I want to clarify my last entry. I feel, perhaps, it may have not been written as clearly as I would have liked and my intended meaning became obscured by my unclear writing.


Since humans evolved 150,000 years ago in Africa, virtually all human interests and desires can be seen as having initially evolved at that time for a particular purpose. For example, we have an almost insatiable love of sugar and fat now, because 150,000 years ago in Africa those things weren't always easy to come by and they provided a lot of needed calories. If we had evolved in modern times we probably would find refined sugar and excessive fatty foods repulsive since they are bad for our health.

Keeping that in mind, it causes me to wonder how certain tendencies and personality types which seem entirely modern manifest themselves in the ancient past. Certain personality types, such as, 'Video Game Nerd', must have served some purpose in the far distant past, otherwise it would have never evolved. (and it clearly did not suddenly evolve within the past 50 years. Unless you believe in the 'blank slate' theory, then maybe that seems plausible to you, but I think the 'blank slate' theory has been thoroughly proven wrong).

So, clearly video game nerds must have existed long before video games. The question is, why did that personality trait evolve in the first place and how did it manifest itself in a time before electricity was even an idea. What sort of things did people who would today spend their time playing video games or designing software spend their time doing in 2000 b.c.? Of course, I am not only interested in video game people, but they are an easy example as something that has such a clearly modern manifestation without an obvious ancient one. Hope this clarification is helpful.


Vincent said...

Then I shall clarify my comments on your last entry. To imagine that "video game nerd" is a "personality type" seems to me very odd.

"Video game nerd" is an adaptation to the (possibly impoverished) landscape of opportunities seen by a (so far undefined by us) underlying personality type.

I'm not sure that I accept that there is such a thing as a personality type, anyhow. There is an imponderable uniqueness to each person. For each one who becomes a "video game nerd" (which I take as a form of addiction or neurosis), the factors in society producing conformity are a stronger magnet to pull him there than his own personality, which through lack of anything better washes him up on those shores.

Are there personality types corresponding to heavy drinking, gambling, violent crime?

Or is there a weakness which seeks solace in what lies readily to hand?

I don't mean to sound religious or condemnatory, but just want to point out to you the influence of society.

Chris Almond said...

I don't wish to discount the influence of society, I certainly agree it is there. For a personality to manifest itself in a certain way, there must be a place, created for it by society, to manifest itself within. If anything, that is what I'm trying to talk about in this entry. Wheras, you might see that type of behavior created by the culture, I would see that aspect of culture created by the presence of that type of person.

When I use the term 'video game nerd' as a personality type, I am consciously trying to use one that is obviously(at least to me) some other type of personality, that manifests itself by being a video game nerd.
There is probably a somewhat of a generation issue with my use of the term as well.
I think most people my age would hear the term 'video game nerd' and imagine a particular type of person, who share a large realm of attributes, of which only one is the playing of video games. However, that term serves as a placeholder, in a sense, to refer to all of those qualities. In some ways, it has little to do with the actual playing of video games.
I know people who play hours upon hours of video games who neither me, nor any one else my age would classify as a video game nerd. The actual playing of video games only represents one small part of this particular type of person, but it serves as a symbol of something much more. There are 'video game' nerds, who hardly play video games at all.

As to your later point:

"Are there personality types corresponding to heavy drinking, gambling, violent crime?
Or is there a weakness which seeks solace in what lies readily to hand?"

I think this relates well to the point I am trying to make in this entry.
Yes, there is a personality type which corresponds to heavy drinking, gambling etc.. (You say so yourself in calling it a weakness. Perhaps the personality type is merely being weak when it comes to temptation.)
However, for them to manifest themselves in the particular ways you have stated, the culture has to provide alchohol or casinos or etc.
Lets suppose the personality type propelling one to be an alcoholic is called personality type 'A' (for alcohol). It will most likely have several manifestations beyond merely being an alcoholic, however, being an alcoholic may stand out as the most prominent feature, so for purposes of brevity that person may be referred to as having an alcoholic personality type, despite that being only one aspect of the personality. (this also isn't to suggest that there would only be one personality type which manifests itself in one form, through alcoholism.)
If a type 'A' personality type lived in a culture without alcohol, that underlying personality would manifest itself in some other way.

