said...


It's interesting that you put it that way...

At our little get-together in March in honor of Ambulance Driver, Marko cracked wise along those same lines.

Someone at the table missed his introduction, and asked who he was.

Without batting an eye, he commented, in stage whisper, "You don't know who I am? I'm famous in the internet! Do you know my Technorati ranking?"

Which, naturally, lead to peals of laughter from the group.

Not to be outdone, I commented, "Yeah, don't you recognize Major Caudill when you see him?"...

MCSA said...

I recently did "Journey to the End of the Night" in Chicago with a "situational art" group... Chicag0.orgThe game is basically a huge, city-wide, game of tag with checkpoints along the way. People who are caught turn into "Chasers" (kinda like zombies) that try to catch others...

Aside from the fact that most of 'em were dorkish coffee-house-commies (its Chicago, they're a dime a dozen...), the crowd was pretty into doing some interesting things. At least they were getting out and having fun.

The reason I bring it up here is because some of the harder-core folks were actually trying to do this "full time". Seems they weren't content working at Starbuck's, etc...

the pawnbroker said...
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Jenny said...

Interesting subject.

I remember aaaages ago back in junior high I'd hang out with the college kids doing the SCA thing. Being all crazy over McCaffrey's Pern and suchlike, it was all kinds of fun.

... by about high school, I'd gotten uncomfortable enough to drop out - too many folks perfectly content to sit in a dead-end job month after month, but who would fiercely chase a knighthood. It just felt weird. (Though in all fairness, that was before I learned Being a Grownup is Hard. )

Come to think of it, I think that was how I came to know GunGeek folks to start with.... you can find the same love of history and inventiveness, but generally speaking the folks are of a more real-world practical state of mind, much as jtc said.

so... thanks for the education. :)

Dominique said...

I mean, how -dare- these people choose to live at an economic level they're comfortable with, and invest their time in guns/reenacting/comic books. It's almost like they're having fun, and we cannot allow that!

Speaking as someone who works a desk job, and and will spend considerable amounts of time preping for an SCA event - people choose to spend their time doing things that they enjoy, be it leading a raid group in WoW, becoming a knight in the SCA, or watching every episode of Star Trek. Or reading blogs. Or bickering about guns on the internet. (Because the SCA and wooden swords are for wussies and socially awkward layabouts, but guns are Serious Business, in part because there’s no real world application for, say, penmanship, botany, metal-smithing or sewing. None at all.)

Snarking aside, different social groups are –different-. The skills and abilities that will make you respected and successful in one group are crippling in another.

Tam said...


Uh, see these robes? The congregation's that way, reverend. ;)

LabRat said...

Aside from what Dominique said, there's another dimension to all this stuff: play has a function. Whether it's kittens pouncing on bits of string, puppies mouthing each other, or what have you, it's a low-consequence activity where you can try new things and approaches and eventually hone skills with other applications. Stupid animals either don't play at all or stop in adulthood- smart animals, like dolphins, dogs, parrots, and hominids, play their entire lives.

For every basement-dwelling loser I've ever encountered who had a virtual life in which they had total investment, I've known two or three other folks that maybe didn't start sprinting out of the social gate, but developed some better skills in such a setting. And yes, that includes me.

If anything, the real trap seems to be forgetting it's play and turning it all into your real SRS BIZNESS. That puts the consequence back in and removes the flexibility and, well, the learning.

Dominique said...

Tam -

Guilty as charged, and dutifully embarrassed.

Cybrludite said...

Heh. There's a filksong out there by Tom Smith and Rob Balder called "Rich Fantasy Lives" which addresses that very topic, but not nearly as sympatheticaly as you just did.

As for the geekery, guilty as charged. I own a t-shirt with a raunchy question in the form of a calculus equation printed on it, and have been quoted as wondering where I could find some steel salad bowls to use as neutron reflectors... Heck just based on the catalogs and magazines (both dead tree and the ones which get called "clips" by non-gunnies) which show up in my mailbox, I'm probably on a dozen watchlists already.

James said...

It is sort of amusing when these people are leaders in some online game. It is destructive when they get on the board of directors for some organization, community theater to gun clubs, and work out their personal shortcomings playing hardball politics.

the pawnbroker said...
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Anonymous said...

Obvious question - do those people do WoW/SCA/etc because they work menial jobs or do they work menial jobs because they do WoW/SCA/etc?

After 3.5 years of WoW I have nothing to show for it. It was cheaper than shrink on face value, but probably not, given complete lack of professional progress.

Just from a description I'd say SCA is a heck of a better deal.