Time and time again here at Nerds on Earth, we circle back to the same truth of the world we live in:
It’s a great time to be a nerd!
Nerdom is not in a rut, its experiencing an absolute glut. Comic and science-fiction/fantasy novel properties, stuff only us nerds dabbled in, are now top grossers at the box office and holding the attentions of the largest audiences on television. Tabletop RPGs have experienced a new renaissance of sorts – if not in quantity and quality of what’s produced, then certainly in our ability to collaborate and play (thanks to technology; its the best!). And board games are blowing up, man!
But let’s not miss an implication and opportunity lurking beneath the surface of the exciting wealth of awesome nerdy stuff at our disposal.
Cultural Inroads Aplenty
We now have an unprecedented number of ways to onboard new nerds; moving them from interested or entertained to obsessed (like us!). Nerdy IPs are everywhere, guys and gals. They used to be a risky venture, but now they’re amazingly common.
As a result, pop culture has transformed what used to functionally be a cold call into a hot lead! Most of the work has been done for us. There are all these people walking around already hooked, just waiting to be reeled in.
They no longer need you to explain who the X-Men are or what the Red Wedding is. They’ve been initiated. But what they do need is your instruction on where to go from there.
You Liked ____________? Try _______________!
A book club I’m in read Ta’Nahisi Coates’ Between the World and Me last year, and we loved it. We spoke highly of Coates and his perspective, and I off-handedly mentioned to the other members his (then brand new) run on Marvel’s Black Panther.
“You liked his writing, huh? Maybe you should check out the comic he’s writing for Marvel right now. The first issue is killer!”
That’s all it took. You liked ________________? Maybe you should check _________ out!
Listen: By all metrics, that wasn’t the time or the place to talk about comic books. What the heck was I even thinking?!
But it totally worked! One of them is consuming Coates’ Black Panther run right now. She wouldn’t have touched a comic without that connection no matter how hard I sold it, and just any old Black Panther run wouldn’t have worked. I exploited what was there (interest in and appreciation for Coates’ work) and turned it into something nerdy.
Similarly, pay attention close attention to the nerdy things people around you are digging and invite them a little deeper.
- Introduce fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies to the source material or your favorite run.
- Alert fans of the Game of Thrones show to Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson.
- If your kid is digging Stranger Things, roll up a character with them and get your 5e on!
If the traffic we received on the GotG link above is any indication, lots of people were looking to familiarize themselves with the source material and the (at the time) obscure characters around the first movie’s premiere. And with the reveal of Ghost as a villain in the upcoming Ant-man and the Wasp movie, lots of websites pushed posts explaining who Ghost is.
There’s a market for more information than what’s presented on the television or movie screen. And in many cases you’ve got it! All you’ve got to do is share it.
5 Seconds of Courage
Earth Nerd Clave wrote a brilliant piece awhile back focusing on what he called the Five Seconds of Courage. In it, he encourages us introverts to dare to be daring for all of five seconds and see what comes of it.
Break the seal on social anxiety and speak up! Be engaging! Offer your suggestion on where to go next and see where it takes the recipient. Worst case scenario is that they decline and prefer to stay on the pop culture surface of whatever the IP might be. But best case scenario involves you sitting back like a proud poppa as they fall in love with what’s excellent at your direction!
With mass market knowledge of characters and stories that were once the purview of nerds only, we have an opportunity to flip the jeers we used to receive for liking the exact same things into invitations to love them even more. The very things that used to divide us now have tremendous power to bring us together. Let’s take full advantage of that!