By Tomas Palmieri
What many people like to call “nerd culture” has definitely changed and evolved over time to become more mainstream. Nerd culture has become appealing not just to the geeky Dungeons and Dragons aficionados but also the average population. Nerd culture ranges from someone simply interested in computers all the way to those who find themselves obsessed with games and superheroes.
The origins of nerd culture span all the way back to the 1930s when comic books and penny arcades began to emerge. Comic books originally reprinted “comedic” newspaper comic strips, but towards the late 1930s began to print superhero stories with the emergence of “Superman.”
After Superman’s printing and a bit of time to gain traction, thousands of other comic books began printing all sorts of superhero stories as the medium had exploded. Superhero comics were in their golden age and the nerd culture many people know of now was truly beginning to take shape.
Penny arcades were also of extreme popularity during the beginnings of “nerd culture” as you could show up and play video games such as “Galaga,” “Centipede,” and “Pac-Man” for hours spending little money.
After comic books and arcades, we saw another rise of nerd culture with cult classic sci-fi movies and television such as “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.” With the success of these space dramas, nerd culture boomed into a massive industry in the 1990s.
The early 1990s saw a massive cultural spike for nerd culture with video games on home consoles like Nintendo 64, Playstation, and Super Nintendo. The 90s were huge for video games, which meant nerd culture began to get more corporate attention as people realized making video games for home systems was an actual lucrative endeavor.
Home consoles not only allowed corporations to begin putting their heads into video games, but also allowed for more easy access to nerd culture. You no longer had to take the time out of your day to go to an arcade when you could just play on your home TV, which definitely resulted in the culture getting more popularized.
After the 1990s, tabletop games like “Dungeons and Dragons” and “Magic: The Gathering” gained popularity and fantasy movies like “Lord of the Rings” brought more attention to nerd culture.
TV shows began to normalize nerd culture to those who didn’t find themselves already immersed in it. The key TV show that has had one of the largest effects on the normalization of nerd culture would be the American Sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” when it came out in 2007.
The Big Bang Theory highlighted to TV watchers all of the different aspects of nerd culture in a comedic and entertaining way, leading to a large normalization of the commonly viewed “nerdy” culture.
Along with The Big Bang Theory another significant advancement in the 2000s led to a normalization of nerd culture, that being the creation of mobile video games. Mobile games, or games you can access from your smartphone, allow many people to become familiar or immersed in the traditionally “nerd culture” because it is so easy to just take out your phone, download a game, and play.
Mobile games are also commonly made after certain already existing fandoms, allowing those who play them to become acquainted and interested in whatever fandom the game may be associated with.
Today, nerd culture still encompasses an ever growing media, being spearheaded by superhero movies and video games of all genres. While nerd culture was originally followed by stereotypically socially awkward and bullied teens and young adults, it has now expanded to the point that almost everyone has watched a superhero movie from Marvel or DC or played some sort of video game.