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April 21, 2009

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"Or maybe it's that chess is for cool nerds while Wow is for loser nerds?

Perhaps Chess is perceived as an extreme mental challenge (although not necessarily as g-loaded as people think), while WoW is mostly perceived as vegetating in front of the computer monitor."

Yes.

This is interesting. I'm not sure if my experience applies completely to this case as it doesn't involve girls judging guys directly, but I went to an all boys prep school, and while I was there somebody started a chess club. There was nothing to it really, somebody just brought a bunch of chess boards to school and after school we played and called it a club.

Like you'd expect, we had a typical social heirarchy at the school, with the cool, star athletes at the top, etc.

But after it was started, a lot of the "cool" kids joined, and the club wasn't seen as some huge nerd club or anything. This was in sharp contrast to the other clubs on campus that were automatically viewed as really nerdy/dorky clubs, and which none of the "cool" kids would associate with.

I suspect it might have to do with chess being an older, classic game. The nerds have so many other choices of nerd hobbies, that chess has less demand from real nerds. So it's ok for the cooler non-nerds to enjoy it, without being tainted.

I think it makes sense when looked at through Half Sigma's insight that there is a fixed amount of "status" within society. There's a fixed amount of nerds (low status) demanding nerdy (low status) hobbies and activities. So when the nerd demand flows out of old nerd games like chess (years ago) and flows into newer things (D&D, WoW, StarCraft), chess can actually gain in status, as there are fewer nerds bidding the status of chess lower. High status guys (like hedge fund jocks who like math, poker, chess, etc.) can then swoop in and bid the status higher.

Chess requires a high degree of future time orientation, whereas WoW merely requires you to be able to click a mouse while eating copious amounts of Cheetos.

"Why is Magic the Gathering nerdier than Scrabble? I suppose because women play Scrabble."

MtG is nerdier than Scrabble because it has a fantasy theme which isn't as popular among women as men as well as being substantially more complex. There are somewhere between nine and ten thousand unique cards versus 100 tiles in a Scrabble game, plus many more levels of interaction between said cards.

Women play MtG too, although in sufficiently limited quantities that a woman at a high level event is a rarity, pun not intended.

Great chess players are featured on TV and great WOW players aren't.

You are overthinking this.

As today's Offical WoW Defender and someone who used to play chess a lot, I would say the difference is that few people can play chess decently because it requires a high treshhold of certain kind of reasoning ability. So it has that going for it.

However, WoW is like an amusement park with lots of different rides : some meant for everyone and some much more cognitively challenging. Little kids can finish more than half the content, but there are certain activites that require a much broader base of skills, mainly like Arena (very complex, fast-based player versus player content) or Raiding (requires 25 people working together for hours at a time, requires lots of preperation and communication skills). Since people don't know much about WoW its hard to convince people that its a lot of different from Mario Brothers, because there are aspects to it which *are* like Mario Brothers.

In any case, time spent playing WoW should be put in your category of "things that don't elevate my status but I am interested in."

In my opinion, watching sports or shows like "Lost", which are totally socially acceptable, are far more vegetative than playing WoW. Also, while there are a lot (a lot!) of dysfunctional people who play WoW, as a percentage, its about the same percentage of dysfunctional people who play chess.

Also, "Bobby Fischer", they broadcast certain WoW Arena matches on web TV channels now.

[HS: Hey, I like Lost.]

"There are somewhere between nine and ten thousand unique cards versus 100 tiles in a Scrabble game, plus many more levels of interaction between said cards."

I'm pretty sure that there are exactly 26 unique tiles in Scrabble.

Chess nerdy?

What one needs for a proper game of strategic competition is plenty of ice, some rockin' single malt, and a nude hottie sucking on your testicles as you take your opponent's rook.

If that's nerdy, I'm Michelle (thank-you) Obama.

[HS: Yum. Whisky.]

I think it's image. When people think of World of Warcraft, they think of some guy sitting in front of his computer screen for hours at a time eating Cheetos. Chess is a couple of guys sitting in front of a board. Not that much different from Scrabble, which is sorta nerdy, but women play that so it's not considered such. And you'll never see a movie like "Searching for Bobby Fischer" about World of Warcraft.

