Nerdapalooza Links

July 4th–5th brings us Nerdapalooza Southeast 2008 in Orlando (details here). I’ll not be able to make it to the event myself, but I thought it warranted a mention here.

First, some notes on the event itself: Nerdapalooza is a gathering of bands featuring geek rock, wizard rock, game music, nerdcore hip-hop, and other acts along these lines. Z. explains on the Wired Geekdads blog: “Boasting a roster of more than 30 bands, the event is uniquely positioned to bridge the (sub)cultural gap that exists between various forms of geek music.” Moreover, proceeds go to Child’s Play, a charity started by Penny Arcade which puts games and toys into children’s hospitals.

Speaking of Z., I would next like to draw your attention to the “Nerdapalooza Bound” episode of the Radio Free Hipster podcast. It features a number of bands who will be at the event, and guest commentary by organizers. I let Z.’s podcasts keep me company the other day during a nine-hour train ride, and I thought that this one offered a particularly nice scope of the range of interests and attitudes we think of as “geek culture.” This array includes a song about lecherous pirates, a song about preferring nerdy ladies over more mainstream hotties, a song about whiney, depressed fifteen-year-olds on Livejournal, and various expressions of general playfulness and zaniness, among others. The commentary by Hex and mCRT (which name-checks Weird Al as an early influence in developing taste in geek music) also offers a quick glimpse at how this whole phenomenon of geek music has been developing. Next time I talk to someone who seems confused by the idea that ‘geek’ could be anything but an insult, I may just point them to this podcast.

And finally, to close, I’d like to link to Nerdapaloozers, a series of comics by Anthony of Game Music 4 All. As a sort of promotion or bonus celebration of Nerdapalooza, Anthony has replaced the captions from a bunch of old transformers comics with stuff referencing geeky musicians and members of the community at large. I sort of think of this as the Fenslerfilm G.I. Joe of the geek music world.

New, Renewed, and Brainy Blogs

I keep meaning to give a special mention to a few blogs featuring contributions by some of my talented friends and colleagues. Probably I should just break down and create a “links” page for this site at some point, but I have a really hard time keeping those at a manageable length. Also, I feel like just having a link to a page, while seemingly more permanent, doesn’t really pique my interest as a reader as much as a link offered with wholehearted endorsement in the context of a post. For now, then, let me tell you about a few of the blogs I’ve been meaning to mention.

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When Griefing Wanders into Meatspace

I always find it fascinating when political phenomena born in the geekiest corners of the internet somehow find their way into the physical world. I’ve been planning on doing a long post about this for awhile, but I never seem to get around to it. Rather than keep this post floating around in my “Drafts” queue until I finish my dissertation, I figure I might as well just share things as I find them. Here are a couple links I’ve been turning over in the back of my mind for quite some time now.

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The Challenge to Meaningful Games

One of the things I have written about around here (and elsewhere) is how games have great narrative potential in the blending of story and gameplay. In games like Bioshock and Shadow of the Colossus, players must confront the morality of actions they have been forced to do in the process of regular gameplay. And it’s now becoming a common convention, if not a cliche, to offer players choices between a limited set of actions that direct the plot to some degree, offering the chance to see how the player’s own choices have ethical and practical ramifications, such as in Bioware games (Mass Effect being the most recent example), Kane & Lynch, Splinter Cell: Double Agent, and even the recent Grand Theft Auto IV. All of this may feel for naught, however, when the rest of the game’s design completely undercuts whatever message the narrative dimension of the game sought to communicate.

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Nerd Girls, Sex Appeal, and Stereotypes

I’ve just returned from several weeks of traveling—ICA in Montreal, a couple weeks in Boston, and a week in Madrid, where I gave a talk on my gaming research—and found a flurry of emails from folks who quite rightly knew I’d be interested in reading about Nerd Girls. (Thanks CTW, Church, Dan, Paul, Tony, and anyone I missed!) The latest issue of Newsweek has an article about this group of female engineers at Tufts, focusing on their attempt to revise the nerd image to have some room for femininity. I’m not sure how much of the group’s mission is concerned with promoting nerds as sexually attractive—it seems like the kind of thing that might get mentioned in passing and then blown out of proportion by a journalist—but it’s clearly the major concern of those commenting and blogging on the article.

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Seeking Truth in Video Game Ratings

I have a new open-access, peer-reviewed article up at the International Journal of Communication, titled “Seeking Truth in Video Game Ratings: Content Considerations for Media Regulation.” This study presents a detailed look at the processes and reform proposals for video game content rating and regulation in the U.S. It’s a follow-up to a paper I presented at the National Communication Association 2007 conference, which I described here some months ago.

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Sex and the City “Geeks” (and Geek Studies) in the News

If a television show turned cultural phenomenon spawns diehard fans who recite dialogue by heart, wear costumes inspired by the show and buy all the tie-in products, are these devotees nerds? If the show in question is Star Trek, The X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the answer is certainly yes. But what if we’re talking about Sex and the City?

Mark Medley, a reporter writing for the National Post, asked me this question a couple weeks ago. Now, it kicks off an article titled “Female Trekkies.” (Another version, sans my brief quote, made it to the Victoria Times Colonist under the title “Sex and the City Fans. Geek or Chic?”)

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