Everyone should have a love affair with something nerdy–it will change your life

Meet the real-life Iron Man.
Meet the real-life Iron Man.
Image: Reuters/Danny Moloshok
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I married a woman much cooler than I am. It was something completely unexpected that brought us together–our mutual love of “nerd culture.” I let my freak flag fly, she asked me to accompany her to the midnight showing of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, and the rest is history. Who would’ve thought?

Nerd culture has fundamentally changed my life and purpose in the world—from the people I’ve met to the career I pursued. Comic books, tech, video games, science, sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and all the things popularly referred to as nerdy are a big part of my DNA. They’re fundamental to my identity. Without the creators and community that inspired me to embrace the weird, I would have remained on the sidelines–my potential never fully realized.

My first real interaction with nerd culture happened at the age of three, when I snuck onto my parent’s Apple IIe to play Stickybear. Stickybear took hold of my imagination, whisking me away to a place I’d never thought could exist. Before I knew it, I was hooked and craved more of this escape. Over the years, I picked up reading comics, tinkering with gadgets, and challenging my two older brothers to gaming marathons on our Nintendo Famicom. But during high school, grinding levels on Final Fantasy, or building makeshift chat programs wasn’t considered cool, and talking about such interests awarded me nothing but weird looks and a few laughs from friends. So, I developed my own secret identity—I would wrestle and play water polo by day, but fight the legions of evil by night… on my PC.

Following the not-so-original “finding yourself in college” narrative, I had to leave my hometown to reveal my secret identity. I finally ignored all expectations and embraced the counter-“cool.” My friends and I watched and played games together around the clock and publicly raved about the most recent Naruto episode, dissecting each scene with complete disregard for anyone around us. Living and breathing this counterculture sent me further down the rabbit hole, leaving me with a need to understand how my favorite shows and tech products were made. I wanted to have an influence in this community if it meant I could help others celebrate their nerd status instead of shielding it like I did. So I looked for any way to break into the industry, and my entry point was working as a tester on the PlayStation 4. I found myself surrounded by like-minded peers, powering my driving force even more.

I’ve created long-lasting memories over the years that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t love nerdy things—from late night gaming binges that bridged the age gap between my older brothers and I, to inadvertently connecting me with the love of my life. Everyone has their form of escapism they’re passionate about. Nerd culture just happens to be one that attracts people from all over the world for some really great reasons. Scientists and engineers once associated with geeky tendencies have developed technologies that allow us to achieve and explore more and more each day, and the creators in the comic and anime communities transform real-life issues into amazing stories that push people to confront their insecurities and adversities. In my case, I didn’t come from money or have limitless opportunities, but an hour of Street Fighter or goofing around on Visual Basic each day helped me survive my adolescent years. The storytelling in anime, comic books, and video games can teach you that success is less about what you were born with and more about what you are willing to fight for. Learning to code was challenging, but awarded me with a level of freedom and creativity rarely found in an analog world.

Today, we are in a nerd renaissance—the highest-selling Halloween costumes this year were superheroes and Star Wars characters. If I were an adolescent now, I probably wouldn’t hide my nerdy passions but instead wear them on my sleeve. Nerds are now the real superheroes of our world—look at Bill Gates and Elon Musk! They’re icons of progress and philanthropy, with many relying on their expertise as to how technology can raise the standard of living. “Nerds” are the innovators and inventors solving real-world problems and meeting consumer needs, creating gadgets and tools straight out of Back to the Future.

As I continue to add to my collection of unplayed Steam library games, I celebrate this growth and popularity of nerd culture. More people embracing these interests means more potential innovators developing mesmerizing content and inventions for the world to dissect and enjoy. I’m genuinely honored to be a part of a community working to fuel this revolution. Everyone should have a love affair with something nerdy—I just happen to be married to mine.