Sometimes I really hate being a nerd. It used to mean loving something that everyone else dismissed, but these days, everyone likes to think of themselves as nerds. I am here to tell those people that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Liking Star Wars does not make you a nerd. Knowing the name of the woman who briefs the Rebel pilots on the defense system of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi (Mon Mothma, by the way)? Maybe. I’m not doing this to compare my knowledge of obscure trivia with other sexually frustrated geeks. For one thing, this is the Internet, and no matter how antisocial you are, someone out there has even more free time. For another thing, I talk about my knowledge of esoteric sci-fi/fantasy because I do know more than the average fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking for anyone’s approval. I have said before that it is curiosity rather than knowledge that defines a true connoisseur, and by that standard, the nerd community is seriously lacking.
Roger Ebert wrote a blog post a couple years ago in which he argued that video games are not art. In response to this, the gaming community went ballistic, and one of my favorite websites posted an article in which the author, David Wong, grossly distorts Ebert’s opinion into claiming that games are worthless. He did nothing of the sort. In his blog post, Ebert makes it explicitly clear that while he is not a gamer, he sees nothing wrong with pursuing it as a hobby or passion. He merely wonders why gamers are so intent that their interest be thought of in the same category as books, music, films, and the like. I’ve read plenty of books, seen lots of movies, listened to music, attended ballet and opera, visited art galleries, and even watched recordings of Japanese kabuki, and I have never played a game that makes me feel the same way that any of those did. Yes, I respect a game that can tell a good story. I’ve even been moved by the cutscenes in some of my favorites. But games, to me, are still a hybrid of sports and art, existing between the two mediums and not squarely in either one. If you took the cutscenes out of Knights of the Old Republic, you’d still have a game, but if you took everything except the cutscenes, you’d have a movie. Thus, games are not an art form.
I know people who disagree with that statement. That’s fine. In all fairness to Wong, it is a little presumptuous of Ebert to talk about something that he admits to not knowing very much about. But to take that as a personal insult is nothing short of idiotic. Reading the comments under Wong’s article, I see people trashing the greatest film critic since Pauline Kael and one of the finest nonfiction writers I have ever read simply because he dared to voice a contrary opinion. Somehow, I don’t think Ebert would be as angry if Sid Meier claimed that movies are not art. I think he’d shrug and go on his way. But try explaining that to the folks over at Cracked.
Ebert has backed down from one or two of the things he said in that blog, but one point that he stands firm on is his rebuking of people who claim that if he just plays, say, Bioshock or Shadow of the Colossus, he’ll get it. What if he plays those games and maintains that games are not art? Will he have to play Braid? World of Warcraft? There is no way to satisfy those people. Like an adult telling a child that they’re too young to understand, they will always hold their superior knowledge over his head. Why? Because it’s easier than having their opinions challenged.
Anyone who knows me knows I love Doctor Who. And as with anything I love, I hold it to a high standard and have very strong and particular opinions as to how it should be done. I spend a great deal of time butting heads with fans of the New Series, who, to put it bluntly, don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. This wouldn’t be so annoying if it weren’t for their insistence that they do. They think that “Blink” is one of the all-time great episodes and the Weeping Angels are as good as any Classic Who villain. To these fans I say: Fuck off. Do you know what the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Master all have in common? None of them would work as villains on any other show. Batman could not fight the Cybermen, the Master wouldn’t last too long against Buffy, and the Daleks simply could not exist in the same universe as the U.S.S. Enterprise. But the Weeping Angels could. They could, with a little tweaking, appear on The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, Star Trek, or, if Joss Whedon were more interested in time travel, one of his series. That fans hold up “Blink” as proof that the New Series is keeping the spirit of Doctor Who alive speaks volumes to their ignorance. Seriously, if you are one of those people, shut the fuck up. You have no idea how much I hate you.
I’m not going to spend all of this post ranting about the New Series. For one thing, we’d be here all day, and for another, I just don’t have the energy. Maybe you think the byzantine complexity of Steven Moffat’s storylines is fascinating rather than pointless. Perhaps you think Russell T. Davies’ belief that every season finale must be bigger and louder than a Michael Bay movie is stirring rather than enervating. Maybe you like Martha Jones. I’m not going to argue with any of that. I’m not even going to tell you that I’m somehow a better Whovian just because I am familiar with all eleven Doctors and can rank them from best to worst. But as a Whovian, how are you not possessed by the desire to know everything there is to know about your passion? Why should I have to tell you to seek out grainy old serials from the 1960s so that you can see how it all began? Why should I have to tell you that if you go to BigFinish.com, you can download radio plays starring (most of) your favorite Doctors and hear how the franchise translates to a different medium (pretty well, I’d say)? Watching Torchwood doesn’t count, not that I have anything against that (well, maybe a little.) Hell, even watching the serials from the 1960s and ranking the Doctors from one to eleven doesn’t count. I don’t want people to agree with everything I say and know the things I know. I just want them to think.
I can’t stop ranting. Not until everyone who claims to be into the same things that I am is at least ready, if not willing, to engage in a spirited debate about them. I can’t stop obsessing. I just can’t. I think about Doctor Who more than anything else besides sex. The only thing I need to keep my sanity is the notion that somebody is listening. Thankfully, a few people are. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them. Never stop asking questions, people. Never stop taking risks. If you do, you’ll do what people who stereotype nerds accuse us of doing. That is, you’ll die a virgin.