YEAR-END LIST: The Top 20 Nerdy Things of 2014
2014, you wily beast… We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve partied, and we’ve run the gauntlet. All that’s left is the ultimate challenge – the FINAL BOSS that is Nerdy Show‘s annual “Top 20 Nerdy Things” list. The list that makes all other year-end countdowns cower in shame.
What makes our Top 20 so brutal? We subject the year’s pop culture, achievements in science & technology, and world happenings to a test of might that leaves titans shattered: we rank them on nerdiness. No sane person would dare compare a major motion picture against scientific achievement – but, for the betterment of humanity, we do.
Below you’ll find the full list, ranked from bottom to top. Curious to learn more about why these honored few made the list, or to hear what almost made the cut, check out Nerdy Show‘s annual Final Boss podcast, where we count ’em all off! Think we missed something? Comment on this page or hit us up on the forums!
THE TOP 20 NERDY THINGS OF 2014:
20) Alien: Isolation
We weren’t ready to love a new Alien game. We’d been burnt too many times before. Then came Alien: Isolation.
It’s a love letter to everything that made Ridley Scott’s original film a perfect mixture of sci-fi and horror, with a story that compliments the film series. It’s also genuinely one of the scariest games we’ve ever played. Isolation‘s life-or-death/ hide-and-seek mechanics and lack of weapons make for a truly immersive and heart-racing first person experience. Seriously, play this sucker with headphones, or maybe an Oculus, and get ready to panic!
The brains behind Isolation, The Creative Assembly, went to incredible lengths to capture the feel of the original film. Alien‘s set design and atmosphere are perfectly mirrored throughout the new locales. The designers didn’t create any props that couldn’t have been readily made in 1979 and recorded the game’s video components to VHS and Beta to capture authentic video tracking and distortion. What’s more, they brought in nearly the entire cast of the original film, including Sigourney Weaver, for two bonus missions that put you on board the Nostromo during the Alien. That’s dedication!
19) Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge
Reality shows don’t have a history of 1) being good and 2) actually representing nerd interests. Keeping true to its sterling seal of quality, The Jim Henson Company created a reality show that is both good and prime nerd entertainment.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge debuted this year on Syfy and pitted 10 would-be creature designers against one another in a puppet-making battle to become an actual employee of the Creature Shop. It’s essentially Project Runway with freakish, hand-operated whatnots – and that’s a good thing! The tried-and-true contest format gets sufficiently nerded up with challenges to populate an alien press conference, build cybernetic junkyard animals, and yes… make new Skeksis.
Sure, Creature Shop has the inter-personal conflicts that make up reality show drama; but unlike other shows, when these contestants aren’t panning out, they’re given a fair chance and dismissed when they blow it. This isn’t a show about people squabbling, it’s about puppeteers being forced to do month-long projects in two days, only to screen test them in front of legendary puppeteers and filmmakers. Fingers crossed we get a second season.
- Watch Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge on Amazon
- Watch Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge on Hulu
- Check Out Special Features on the Show’s Official Website
18) Universal Studios’ Diagon Alley
If the whole point of theme parks is to wow and amaze with immersive first-hand experiences, then none do it so well as Universal Studios’ Daigon Alley in Orlando.
Universal has spared no expense making their 2-park Wizarding World of Harry Potter the destination for Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Slytherins the world over. Hogsmeade at their conjoined sister park, Islands of Adventure, was cool – but it’s got nothing on Daigon. The park has everything from a fire-belching dragon, to animatronic goblins at Gringotts who answer your questions, to a very hidden Knockturn Alley. And that’s only a fraction of what’s to see – die-hard fans will notice countless subtle details that make you feel like you’re truly in the world of the books and films. If you score a 2-park pass you can hop aboard the Hogwarts Express, grab some Chocolate Frogs, and be treated to a train ride through the mystical countryside via window screens. Oh, and there are wands you can cast actual spells with. It’s like our every wizarding dream came true!
17) Darth Vader Runs in Ukraine Election
Yes, this year Darth Vader was a parliamentary candidate in Ukraine. This guy went all the way – legally changing his name to Darth Alekseyevich Vader. He’s been seeking election in his home country (not Tatooine apparently) since 2012, but this year went all out with three amazing TV commercials and extensive in-person campaigning including a van that blasted the “Imperial March” and shot flames.
While the force may not have been with him, he at least provided some delightfully nerdy entertainment for a country that hasn’t had the best of years.
16) The Community episode, “G.I. Jeff”
Community‘s episode “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” placed on our list back in 2011 and this year they’ve done it again!
“G.I. Jeff” is an almost entirely animated episode faithfully recreating the style of G.I. Joe: Real American Hero – complete with 1980s action figure commercials.
15) The Entirety of Final Fantasy VII Recreated in Little Big Planet
We’re still waiting for that full-blown HD remake of Final Fantasy VII, but in the meantime you can now replay a complete facsimile of the RPG epic in the makeshift world of Little Big Planet. It’s believed to be the first full game of this scope remade start to finish in Little Big Planet’s level creator.
