The Great Nerd Culture Gap

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This is a subject my Spidey-sense is telling me not to post about. And yet.

Tuesday night I was a talking head on CNN International, a cable channel that is probably mostly broadcast at one airport gate in Dubai or something. I was on to talk about the Halo 3 launch. I was having a massive allergy attack and was even less telegenic than usual, but I did my regular, much-maligned spiel about how the video game industry, while comparable in size to the movie industry money-wise (this is basically true, depending on how you do your accounting, and has been for 7+ years), and increasingly mature as an artistic medium, remains largely invisible to the mainstream culture at large, even after the legendary “emergence day” moment of the Halo 2 launch, which brought in $125 million in 24 hours. Which has now been bettered by Halo 3‘s $170 million launch.

Once I was safely off the air the anchorwoman — Christy, I think her name was — turned to her co-anchor, shook her awesomely feathered mane, and said, “I don’t know, I still think it’s just people shooting aliens, Bob.” Chuckle. “Coming up next: what you don’t know about adorable puppies could kill you…”

Endlessly fascinating, the nerd culture gap. Generally speaking, nerds are from a demographic intersection that is historically privileged, even oppressively so: male and moneyed. But much of the country feels comfortable ignoring, if not denigrating, our culture. I keep trying to find a relevant historical comparison — is it like the 1960s, the straights vs. the hippies? Is nerd culture the new counterculture? Certainly the borderline is policed from both sides: even though I consider myself pretty nerdy, writing about anything nerdish in Time, a ridiculously mainstream publication, I routinely get labeled an idiot and an outsider by gamers, fantasy and SF readers, etc. Which for all I know I may be (if I were an idiot, how would I know?), but the straight world definitely considers me a nerd.

Or maybe the nerd culture wars are over. Maybe after The Lord of the Rings, and Spider-man, and all the rest of it, nerds are mainstream, and there is no culture gap. Maybe Christy is now at the margins.

In other news, I just realized that Resident Evil: Extinction won last weekend at the box office. Truly, Milla Jovovich is our Gidget.