Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are Grognards Hipsters?

Internet Joke I Don't Get - But Still Makes Me Laugh
Last week, one of the young punk gamers at the table, Mervyn, called Crazy-ass Tim and I hipsters.

Honestly, I don't know what the hell a hipster actually is, except perhaps that they are skinny kids with shaggy haircuts.  I think.  I don't know - even after doing copious amounts of internet research.

Mervyn's argument was that we were hipsters because we thought all of this old crap - games, books, music, etc - was hyper-cool - so cool we even had blogs about it.   In my mind, I'm just a fat old dude having a nostalgic stroll down the more pleasant parts of my childhood.

But I do have hipster glasses.  I walked into the eyeball store and told the lady 'I am a nerd and I need some nerd glasses,' and she giggled a bit and gave me some nerd glasses - which turn out to look exactly like hipster glasses.  Go figure.

I'm not really worried about what people call me, but it would be nice to know exactly what it is that they are calling me.  Knowledge is power.

So tell me - what the hell is a hipster, and do our crusty-ass old grognard selves fit the definition?

- Ark

PS I guess the real question is if I run up to James Maliszewski and yell 'HIPSTER,' would he turn around? ;)


  1. RE the PS: 40 something year old Canadian dads that play D&D aren't what I'd call a hipster.

  2. Hipsters are people who like old crap because they think it actually sucks, so therefore their liking it is ironic. At least I think that's how it works. Basically, if you do things for fun without worrying about what other people think of you, you are not a hipster.

  3. @JDJarvis - Yeah - as a 40 something dad from not-Canada, I feel the same way, but who knows, I don't think I've fully grokked the word hipster yet.

    @Brad - If that is the case - then that makes absolutely no sense to me. Well, I understand, but it seems eldritch and alien to me. Unless you frame it in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of way. Then it makes perfect sense.

    Sort of.

    - Ark

  4. Yes, the ironic distancing is probably the essential diagnostic. If you're having fun with, say the LBBs, primarily because the art is so bad and it's kitschy retro, then you're probably a hipster. If you're having fun with it despite the bad art, or if for other reasons the art doesn't seem bad to you, then you're not a hipster (as far as D&D goes anyways).

    And while I don't buy the idea that the old school stuff is driven by nostalgia, I would say that actual nostalgia is totally incompatible with hipsterism. They are diametrically opposed.

  5. I'd say all grognards are geeks because they have a strong enthusiasm/interest in a particular hobby (gaming). Hipsters can be geeks and vice versa, but I think there's also a sartorial element to being a hipster. And I've definitely met some grognards that are decidedly not hipsters, in that respect! ;)

  6. The one commonality that occurred to me when you brought this up was the fact that both grognards and hipsters seem to have an aversion to anything that's too popular in what they perceive as the mainstream. They seem to take pride in being totally into what's not currently in vogue, such as the general sense of animosity I've noticed among grognards toward 3.5e and (most especially) 4e.

    Having said that, in most every case I've witnessed, said grognard had good reason not to be interested in 3.5/4 and was able to elaborate on precisely why. I'm not certain hipsters are able to do the same.

  7. Grognards kind of fall into a bizarre hybrid of hipster and that old stoner who hasn't bought in yet.

    See, hipsters are into cool things before it's cool. And the old stoner tells you about how much cooler things were in his day.

    You might be on to something with this, though...

  8. @Spawn - Okay - thinking here - so maybe it's less like MST3K and more like Beavis and Butthead? Are Beavis and Butthead hipsters? Or proto-hipsters?

    And regarding nostalgia - no - not drven. If old school gaming driven by nostalgia, it wouldn't get very far. Perhaps it's re-introduced into people's lives by nostalgia - but it sticks around becasue it is way cool.

    @Jay - Okay, so less like Beavis and Butthead - or Beavis and Butthead after watching the Fashion Channel?

    @Devin - Yeah, I think what you mentioned in your first paragraph is what is setting off Mervyn's hipster alarm bells. I know that I have the feeling that if something is too popular - there is something wrong with it.

    Maybe having the ability to explain in detail about why you don't like somthing is more a factor of age and experience with a subject than anything else. :)

    @Higgs - Yeah, I get what you are saying. I'm thinking cautiously that, while grognards and hipsters might not be the same thing, they might just be different wavelengths on the same spectral continuum.


    - Ark

  9. I dunno, but I enjoyed reading your post.

  10. No, Beavis and Butthead are decidedly not hipsters, but fans of Beavis and Butthead might be... provided that their interest had the requisite irony noted above. Beavis and Butthead themselves always struck me as nothing if not earnest.

    I think its enough to say that people still like and play the old games because they are good. The kitsch factor, for me at least, is beside the point.

  11. To be honest, I didn't know exactly what a "hipster" is either. Here's what I found with a quick search though:



  12. If you are generally "youthful" looking, yet foolish enough to wear a beard, mesh-backed ball cap or multi neon colours with a preponderance of teal and think it 'cool', you could easily be mistaken for a hipster.

    Or a fashion casualty from the 80's.

    But, if you were there at the beginning, and still have your stuff, you are 'cool'. If you weren't and just bought it or were gifted it by your weird aunt and uncle last month, you are just 'hip' and still require some cool person to explain your stuff to you in practice, not theory, you now have become a grognard's target market.

