So, I don’t know how many people followed that reality show on TBS, King of the Nerds – hilarious, btw, if you can watch it you should – but if you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s the premise: 11 nerds locked together in a house called “Nerdvana” compete to prove which of them is the biggest nerd and has earned the right to sit atop the Throne of Games.
Pretty standard reality series, right?
But here’s the oddity. As the game progressed, one by one, the male nerds were eliminated, but the females were untouched. In fact, of the final five, four were female. And the final three? All women. So, yeah, the first King of the Nerds, at least according to reality TV, was a queen.
And that’s pretty cool! How empowering for little nerdy females to watch these strong women compete and win, to watch these women embrace their nerdiness and win the cash prize! To see them take down the men one after the other and remain standing as the strongest of nerd-kind!
The problem is, though, that these women weren’t left in the finale because they fought and triumphed. They were left in the finale because they were by and large ignored by the men. Over and over again the nerds had to nominate people to go to the elimination rounds (“nerd-offs”) and of course, the nerds voted in the people they perceived to be the biggest threat. At those perceived big threats? All male. Only one of the women was given a second glance, and when the dust settled at the end of it, the last nerd standing was a woman who had basically flown under the radar the entire time. She’d never been to a nerd-off, never dominated a challenge, never made herself out to be a threat and since she didn’t step up to the plate and show herself as important, all those guys automatically assumed they didn’t have to worry about her.
What does it say about the nerdy gamer culture that these things still happen? Should I expect my male opponents in 40k to go easy on me because I’m female? Should I expect my guildies in WoW to forgive lower healing numbers and carry me through heroics because I have a higher-pitched voice on vent? Should I step aside and let the guys stutter and stumble their way through teaching a newbie how to roll a character in D&D, even though I’m a ten-year veteran player and (gasp) actually a teacher?
Personally, my answer is no to all of those things. I’m kind of naturally shy, but when someone says (or implies) that I’m not as good as they are for any reason, it raises my hackles, if you will. My numbers in WoW stand up to any other healer or DPS. My 40k list can win games without being slapped with the cheese-label (and it’s characterful and themey, too!). And when someone’s struggling with a character sheet, I can’t help but jump in.
I hope that things like this blog, seeing Beth walk around the game store in six-inch platforms, and Cami running – not just participating in – the current 40k campaign, will do things to make the males of the nerd-world see us more as equals, as viable opponents instead of eye candy. But, until then, does anyone know when the next King of the Nerd auditions are? I could use a hundred thousand dollars…