Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Anthropology 1302 (Re-Post)

 (The comments were broken so I decided to re-post, sorry Marc!)

As I have mentioned before, I started going back to college.  I never finished my degree, so I decided to return 12 years later.  Some of my credits still existed!  For my required behavioral science I decided to take an anthropology course.  A lot of it is discussing various cultures around the world.  My current assignment was to identify the culture that I most connect with and what makes it different than other cultures.  So that gave me an opportunity to write my paper about Warhammer 40k!  Check it out:
Incoming! A Giant Wall of Text!

"Forging the Narrative"

      The screams of the dying played counterpoint to the concussive blasts of high powered artillery. Across the smoke filled battlefield, the lines of the Imperium were being overrun by the vast hordes of Xenos. The Orks advanced mercilessly, ignoring their dying kin with a lust for battle unmatched by anything else in the galaxy. The Orks, hulking green brutes that dwarfed humans, armed with their crude “shootas” and immense “choppas,” were amassed in a green tide, a giant wave of blood-lust, relentlessly pounding the beachhead of the Imperial gun-line. Entire platoons of the Guard were being routed, and the flanks were beginning to collapse. Commissar Ivon Tressilion knew the field was lost. Reluctantly, he gave the command to withdraw, hoping enough of his forces could gather back closer to the Hive-City of Proxima Major. The Commissar could only hope that there would be enough time to mount a better defense against this onslaught. As the command to retreat spread across the field, the Deathwatch Guard, clad in their powerful, mechanical Terminator Armor, began their counter-strike to cover the withdrawal of the main host. Grimly the Deathwatch Guard tore into the ranks of the Orks, knowing that this would be their last stand. With a prayer to the Emperor, may he live forever, Ivon began his own retreat.

      Nerd. Geek. Dork. I have heard all of these things before. There was a time when labels like this made me ashamed of myself. I used to hide my hobbies and interest for fear of being “uncool.” As I grew older, I was lucky to be able to connect with others that shared my interests and hobbies. I found an entire community of people who were just as into nerdy things as I was, and accepted me not in spite of my passions, but because of them.
      I play with toys. I am a grown man, closer to forty than to thirty, and much like the Toys R Us Kid, I never grew up. I am a “gamer.” I love games of all kinds; Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering, Settlers of Catan, Talisman, Zombicide, Munchkin, Fluxx, the list goes on and on. Currently, I have been playing Warhammer 40,000, a Gothic, sci-fi, tabletop, miniatures game from Games Workshop. Set in the forty-first millennium, a dark dystopian future, Warhammer 40,000, or 40k, is a game that combines modeling, painting, and strategy. Basically it is a grown-up version of toy soldiers. However, one of the most rewarding aspects is the interaction and support of the world wide community of players.
      Before we delve into my personal experiences with nerd society, we need to understand why certain stereotypes and stigmas are associated with the nerd. Nerd is defined as “a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair, etc.” or “a person who is very interested in technical subjects, computers, etc.” (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nerd). From this definition, it is easy to see where the negative connotation towards nerds is derived from. The term “nerd” first appeared to the general public in Dr. Seuss's book “If I ran the Zoo” in 1951, as an imaginary creature that would populate Gerald McGrew's zoo. The slang use of the word “nerd” was first documented in a Newsweek article in 1951 taken from The Age newspaper, “Teenagers in New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles who resort to such passe expressions are mere peasants or 'nerds'.” ("U.S. Teen-agers Talk a 'Cool, Shafty' Language" The Age, 1951). From a historical perspective nerds were always something negative. As the term grew in popularity and use, the accepted definition became more and more standard; nerds moved from being not only just socially inept and behind the times, but they also included intellectuals who focused on science and math. The popular image is the guy in thick-rimmed glasses, with a pocket-protector, carrying a mountain of math and science texts and rushing off to chess club.
      Currently, nerd culture has entered a Golden Age despite its origins in negativity. Popular culture has been making a shift recently towards what is considered nerdy, and is allowing it to become more and more accepted. “Interestingly, five of the top seven films of 2009 (Avatar, Transformers II, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Twilight: New Moon, and Star Trek) were based in space or the supernatural,” (Kottak and Kozaitis, On Being Different 2012). With television shows such as the Big Bang Theory, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Dr. Who paving the way for acceptance, nerd culture is becoming more and more mainstream.
      There is one primary trait that defines the nerd more than any other, and that is a passion for their interests above what most would consider normal. Science fiction, computers, games, or movies, the subject itself isn't as important as the passion for it. My passion is mainly towards games. However, I have been known to “geek out” over cooking, drama, and television shows. Like most people, I tend to associate with others who are as invested in my interests as I am. One of the benefits of nerd culture is that its members share an excitement level that only seems to increase the more you share it.
      The Warhammer 40k community has both a local and a global presence. Here in El Paso, there are two retail stores that host Warhammer 40k events. There is also a Facebook group called El Paso Tabletop Miniature Gamers, dedicated to war gaming here in the city. Most of the members are actually soldiers from Ft. Bliss. Due to the transient nature of military service, hobbies like Warhammer and Magic the Gathering are an excellent way to be a part of an instant community filled with people that share your interests. If you meet someone at a Magic the Gathering tournament, you already know that you have something in common with them. When I first moved to Albuquerque, I reached out to the local game store to see when they had Magic events, it was through this that I met my first friends in Albuquerque. Gamers are easy to find.
      The international Warhammer community is amazing. So many people love to share ideas, pictures, and painting techniques. This community thrives in the blogosphere with literally hundreds of hobby blogs. It is through blogging that I have made solid connections with other avid modelers and painters from around the globe: Marc from Australia, Benjamin in France, Greg in Virginia, and the incomparable Dave Weston from the UK, have all made my entry into this hobby an amazing experience. My international contacts have supported me with tips, ideas, and general encouragement. The Masters of the Forge” pod-cast is another great example of a game crossing international boundaries. Every two weeks, Adam from New York, Snorre from Oslo, and Kamil from Munich, connect via the Internet to record episodes based on the setting and fiction of the 40k universe despite living in different parts of the world. Currently, I am involved in the 2014/2015 Hobby Progress Challenge, which is a way to celebrate goals and support other members in doing what they love.
      The Warhammer community, and other nerd cultures, differ from other common cultures primarily from the perspective of acceptance. Many of the prejudices that are common in other cultures are not present. Differences such as race, religion, political affiliation, economic status, and sexuality rarely come into play. Sure there can be some genre snobbery, such as miniatures vs. RPG's (role-playing games), but in my experience, that just comes from a preference of play. The other negative I have witnessed is the established or experienced gamer over the “noob.” The term “noob”, or “newb”, is a derogatory term for those who are new to the game and do not fully understand the rules. I witnessed this mostly with Magic the Gathering, which has a far more in depth competitive circuit than Warhammer 40k.
      Nerd culture is also different from many others as it is solely based on choice. While people may be raised Catholic or part of a family with a strong military tradition, playing games, and which games you play, is a personal choice. Whether it be video games, comic books, fantasy, or games, you can be nerdy about anything you want. For me, the shared experience of creating a narrative with others has always been enjoyable. We are creating myths to be shared, combining our experiences with one another to reward ourselves with understanding. Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth, once said, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” It is the choice of the nerd to follow their bliss, wherever the galaxy might take it.
The Flagrans Gladius maintained its orbit, high above the world of Proxima Major. Inquisitor Excorrigiare examined the last report from the surface. Orks had overrun the Hive-City and only scattered forces of the Imperial Guard remained. Appearing from the Warp with no warning, the Orks assaulted the planetary defences quickly. The amassed forces were more numerous that had been seen in over two-hunderd years in this sector. There was no time to summon forth a chapter of marines to defend. Orks needed to be lanced like a boil from the galaxy. The green manace could not be allowed back into space. The Inquisitor knew there was no choice. Without turning to the Captain of the starcraft, Excorrigiare gave the order and sealed the fate of Proxima-Major, "Exterminatus."

