D&D-Themed Movie Zero Charisma Pits Nerds Vs. Hipsters


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It’s nice that we’re leaving Dark Dungeons and Mazes & Monsters behind us, but I’d kind of like to see something acknowledge that it’s possible to be nerdy and awkward and uncool and still basically happy and fulfilled. All these parables about withdrawn, non-self-aware, reality-fearing dorks get tiresome.


Part of the problem there is that it’s hard to make drama or comedy out of someone whose life is happy and fulfilled. It reminds me of this exchange:

Frasier: You know the expression, ‘Living well is the best revenge’?
Niles: It’s a wonderful expression. Just don’t know how true it is. Don’t see it turning up in a lot of opera plots. Ludwig, maddened by the poisoning of his entire family, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act by living well.

It’s not impossible, but I think it’s hard enough that a lot of scriptwriters aren’t up to the challenge. And even for the ones who are I suspect their scripts get shot down by producers who see a happy, fulfilled nerd as an oxymoron. They aren’t “normal”, therefore there must be something wrong with them that they want to change, right?


I dabbled with a cousin in d&d. A close friend’s anglo genius brother back in the late 80s early nineties spent every Saturday night playing Magic and other core nerd fantasy games with his Indian and Chinese mates till one am hyped up on red cordial. A sort of proto big bang group. No matter the howling from cool people D&D and it’s ilk is social suicide and best left behind once social skills are embedded; unless playing for one night in drunken or high ironic rememberence.

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Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. Basically, it means you need to get better friends. Any hobby or interest is “social suicide” if you only hang out with people who hate it, but why would you want to be friends with people who don’t get you?


Hmm, I picked it up again in my 30s when being cool stopped being important at all and having fun doing things I like with my limited spare time started to matter even more.

By all means hold onto the supercilious dismissive attitude. Those of who couldn’t care less about social ‘suicide’ because we do things with friends we like as often as we can will carry on having fun. You aren’t welcome anyway, because of the no smug douche rule at our gaming group.


Um, yeah, that’s you.

I’m in my 30’s and started gaming in high school. I’ve been in one weekly game or another for most of my adult life.

I go out dancing with the same people I game with, the same women I go shopping with, the same couples my partner and I hold dinner parties with. And we have other friends that don’t game but are fine with the fact that we do.

Hell my partner has published professional papers (philosophy/ computer engineering) with friends who game. Every time we enter a new academic circle there is someone who hasn’t played in a while but thinks it would be great to try it again for a bit.

It’s fucking fun. It’s my favorite hobby, but I’m certainly capable of holding an adult conversation about other things. It’s no more an impairment on maintaining a social life than a weekly poker game.


Thought I might get howled down. My point is more that for some people, perhaps more close to the “spectrum” RPGs were / are fun but don’t add to their ability to socialize, especially with possible romantic partners. For my mate’s brother it was a way to avoid going out and meeting other people. Although he did go to Japan as national Magic champion or some such, so it all worked out ok in the end, right?

Watch This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated, and you’ll come to see it’s a question of pandering to the MPAA’s prejudices.

Basically, the NRA, Catholics and Mormons - their sensibility dominates Hollywood… consider how often weird = bad, for example.

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I would totally have a crack if given the chance, it’s been more than 20 years.

And it was bloody great fun.

I have to disagree here. Tabletop games, especially of the RPG variety, are social games. Hell, I think some of them even nudge towards developing skills in the name of your characters. Charisma is not always a dump stat. Not every game is hack and slash - sometimes you really have to talk your way through things.

I met my first spouse playing D&D and White Wolf games. No kidding. Our early steps of courting involved developing a ridiculous flirtation between the fighter and the wizard in game. Despite that marriage not working out for completely unrelated reasons, that remains one of the more romantic, silly and wonderful things that ever happened in my life.

A few things:

  1. I don’t think The Gamers movies lampoon RPGers. I think the portrayal of RPG players is pretty accurate, if somewhat exaggerated.

  2. Scott is portrayed as a huge loser in Zero Charisma, but he’s an exception (or at least an outlier) rather than the rule. The people at the game store and the players in Scott’s campaign are somewhat nerdy, but they’re much better adjusted.

  3. I don’t know how to feel about the portrayal of Miles. I don’t think I liked that he turned out to be a jerk who didn’t invite the other players to his party. It felt like the movie was taking a stand against hipster nerdiness that I don’t think is fair or necessary.

  4. I agree that Scott’s abrasiveness makes Zero Charisma tough to enjoy. I did enjoy the movie, but he’s tough to enjoy as a hero or an anti-hero.

  5. This is a personal thing and possibly a phase, but Zero Charisma really hammered home to me how sick I am of fantasy settings for RPGs. I recently ran an adventure set in modern day and it felt so much easier to tell a good story and eschew some of the silliness that can run rampant in a fantasy set game.

I love wizards, forever, but yes. Bring on some different settings. It can be crazy fun to do something set in a slightly off kilter contemporary setting. One of my favorite games ever involved a story the DM set in our own city and required us to use some real knowledge of how to get places to get some objectives accomplished.

That’s how most of our campaigns are. We do alot of old World of Darkness set where we live so real locations come in all the time. Our long standing chronicle centers on a magic hospital hidden in the ruins of Charity Hospital, which got wrecked by Katrina. We’ve also done Call of Cthulhu with historically accurate time shift, based around a real assassination. And we’ve done Shadowrun with some future projections but still using lots of local stuff, buildings getting repurposed etc. It’s great for more realistic travel times and more creative use of real resources.

“Howled down”? Really? Was I howling? I didn’t even use exclamation points.

My thriving college social circle was entirely centered around the local RPG club. There were several dozen of us; we hung out, went to movies and restaurants, threw parties, and had plenty of romantic relationships. I can think of at least three couples that are happily married today.

You are mistaking the symptom for the cause. Kids with dodgy social skills and “overactive” imaginations often find solace in RPGs, because they’re a safer, less fraught way to socialize. That doesn’t make RPGs the problem; it makes them a coping mechanism, and a very helpful one.


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