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Being a Nerd

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Being a Nerd

Andrew Ryan

Last week I began watching Star trek for the first time. It was one of those shows that I kind of mostly ignored, for years, too much pop cultural influence without anyone in my life being in to it, until a good friend recently recommended it, over and over, as a counter to the occasional bouts of compassion fatigue I experience as I continue with my studies and Australian history research without the aid of a therapist. There’s only so many case-studies and accounts of horrible violence+colonial genocidal practices you can take it before it all gets a liiiiiiiitle bit too much, you know?

And the show works, as my friend said it would! It’s fucking great. Really. Quality viewing for everyone with a decent command of English. It champions diplomacy, cultural sensitivity, and highlights the importance of recognizing how values can shape a society. It’s inspiring. And to top it off, each of the main characters is, generally, treated by every other character with complete respect and appreciation of their skills, knowledge and background. Empathy, on that spaceship, abounds beautifully.

Funny things is though, the show was originally created through inspiration gathered from Captain Cook’s voyages around Earth. James Kirk. James Cook. I haven’t seen the Star Trek featuring Captain Kirk. I cannot comment on that aspect. Though I’m sure Captain Cook wouldn’t have ever come even remotely close to the amount of compassion and respect for other cultures that Captain Picard displays as he navigates through unknown space… not saying Cook was necessarily an asshole or nothing, but you know, different times, different minds…

Anyway, thank fuck for Star Trek.

The enjoyment I take is not unlike that which I gain from playing Civilization V (specifically Brave New World expansion pack).

Diplomacy, culture, technological evolution.

Avoiding war at all costs.

I have played Civ for a few years now, quite regularly. Some might say too much. I sometimes think I play too much. It’s exciting to start a new game: what conditions will there be? How will I shape my first few cities? How well I can I train particular units to defend neighbouring city-states from invading barbarians? Sometimes I sit down to play, look up at the clock and realize with a start that it’s been 4 hours since I started and I’ve been chain smoking for most of that time, especially if my position on the map is in close proximity to war-mongering AI players and they hella want my land.

It’s easy to get lost in the game. It is complex; you have to consider every element, have to have a strategy, have to have a goal for victory.

You don’t want to neglect your culture points as you boost your science points, otherwise your citizens mayy become dissatisfied and push for a revolt against your chosen ideology. You can’t let the happiness of your empire drop whilst building up your army, otherwise overall productivity is severely affected, as is the performance of your military units. You can’t neglect the building up of your military forces while you strive for quick accrual of culture and tourism points, otherwise stronger civilisations will attack and totally fuck you up. You can’t ignore global technological advancements because they may be charging ahead towards a scientific victory, or may obliterate you with atomic weapons before you’re able to decrease their effects.

Also, you get to see, hear and read excerpts from great works of art/music/writing occasionally too.

It is complicated, time consuming, and immensely satisfying when a cultural or diplomatic victory is finally achieved. I strive for cultural victories, it is always my end goal, and I avoid wars as much as possible. I think, for me, it comes down to wanting to prove to myself that it is not necessary to be a Military Might in order to achieve “greatness”. You must defend yourself, of course, because a few other civilisations are programmed to just want to destroy everything in their paths, but it’s Doesn’t Have to Be Like That, especially, I’m told, if you’re playing with like-minded individuals (friends, even) in a LAN setting. I wouldn’t know about that, because I’m a loner.

That’s why Start Trek is so good too. For loners! Not really, but kinda. The value system championed in the show is that Aggression is Loathsome, and I absolutely agree. It is only necessary in a fight for survival, if someone is attacking you first, but with such great technological advancements and apparent ease of food and energy production, fighting other people just ain’t a thing that needs to be done. In the show, I mean. Not today’s world. We’re still too troubled for all that.

And it is when I get to those thoughts, the “we’re still too troubled” thoughts, that I turn away from my screens and sit in front of a canvas to paint it all out.

I feel like playing Civilization V and watching Star trek: Next Generation have a useful purpose, for me at least. In times when I do not want to create something, in times when I do not want to spend time with other people, in times when I do not feel like studying, or reading books, I will play that game or watch that show and learn, without evening trying, some vitals clues as to how our world functions, how values shape our attitudes, how culture can emerge and move and be exchanged, with the idea of harmony never really too out of reach. Hell, if I can ensure my Polynesia civilization wins a cultural victory before war-mongers try their best to tear it apart, then I feel that, you know, maybe there is hope in this world after all.

Also, it’s a very good feeling when you notice yourself getting better at the art of strategy.

Also, I lied: tonight I started a war with America because they were sending their archeologists to dig through ruins within my territory. I ain’t having that. A blatant attack on my interests! Cheeky buggers.