Hope you liked it.  Let me know what you think and I'll let you know what grade I got when it comes back. (I got an A+)!

(For some reason, it looks like the comments are broken... I did get an e-mail telling me what you said, weird.)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. No worries, I tried to fix it up from my end but just created a double phantom post :-) Great article, I can remember when nerds had a hard time, but now we rule the world.

    1. Yeah, it was weird, I commented on your phantom post and I couldn't see mine either. Thanks for the third comment! We do rule the world!

  3. Great assignment! Double win. Do your homework and get a blog post :). Heavily agree. I remember back in the day you couldn't really mention things like playing D&D or board games. Now it's heavily accepted so much that people "fake" being nerdy.

    Oh I see you are wearing a metroid shirt! Samus is one of my favorite video game characters!

    "Whose samus?"

    1. Lol! I run into the "fake" nerds all the time. In my work, I talk to a lot of people and sometimes I use what they are wearing to strike up a conversation. It doesn't always work out.

  4. Interesting post & I hope the score is high, now as you know I play with toys but would in no way think of myself as a nerd (not smart enough) the way I look at it is this, no matter what you do for a hobby others can always question it's worth & some might say what we do is not normal so just ask them to define normal, it get them every time.

    1. Thanks for reading, Frank. Nerd, Gamer, or whatever, the fact remains that there is a negative connotation associated with our hobby, which is unfortunate. I like the idea of trying to get your average Joe to define what "normal " is. For me it involves lots of dice.

  5. I love this! As an anthropology professor and a 40k gamer, I'd be thrilled to get this paper. And I think the grade was well deserved... you write well! So, it wouldn't be just the subject matter, in my mind, that would win me over.

    As an aside, I'm just now looking at starting an Ork force, and found your page... I have one as well, dedicated to a lot of my gaming exploits, though I don't post enough. http://nuriochi.blogspot.com/

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I had a blast writing this paper. I'll definitely check our your blog as well. Since my father passed, I haven't really been focused on hobby and my blog has suffered. A new reader with some kind words just might give me the kick to get started again. thanks again, Edward