Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shills

Honestly, I weep for the gaming community.

I recently received an email from Wizards of the Coast, addressed to my name, asking me to use this blog to encourage my readers to join in their online playtesting.  Obviously, I'm not the only person to receive such a request.  Obviously, WOTC is made of such profoundly stupid people that they never bothered to read this blog or discover what my opinion about their company might be.  It's awfully shoddy to be hoping the "community" will rush to your support without first gauging what the "community" might think of you.

Then again, that's more or less what I'd expect from any industry that caters to fan boys.

I get awfully sick of fanboy "culture."  I think what's bothered me these last three decades with its development is the manner in which it has co-opted genius, to ascribe ability and talent where neither exists.

Allow me to explain, as I have done a few times these past few weeks since putting this together.  In 1984, 20th Century Fox allowed an insignificant production company, Interscope Communications, to make a mid-budget B-picture for just $8 million, its first motion picture.  With the help of an upcoming director, Jeff Kanew, and a good deal of PR - college films were usually good draws - a little movie about outcasts was made called Revenge of the Nerds.  The film was primarily about a group of boys, not well-liked (or respected) by the university social establishment, who didn't actually give a fuck about that establishment.  These boys did not pretend to like the establishment, they did not have a whole lot of respect for either rules or the law (basically committing acts in the movie that would land them potential years in jail) and in general they had characteristics that - to some degree - justified the hatred that so-called jocks, principles, figures of authority and indeed drivers on highways had.

In other words, they were Nerds, and being Nerds, they were in large part disgusting, rude, incomprehensible and filled with unsatisfied lust for the opposite sex.  They also happened to be really smart and capable, and they happened to be somewhat naive regarding the ways of the world.

Revenge of the Nerds took in $40 million at the box office, five times its investment, and immediately became a game-changing meme for teen movie plots in the 1980s.  There had been other nerds in other movies - notably the immortal Spaz in 1979's Meatballs - but no movie had been previously made where the entire protagonist cast - without a single "prettyboy" hollywood implant - was made up of bonified, undeniable Nerds.

And there never would be again.

The reason, you see, is that while Revenge of the Nerds was about boys who couldn't get laid or get respect because they were just too fucking weird to be liked, every other nerd movie that came thereafter was about perfectly normal looking kids who thought about sex in a truly Disney fashion while sporting bad hair cuts.  While the Nerds Curtis Armstrong and Timothy Busfield humped whatever girls came into reach or had spontaneous orgasms, later nerds would stutter a little or look shy when it came to the opposite gender.  Revenge of the Nerds had a few plot-important or joke-important references to high intelligence and genius - but the movie was far more about not being liked and not getting laid than it was about them "fitting in."  None of the Nerds wanted to fit in.  In fact, by not fitting in, they kicked everyone's ass ... until in the end, the establishment was reduced to physical attacks.  The movie is a demonstration of stupid people having to resort to fists when they run out of arguments.

ALL other later nerd movies are about fitting in.  All other later nerd movies are about nerds being smart.  Worst of all, nerds appearing in the movies after 1990 are all FANBOYS.

I challenge you to find a "fan" reference made by any Nerd in the early 80s.  The Nerds in Real Genius, Just One of the Guys, Sixteen Candles, Back to School and Meatballs don't talk about Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica, they don't collect action figures or even the appropriate movie posters.  They are not fascinated with lasers because they want to build their own light-sabres, and they don't fill every speech they make with cultural references.

This is something that happened LATER ... when Hollywood, I think, realized that there were nerds who collected a lot of action figures and movie posters and other Hollywood memorabilia ... and that by incorporating such people into the media under the heading "nerds" they could have characters sell this shit by talking about it continuously.  This is why some nerds, like those in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, don't talk product placement until the 6th season, when their ratings start to slide and their budgets need a shot in the arm.

Need to sell some shit?  Put a nerd in your movie.

What bothers me is that we've now come to the rationale that ALL "nerds" collect figures and bad sci fi/horror movies, and that they scream bloody murder online about the characters in Heroes and Lost - and that they all play Dungeons & Dragons.  Somehow, though, all these fan-boy fuckers, who haven't got a brain in their heads, manage to retain the cachet of being geniuses and talented ... when clearly they just are not.  If one of them had ever learned anything about filmmaking or screenwriting or marketing, they'd know without being told just what fucking shills fan boys really are.

