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The Day I Learned I Loved First Person Shooters

For years I hated first person shooters.

It started when my brother and I were around eight or nine. We found a pc game in a box of Chex cereal: Chex Quest. It was little more than a non-violent, cereal-themed reskin of Doom, but we played that game until the disc wore out on my dad’s old… Well, a computer old enough I can’t remember what it was. (Nor can my dad.)

I should clarify. My brother played the game. I watched. Why? The first person perspective made me clammy and nauseous as all hell.

And that made me hate fps games. I hated the weird sense of vertigo and like the need to throw up was just out of sight. I hated them from then until years later my friend Jeremy sat me down and gave me an ultimatum: I either play Overwatch with him or he would never speak to me again.

So I tried it. He assured me that there were characters even the only-ever-plays-rowdy-drunken-dwarves-in-rpgs nerd that I was would like.

Enter Reinhardt. A mammoth German in power armor wielding a rocket hammer. A rocket hammer. Sign me up today, tomorrow, and yesterday. My first game I charged into the other team, pinned and killed one, then wrought the righteous fury of my hammer upon the enemy. Even got play of the game. (In what was basically bronze. Don’t judge.)

Of course I didn’t realize at the time that rule number one for Rein players is don’t recklessly charge into the enemy. But I didn’t care. For the first time in my life I was playing an fps and loving it. I kept playing Reinhardt, but I also picked up Orisa, a little Soldier 76, and even some Ana. Hell, my brother told me there was a period there where I couldn’t miss a shot with the much more difficult McCree.

That’s the thing about first person shooters. Of all video game genres, they’re the most mechanically demanding. Especially on PC. You have to know how to move your arm. Not just your wrist, your whole arm. You have to know to set your mouse sensitivity way down and that you’ll probably need a giant mousepad. To play them well you have to master an entirely new physical skill. I didn’t know any of that. For years, if I ever tried an fps, I sucked. Hard. It was frustrating and it made me not want to play them. But I was playing them wrong—and I was unwilling to put in even a modicum of effort to figure out how to play them well.

And that’s the point. There’s so much awesome stuff out there that you’ve never tried. New genres of movies, that weird Gene Wolfe novel you bought a decade ago but haven’t cracked open, genres of music where you heard one bad song that one time when you’d already had a pissy day and decided the whole genre was utter crap. (Thank you Chris Stapleton for showing me country can actually be awesome.) I missed out on years of an entire genre of games because, first, I thought they made me ill (having a fan on your desk fixes many problems), and, second, I didn’t think I was good at them. And that makes me sad. How many amazing experiences did I lose out on because I had the wrong mindset? (Oh, Half Life 2…)

We’re nerds. We’re supposed to be defined by our unabashed love for something. A willingness to deep dive into a subject until you live and breathe it and other people look at you a little funny because you won’t shut up about how awesome it is. Nerdiness is a virtue, I say. And we should celebrate that. And we should certainly not arbitrarily deny ourselves the love of something awesome just because we don’t understand it yet.

Stop being so damn choosy. Tear down those walls you’ve erected between genres of books or music or films or games that tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. Be joyfully curious about everything. Everything.

In other words, be a nerd.

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