I knew quite a few jock types who were into playing Madden online, or even Halo. But even those can kill a relationship; if you've ever seen The Breakup you'll know what I'm talking about. Vince Vaughn spent half the movie playing video games online.

Why do you say that Chess isn't heavily g loaded?

The ability to think moves ahead--which is crucial in chess--is all g.

The ability to SPOT a great move is also all a matter of g.

What the hell do you think solving chess puzzles requires?

[HS: Chess is a pure mental activity, but not as highly g-loaded as people think--it's more about concentration, and memorizing the openings and endgames.]

A higher proportion of WoW players spend more time playing than most people would deem appropriate. There is a (not entirely unreasonable) perception that WoW players are addicts who let a hobby get in the way of more noble pursuits.

"I'm pretty sure that there are exactly 26 unique tiles in Scrabble."

Wrongedy wrong wrong! 27, because of the blanks.

[HS: Triple word score for rob!]

Long-time reader, first-time commenter here. Magic: The Gathering is undeniably nerdy, but an activity I remember fondly from my youth. I would probably put it ahead of Risk and Scrabble in terms of g-loading activities, but still rank it behind Chess. Still, I cannot think of a more readily accessible means of teaching creative thinking, planning and game theory to middle school children with themes they may find interesting, a tolerable learning curve, and virtually no upper bound on strategy-building techniques. I recommend that others play, even if only in private.

I think guys ultimatly decide what's sexy, girls decide what's nerdy/cool.

but another perspective is that if you're likely to make money doing it, it's not nerdy. This might explain why poker isn't considered nerdy. I think you're more likely to win money playing chess than playing WoW.

Of course, with that logic, commenting on blogs discussing the various nerdiness of various activities is itself far more nerdy than the aforementioned activities :P

[HS: Glenn Reynolds makes a six figure income from his blog.]

I think there are two reasons.

First, everything I've ever seen indicates that WoW type games are massive time sinks. So yeah, people with better things to do CAN'T play them. I played one for about four month two years ago and it takes an enormous amount of time to get anywhere, even relentlessly min-maxing.

Second, it harms the wonderful feelings of the wonderful people who inhabit this wonderful country that others would rather play video games all weekend than interact with their wonderful selves.

It is an insult towards their very wonderfulness.

NOTE:
It is kind of odd that a video game can so completely pawn 'human company' for so many people.

One group whose nerdiness I can't quite figure out are the people who obsess endlessly over baseball statistics (sabremetrics). If extreme detail orientation is a sign of a nerd, sabremetricians certainly qualify. On the other hand, they obsess over a sport, and it's a general rule that sports are the opposite of nerdy.

Well, I read Class by Paul Fussell due to a recommendation by Half Sigma. He discussed the prestige of various forms of recreation. Two factors increase the class level of form of recreation: organicism and archaism. That is, the more organic the materials used and the older the origin of the sport, the more prestigious it is. Chess is definitely much older than WoW, it's been around for hundreds of years. Also, chess can be played with just a table and some wooden or stone pieces. No electricity required. WoW, on the other hand is obviously detached from the physical world entirely.

"[HS: Chess is a pure mental activity, but not as highly g-loaded as people think--it's more about concentration, and memorizing the openings and endgames.]"

But many activities that are heavily g loaded also require high degrees of concentration. Memorizing openings and endgames is no doubt essential, but the sheer possible variations that can occur cannot be memorized and therefore require a high degree of problem solving ability to safely wade through.

And you skipped my point about solving chess puzzles and finding a great move: What memorization is required in that situation? Moreover, if the task of doing backward digit span is g loaded, so is the task of thinking many moves ahead, something expert players can easily do.

Are you downplaying the intelligence required for chess because you happen to suck at the game or something?

"I think it's image. When people think of World of Warcraft, they think of some guy sitting in front of his computer screen for hours at a time eating Cheetos."

A guy who spends six hours every Sunday sitting in front of his wide screen HDTV eating Cheetos while watching the NFL is as NON-nerdy as you can possibly be.