Exactly the kind of shill Wizards of the Coast thinks I am, because I play D&D.

That really, really, really pisses me off.

So fuck them and their playtesting fuckfest.  And fuck you, O Gentle Reader, if you're interested in it.

11 comments:

Giordanisti said...

It's a clever thing, to take the character of a materialistic idiot, call them a genius and make *purchasing* their primary mode of interacting with the world. It makes people feel smart when they buy more bullshit. This is the era we live in: we think we can buy intelligence.

Anthony said...

For only $29.99, you too can run the best adventures of all time!

Well, Kickstarter makes that sound more like:

For only $29.99, you might get to run the best adventure of all time!

Oddbit said...

Interesting. It does seem a bit silly to send this request your way. Silly being a bit of an understatement of coarse.

I'm not going to lie, I've got some of their next ed. materials via connections here and there, and am looking them over. Perhaps I'll even try them, but I'll be honest, it's not because I have any impression out of the gates it will be good. I've been approaching the whole project rather pessimistically myself.

I'm doing it because I love systems, I love seeing how people succeed and fail and I love tearing them down and considering how I would fix them.

Scott said...

I haven't seen _Angus_ in years - according to imdb, it was released in 1995 - but it features an intelligent nerd who's also a good athlete and who isn't defined by fandom or consumption patterns.

Alexis said...

Yes, but once again, Angus is sexually retarded, incredibly disneyfied, supported by a "nerd" friend who acts in no way like a nerd (informed status) and ultimately Angus wins the heart of Melissa who likes him because he's "kind to others."

Ugh. Same shit. Hollywood makes him fat so he can be a "nerd" when in fact a lot of fat people are not.

JB said...

Alexis: You're awesome.

It's funny...I never considered myself a nerd as a kid because I identified "nerds" with those kids in Revenge of the Nerds and those earlier films...and I didn't resemble 'em. But over the years, with the re-branding of the archetype you describe, I've had sneaking suspicions about myself in the back of my mind. That can undermine a person.

Thanks for giving me some peace of mind back. I'll try to repay it by not be a fucking shill. Even though a person CAN fit in, that's no excuse not to be authentic to yourself.

Eric Walker said...

Did you sign up for the play-test? Do you even play any version of D&D? I just don"t understand why they would want you opinion considering how bitter and hateful you about the hobby and the establishment that is in it.

Alexis said...

And there we see the programming of the constituency; if you despise the commercialization of your hobby, it is the same as despising the hobby itself.

A whole community, too stupid to recognize it's been programmed to be mules.

JDJarvis said...

I myself will be a shameless shill for a company that puts out goods I enjoy. But there's the rub: "putting out goods I enjoy". The company has to actually produce the product I buy using their time, talent, and resources. The product has to be enjoyable. I don't read books or watch films the creators had to clear with my friends and I, why should games be any different?

Dave Cesarano said...

This post fills me with a warm, happy feeling that is difficult to describe but absolutely awesome nevertheless. I always thought the professors in Big Bang Theory spent too much time being geeks as opposed to nerds. There is a difference. Real nerds usually don't have infinite amounts of time to waste on pop-culture obsessions. Granted, I'm a college professor and I still like comic books, D&D, and anime. However, I'm more interested in (and invested in) being up on Homer and Thucydides (because I have to teach them) than Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet. I'm not getting paid to talk about The Avengers in front of twenty college students. Somehow, I doubt the writers in Big Bang Theory realize that.

Alexis said...

Damn, I love Thucydides.

I have always dreamed of the brilliant historical fiction in three massive volumes based upon the Peloponnesian War.

The first ending with the death of Brasidas and Cleon, obviously both in love with the same woman.

The second with the taking of Syracuse - where the same woman has taken refuge.

And finally with the end of the war, and the woman, now a cougar, obsessed with Alcibiades and Lysander.

Sigh. I don't think I'm a good enough writer to put it together.