And that precisely the point I am trying to make in the entry: There is a certain, underlying personality type which manifests itself today, very distinctly, and uniformly in a way that I, for purpose of brevity refer to only as 'video game nerd'. This larger, underlying personality type, which has such a distinct manifestation today, would have had a very different one in the ancient past, because the culture of today, is very different than that of the ancient past. Were it not for culture, that personality type could not manifest itself the way it does, however, that personality type would have still existed in the ancient past, because human evolution happens very slowly and any personality type which exists now, would have also existed then, but because of the different culture, would have had a different manifestatin.

Chris Almond said...

One other reason used 'Video Game Nerd' (or VGN) as an example, (though just an example, i'm meaning to address all variety of personality types) was to address this issue "the factors in society producing conformity are a stronger magnet to pull him there than his own personality,"
At least in contemporary american culture, the multi-faceted personality type, I hear refered to as 'video game nerd'(despite it having only a little to do with actual video games), is one that is often looked down upon.
In my most recent class there was an extreme example of the personality type I refer to as 'video game nerd' (probably another reason why I thought to use such an example), and this kid was very much frowned upon. Even in my class otherwise, weird, counter-culture, kind and open-minded people, he was an out-cast.
I can think of few groups in contemporary american culture and are more out-casts than VGNs. I can't imagine someone would 'choose' to become a VGN to gain acceptance, or who would be influenced to become a VGN to gain acceptance by their peers. If anything, I would see social forces as pushing one away from being a VGN, and only because a person's innate personality is so strong, some people allow their VGN personality to shine through, despite the negative social feedback recieved.

Vincent said...

Please help me out here. Not being of your age, I have no idea what you mean by "video game nerd" - other than the literal. Can you try and list the attributes you have in mind?

Vincent said...

Would a VGN by any chance be the stereotype depicted by the eponymous hero of the film "Napoleon Dynamite"?

Chris Almond said...

Hi Vincent,
At first I was tempted to reply 'yes' to your query about napolean dynamite, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that although he isn't totally off base, he doesn't quite fit.
(while this probably won't be any more helpful, I realized that more accurate term for this type of character would be 'gamer'. Although even that paints a wider brush stroke than I would like)

In trying to think how I would describe this character, I'm surprised how difficult it is for me. This is mostly because, despite whatever interests these people seem to share, what distinguishes them to me is their way of being. Their essence one might say.
The thing which first made me notice this type of person as something distinct beyond their shared interests is their voice. They all talk very similarly. (I see this as one of their most identifying characteristics. I think a person could easily identify such a person over the phone) They all seem to carry their body and have similar mannerisms as well. How to describe this I do not know.
In terms of superficial characteristics, they tend to like Fantasy and science fiction. (though I do to). They tend to like fantasy in general. Ie. role playing games, dungeons and dragosfantasy figurines.

They might wear leather boots up to the knee, with t-shirt depicting zelda.

All I have met are very intelligent.

I have an uncle and cousin who very much fit this personality type, though that wouldn't help you much.

Have you seen The Office? The I.T. guy in that show seems to capture much of what I think of when i think of this sort of person: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geZoES9KQ-Q

Vincent said...

Indeed I have seen the Office, and note that one of the comments on the YouTube clip refers to some position on the autism spectrum. Though this is merely to slap a label on something we find hard to define, the beauty of the label, if it is the right one, is that many before us have struggled to define the same thing and have come up with a list of attributes.

Furthermore, there must be enough history PhD students looking for thesis topics to have stumbled on the very thing you are enquiring upon: how did semi-autistic personalities manifest in previous ages? The documentary record is more likely to tell us how they were viewed by others than how they viewed their own world. But anyhow over to you.