I disagree with the way that linked-to list had stamp and coin collecting ranked fairly high up as nerdy activities. And no, I don't do either. Both activities have been around for many decades, with generations of fathers introducing their sons to them. Note Paul Fussell's "archaic and organic" point, both activities certainly qualify in that regard.

In addition, some stamp and coin collectors are motivated primarily by hopes of making money. I do not believe that a mercenary activity can properly be called nerdy.

"In addition, some stamp and coin collectors are motivated primarily by hopes of making money. I do not believe that a mercenary activity can properly be called nerdy."

What are you talking about? Nerds make more money than anyone. Ever heard of Bill Gates, the google guys, the founders of Yahoo? All billionaires (at least at their peak). Also, Ashkenazi Jews tend to be nerds and they make more money than anyone.

vampires are alpha? they don't have sex!! besides that, they "reproduce" by biting people!

One group whose nerdiness I can't quite figure out are the people who obsess endlessly over baseball statistics (sabremetrics). If extreme detail orientation is a sign of a nerd, sabremetricians certainly qualify. On the other hand, they obsess over a sport, and it's a general rule that sports are the opposite of nerdy.

Major League Baseball is a great math teacher. While in school they were teaching us remainders (22/7 = 3 remainder 1) I was long dividing to three digits (batting averages). Plus, ERA's teach you how mean averages work.

My middle brother is a big time MLB-geek and fantasy baseball fanatic (from back in the day before it became so universal). He never paid a social cost for it as far as I saw. It was a good way to make friends with smarter baseball fans and, because it wasn't the only thing going on in his life, it wasn't distracting.

The reason that a lot of these activities have such a stench is that they have the ability to take over someone's life and attract people with giant voids in their life just waiting to be taken over. WoW can fall into that category. Like Everquest was. I know at least a couple girls that did date guys that played those games. They became "Everquest widows". When my ex-girlfriend left her ex-boyfriend, screaming at him for being so neglectful of her (and everything), he didn't even take his eyes off the screen.

She decided that she would never date another gamer ever again. And she told that story to a lot of young women, a good many of which decided that was not the sort of thing that they needed.

[I do not believe that a mercenary activity can properly be called nerdy.]

"What are you talking about? Nerds make more money than anyone."

That's not my point. What *is* my point is that an ordinarily nerdy activity is not necessarily that way if one engages in the activity to make money. Commercial motives triumph over the strictly recreational.

Note, though, I am not saying that stamp or coin collecting are nerdy even when there's no commercial motivation.

--

"The reason that a lot of these activities have such a stench is that they have the ability to take over someone's life and attract people with giant voids in their life just waiting to be taken over. WoW can fall into that category. "

Of course some men get totally obsessed with sports. They do not, however, pay the same social price as do men who get obsessed with things like D&D or WoW, which is odd in a way given that women generally aren't much into sports. It goes back to a point I've made a number of times, namely that women don't mind if men are heavily involved in pursuits that appeal mostly to men so long as they are traditional male activities (sports, cars, crafts such as woodworking, maybe other things). What women don't accept are activities that appeal mostly to men yet at the same time aren't considered fully masculine. D&D, WoW, sci-fi all are examples.

What you call "obsessed with sports" is an order of magnitude less involved than online gaming. Committed gamers game on the order 40 hours a week outside of work (the average subscriber spends 20). The whole system is set up so that when you're not gaming, you're falling behind. And there's no limit to when you can game and for how long. That's not really the case with sports. Games are on when games are on. Comparatively few people record games during the day so that they can watch them non-stop. When guys do that sort of thing, or when a guy is watching or reading about sports on a non-stop basis outside of work, it really does effect their social life. When they can't find anything else to talk about, it really does adversely effect their success with the ladies. When men do get away with it, it's the sort of thing that usually happens after they already got married.

When "How I Met Your Mother" needed to create a loser-ish that should be wildly unsuccessful with women, they chose a fantasy football fanatic for a reason.

The issue for gamers, though, is that it is more likely to be assumed that they are on the more extreme end of things. There are armies of casual sports fans. There aren't armies of casual online gamers (assuming that 20 hours a week is not casual). I think that, rather than purported masculinity, is the main issue at play here.