  13. ...it seems eldritch and alien to me...

    Hipsters = Elves?

  14. @ Mr. Ark: I'll ponder MST3K and B&B further. I'm fairly sure that the criterion "Hipsters never say anything that makes me laugh" is not enough to hang an argument on.

    I think inclusivity towards an audience is an important way to distinguish MST3K from hipsters but I can't nail that down at the moment.

  15. Unless you frame it in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of way.

    Exactly. That's exactly how it works, so I don't think it really applies to grognards.

  16. I dunno man. Who gives a crap what labels other people sling around?

  17. I wonder if they are perhaps making refernce to this:

    -The Hipster Handbook, Robert Lanham

    Typically a Hipster can be identified by vintage or thrift-store bought clothing, a taste for obscure or underground music, a penchant for irony and an elitist attitude.

  18. This has inspired me to write a post on my own blog:


  19. Hipsters - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_5uVdy5YmA (The Dickhead Song)
    Grognards - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUOSsQlV2Qw (D&D World of Adventure)


  20. Hipsters in the most Simple sense

    1) Hipsters don't like new things, because everyone else likes them and you compare them to old things that you think are better that no one has heard of.

    2) Hipsters claim that they liked things before other people. IE "I played (insert game name) back before it became popular"

    This is what I consider a hipster in the most basic sense. It's not bad, It's just another reason for me to pick on someone :P

    Alot of people consider Hipsters to be rude, ironic scumbags that should be driven over by a slow train, but that's every hipster!

    You my friend, are a Gaming Hipster. But we still love you!


  21. @Whisk - Well, yanno, that's all that really matters anyway. :)

    @James C. - I think I'm confused about the liking soemthing because one doesn't like it. Maybe I'm not in on the joke. :)

    @Bard - yeah, those are the first things I read on the subject. I think it would help if I knew a hipster so that I could see one in action. Regretfully, it seems no one admits to being one, so it's largely guesswork. Did I mention that I can be incredibly socially vapid and obtuse at times? :)

    @bio - That's basically my thought!

    @Cap'n - Hmm. I think it may be more like Hipsters = Valley Elves + a Cooshie.

    - Ark

  22. @Spawn - Hmm, so would you say Joel and Mike were laid back cool guys not interested in proving themselves better than their audience, and hipster are those folks who are trying to prove themselves better? Maybe by putting down something by 'ironically' liking it, they make themselves feel better and feel smarter by having some sort of inside joke going on?

    Or did I just hit the bong too hard? ;)

    @Evan - Oh good. I was right. I wish I could remember ehat I was right about - but thinks. :)

    @Jeff - Here is a little story:

    When I was around 7 years old, a kid angrily called me GAY. I went back home and asked my mother what gay meant. She told me, and so I asked if it was a bad thing. She said that, no, it wasn't, but some people were afraid of what they didn't understand. Later I discovered that gay people could really be quite cool - and were usually a heck of a lot funner to party with.

    Well, my mother has no idea what a hipster is, outside of a jazz loving beatnik, so I have to ask someone else. And who knows - I might be a hipster. If I am, I'll need to make a t-shirt that proudly proclaims "I AM A HIPSTER" in a vivid, bold font - perhaps Comic Sans would do nicely.


    - Ark

  23. @anarchist - That was hillarious. I feel so dirty now.

    @Chirs - I . . . Um . . . I had no idea being a dickhead was so cool! I must bookmark that one. But really . . . the people described there would fit just about every douchebag I met in 1990. I guess time doesn't change people - just the labels. Or maybe the University of Texas in Austin was ahead of it's time. :)

    Now the D&D World of Adventure is just mega awesomely cool. I don't see how anyone cool 'ironically' like it. You either like it, or you disentigrate into a puff of charred dandruff when watching it. Really. That awesome.

    - Ark

  24. @Mervyn - MERVYN! So you've arrived. I knew I could call you out somehow.

    Honestly, I don't know of anyone I'd consider a hipster, so I don't have much to go on except internet definitions and clothing advertisements on what the hell a hipster is. But your definition seems to miss the mark compared to the other definitions that I've seen.

    Which is perfectly okay. Culture moves a lot faster than anyone who writes dictionaries can keep up with, and definitions change. But, if I am a hipster, I fully expect to suddenly loose 50 pounds and age-regress 20 years, otherwise I'll just feel silly when I show up on the cover of Hipster Magazine.

    - Ark

    PS - On the other hand, Crazy-Ass Tim is definitely a hipster - because he owns a SMART PHONE. Oh, and he bought The World of Synnibarr. Anyone who owns a SMART PHONE and The World of Synnibarr is definitely a hipster.

  25. I played Synnibarr before it was popular!

  26. "Joel and Mike were laid back cool guys not interested in proving themselves better than their audience, and hipster are those folks who are trying to prove themselves better? Maybe by putting down something by 'ironically' liking it, they make themselves feel better and feel smarter by having some sort of inside joke going on?"

    You've hit the nail on the head. Your young friend has never met anybody who digs older stuff because they were there when it first came out, is all.

  27. How many hipsters does it take to change a lightbulb?

    Don't you know?

  28. @anarchist -
    How many hipsters does it take to change a lightbulb?

    It's an obscure number - *you've* probably never heard of it...

    More exempliary anti-Hipster wit here: