nerd

Your comfort zone: the childhood neighbourhood you should leave behind

“Comfort zone” by xiaoyugaara

You know what’s fascinating about geekdom? We have hobbies far outside the comfort zone of many other people, but still despise leaving our own comfort zone. Once a geek has settled into a fandom or field of interest, it’s hard to get him out of it and discover something new. It’s like we like to stray from the mainstream, but once we’re out in the wild, we stick to the part of the nerd jungle we know best.

There’s actually nothing strange about that. As humans, we like to have comfort zones. The name says it all: we need a physical, mental and spiritual area in which we feel comfortable and at home. It’s our safe little shell, into which we retreat when the world out there is just too much. Everyone has a comfort zone, and everyone enjoys it. However, comfort kills growth, and so we tend to turn our comfort zone into a stagnation zone in the long run.

You see, when you only surround yourself with people you know and things you like, you will never make new experiences. And if you don’t make new experiences, you don’t grow. Even though you might have left your childhood neighbourhood long ago, staying in your comfort zone will keep you there forever. You will walk the same streets, say hello to the same people and eat at the same damn restaurant every last Sunday of the month.

This stagnation is death for us creative people, and as geeks and nerds, we are often creative. As a player of tabletop RPG’s and amateur writer, fresh ideas are like fuel to me. I can only recycle a concept, character or plot so often, before it has gone stale. Leaving my comfort zone is thus important. No matter the area, I try to leave it regularly. When I picked up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu two years ago, I left my comfort zone because I never practiced such an intense and grappling-orientated sport before. When I gave the improv storytelling game Fiasco a try, I entered new territory since I had no experience with those kind of role-playing games. When I decided to peek into Sunstone, I went way out of my comfort zone because I just don’t have a thing for BDSM webcomics focusing on the trials and tribulations of the female main characters.

Now, not every excursion out of your metaphorical childhood neighbourhood will be positive or succesful. My quick peek into Sunstone certainly wasn’t (though I do admire the artistic style). What counts though, is the fact that you were willing to try something new. To get a taste of something fresh and foreign. You decided to ignore what you know, and focus on something you didn’t. It’s these experiences that spawn stories that start with “Hey, remember that time when I…”, and those stories are worth telling. For us creative people, they will also give you ideas for your creations. In an Exalted campaign in which my players took the roles of teenage Dragon-Blooded who were trained at a military academy, many of my descriptions for their martial arts classes were based on what I saw in my BJJ classes. When the characters in my RPG campaigns get to meet people from another culture, I think back to how I felt when I moved to Denmark for an exchange semester. Drawing from your own experience adds authenticity, and your audience will appreciate that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I urge all of you to just go out and leave that stagnation zone of yours. Read a book you normally wouldn’t read, see a movie you think will blow or hang out with people you don’t hang out with regularly. There’s a world beyond your childhood neighbourhood, and leaving it behind for a holiday from time to time will bring you both fresh impressions and a new view on the same old streets and people.

 

Geek Jitsu – gamifying health

While out running the other day, a sudden realization hit me as hard as my sore muscles the next morning: gamers love gaming. Wow, what a burst of genius, Chin! No, seriously, give me a minute to explain this. Gamers love gaming, which is something you probably knew. But what can we learn from that? Well, if you want a gamer to do something, turn that something into a game. Thus, if you want a gamer to stay fit, turn that into a game.

That is, of course, not a new way of thinking. The gamification of almost everything has been discussed thoroughly by experts, and I even had a post about creating achievements for your health plan a few months ago. Still, it strikes me as odd how small the market for fitness games is. Sure, you got all those Wii games that pretend to keep you fit, but next to those titles, you won’t find much. There are apps like Zombies, Run and sites like Fitocracy that gamify your workouts, but they are not enough for the healthy gamer who wants some more depth.

Why haven’t we seen a full-fledged RPG powered by your workout yet? Heck, let me take the chance then and provide all you game designers with a little concept for such a game. Let us call it Sprinteria, and let it be a game about brave heroes and adventurers in a world powered by your running sessions. It works like this: users sign up for Sprinteria on the website, and download the app that comes with it to their smartphone. When they are out running, the app tracks their distance, average and maximum speed, and approximate amount of burnt calories. These values are translated into action points at the end of your session, and then send to your digital alter ego in Sprinteria. Your in-game hero can use those points to perform actions, like going out to hunt monsters, craft items or participate in player-vs-player warfare. Through these actions, your hero acquires experience and becomes more powerful. Thus, your running sessions are the only source of power for your hero, motivating you to slip into those sweatpants and fuel your adventurer in Sprinteria!

Of course, this is just a simple idea, but a game like that would really fascinate me. There’s also room for improvement, meaning it could be an ever-growing program that offers different challenges every week or month. The point is that I believe that if you create a sports game that takes gamers seriously, those gamers will take sports seriously. You just have to approach them the right way.

While we’re at it, what’s your opinion? Any fitness games that motivate you to keep moving, or do you also have your own ideas when it comes to designing one? Maybe you are a game designer yourself, and see something in my little pitch here. No matter what, leave your comments below.

Stay healthy!

Geek Jitsu – how I became a healthy nerd

Welcome to the first installment of Geek Jitsu, the column on this blog about keeping yourself healthy and fit while living your dice-rolling, mouse-clicking geeky lifestyle. In this column, which will be published every Wednesday, I will do my best to share my knowledge about healthy living with you.

Before we get started, I want to make one thing very clear: I am not an educated health specialist. I do not have a single degree in biology, anatomy, healthcare, dietetics or any other related topic. The knowledge that I’ll share with you in this column comes from my own experience and from what people and literature has told me. Talking about experience, why don’t I start with telling you about my own path so far.

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