Regarding D&D, that's not about obsession at all. That's about the innate weirdness that a lot of people associate a bunch of people pretending to be bizarre characters and rolling dice to see who hits whom for how much damage. Online gaming doesn't really suffer from that perception as much these days. Why playing a video game would be enjoyable is a little more straightforward even to people that don't really play much in the way of games. The bigger mark is that a gamer is going to be assumed to be more obsessive.

Put another way, if a guy spends 20-40 hours a week playing EA Sports NCAA Football on his PlayStation, and worse yet is trying to talk to his coworkers about how well he did, he will not be any more impressive to the ladies because what he is doing is vaguely associated with masculinity than would the guy excited about about making High Priest on some online game.

There are other factors at work. Watching sports is a more social activity. It's easier to make friends with other guys talking about it. Having other guy friends helps will give the appearance of good social adjustment and make you appear more acceptable to more women. Women also know that if they want they can watch sports with him, which they're more likely to be more interested in doing than joining his World of Warcraft Guild. She probably couldn't join his guild anyway because she doesn't have the experience points. To participate in that aspect of his life would require considerably more investment than spending an afternoon watching a football game.

Masculinity is far less at issue than you think it is. Social deftness and how the interests will relate to her specifically are much bigger issues. Most women (certainly moreso than video games)can enjoy watching sports in small doses. Those that can't stand it aren't going to be interested in someone who devotes a lot of interest to sports things. Those that enjoy it in small doses can participate more frequently than they can if his interests are something that requires the degree of commitment that online gaming often does.

I personally know a woman who dumped her boyfriend over his excessive playing of this vary game.

I have never played WoW, but I remember various older games than sucked me in for hours. I did not find my willingness to play a video game for 6+ hours straight to be an attractive aspect of myself, and would expect most women to feel the same way.

You'd be better off throwing the game away and buying a Wii, where a lot of games take 2 minutes to learn, can be played by 4 people in a room together, and are fun to play even for 20 minutes.

"I'm pretty sure that there are exactly 26 unique tiles in Scrabble."

"Wrongedy wrong wrong! 27, because of the blanks."

A game of Scrabble begins with 100 tiles in the bag.

"Committed gamers game on the order 40 hours a week outside of work (the average subscriber spends 20). The whole system is set up so that when you're not gaming, you're falling behind. And there's no limit to when you can game and for how long. That's not really the case with sports. Games are on when games are on."

One of the things contributing to the NFL's popularity is the fact that watching the games is not particularly time-consuming. For the most part all of a week's games are played within a six-hour period on Sunday and three hours on Monday evening. The season's fairly short, too. Baseball is more demanding, with games being played every night of the week for a longer season, but fans rarely even try to watch all of their favorite team's games.

--

"Most women (certainly moreso than video games)can enjoy watching sports in small doses."

That is correct, it's always been my impression that women seldom actively dislike sports. Mild interest or perhaps a benign indifference is more common. Women account for about 40% of the people who attend MLB games and about 35% for the NFL. While I'd say that many of the women who attend games are there merely to accompany their boyfriends or husbands (the flip side of men at the ballet), in reality most men whose girlfriends wouldn't go to the game would instead go with male buddies.

What probably contributes to the men-only image of sports is the way that most TV commercials during sports shows are for men's products and services: cars, beer, life insurance, mutual funds, limp-d*ck drugs, and Flomax. This may be more indicative of advertiser stereotyping than actual viewership percentages, however.

A game of Scrabble begins with 100 tiles in the bag.

Nicol, unique tiles, there's more than one A for eg.

Why do you say that Chess isn't heavily g loaded?

The ability to think moves ahead--which is crucial in chess--is all g.

The ability to SPOT a great move is also all a matter of g.

Chess rating is only weakly correlated with IQ. It is most strongly correlated with time spent playing chess. Good players don't think further ahead in the game tree: they think ahead a similar number of moves, but they pick the correct moves to explore in the first place. This is largely a matter of experience with the game, not intelligence.

while WoW is mostly perceived as vegetating in front of the computer monitor.

The South Park WoW episode can't have helped this image.

Although why vegetating in front of a computer is more of a stigma than the TV is something I'll never quite figure out.

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