- The Project’s Official Page
- Colliver’s YouTube Channel
- The Final Fantasy VII / Little Big Planet Level Playlist
- Buy Little Big Planet 3
14) The Gravity Falls Episode, “Little Gift Shop of Horrors”
It’s no secret, Alex Hirsch’s Gravity Falls is one of the nerdiest animated shows on television. In addition to being a mystery-driven show, loaded with paranormal goings on, it’s filled with countless sight gags and in-jokes tailor-made for the discerning geek eye – Twin Peaks, Universal Soldier… just look at this list of allusions! This particular episode is a special case – a horror anthology with three chilling tales, one unexpected guest star, and some awesome animation fusion. But let’s cut to the chase… Neil deGrasse Tyson voices Waddles the Pig!
In “Abaconings” the adorable pig pal Waddles munches a brain-boosting mushroom, and builds himself a text-to-speech machine. Everyone’s favorite astrophysicist provides the TtS voice and nails a self-parodying deadpan, behold:
13) Cory Johnson’s Earthbound
There’s no shortage of fantastic re-imaginings of classic game scores. There’s likewise no shortage of remixes and rearrangements of the music from Nintendo’s cult-classic Earthbound. But this year, relative newcomer Cory Johnson hit the scene with a project that’s a milestone for either camp. His album, Earthbound, is an instrumental concept record that’s both highly referential to the source material and yet stands alone as its own unique experience – rearranging and remixing the game’s score into a pop culture mash-up that’s every bit as unique and affecting as the game itself.
12) Guardians of the Galaxy
With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel irrevocably brought the fun and mayhem of comic books to the big screen – and they did it in style! Comic fans knew that Rocket Raccoon and Groot were the greatest thing since Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters – now everyone does. Marvel did what by most accounts should have been impossible: they made a comic book movie that didn’t take itself seriously, set in space, starring a bunch of weird characters, and it stayed true to its source material. As if to give a big, smoking middle finger to DC/ Warner the film’s initial tagline was, “You’re Welcome.” They’d already won our hearts before the fight even started.
Guardians is hands down the nerdiest Marvel film out the gate. In fact, it might even be the geekiest comic movie of all time. Director James Gunn’s love for film, comics, and music permeates the whole production – making for an Easter Egg-loaded movie that touts just how fun and accessible comic-style storytelling can be, no matter your experience level.
- Our Review of Guardians of the Galaxy
- Our Thoughts on the Film’s Final Scene
- Buy Guardians of the Galaxy
11) A Clock So Precise It Can Detect The Changing Flow of Time Itself
Being able to tell the time is pretty important, but being able to measure it precisely has helped us unlock the mysteries of the cosmos – as well as given a wide array of modern marvels. So it should come as as no surprise that the newest and most precise clock in the world would let us do even more incredible things. The thing is, this clock is so sensitive to the progression of time that it breaks all conventional models for telling time. In fact, if you had an exact double of it – the clocks would likely never agree with what time it was. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!
A clock that destroys time as we know it might sound like some truly mad science, but the University of Colorado Boulder’s ultra atomic clock has the power to change the world for the better. The clock is incredibly sensitive to gravity, and if you happen to be a relativity nerd you’ll know that gravity is responsible for a lot of strange things. One of the things gravity can effect is time itself, or at least the local progression of time. This clock is so precise that raising it a few inches will measurably shift its perception of time, due to the subtle change in gravity! Malleable space-time! That means this clock can be used to map out gravity in incredible detail, potentially even allowing it to map features deep within the Earth itself – or black holes. What’s next up for crazy clock science? Quantum entangled super clocks!
10) Our Robocop Remake
A Robocop remake no one wanted came out this year. Surprising approximately no one, the film was a shallow action film cash-in rather than a modern take on the scathing and satirical social commentary of the original. In protest, producer David Seger gathered indie filmmakers from all over L.A. to create a remake fans could live with: Our Robocop Remake.
09) Isaie Therese’s Robotic Crossing Guards
There are lots of badass lady engineers out there, and they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Enter Isaie Therese from Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As with many engineers, she saw a problem and set out to solve it. See, in Kinshasa, traffic is bad; mainly due to motorists ignoring stoplights or traffic officers. But you know what people don’t ignore? An 8-foot tall robot.
08) Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe
There’s no greater tribute to the imaginative fun of 80s action figures than John Barber and Tom Scioli’s Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe.
Let’s face it, life hasn’t been the same since you were a kid mixing it up with action figures: X-Men charging forth on the back of My Little Ponies, Ghostbusters palling around with Silverhawks… Or maybe you were a kid who devoted yourself to one line exclusively, taking “collect ’em all” to heart and memorizing the character bio on every blister card backing. Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe is the best of both worlds, combining the zany crossovers only a child-like mind can imagine with hardcore nerd love for all the intricacies and eccentricities of two of the greatest action figure lines of the 80s.
The IDW comic sees the fighting forces of the entire G.I. Joe: Real American Hero toyline and comics pitted against the invading forces of the first generation of Transformers‘ Autobots and Decepticons. Unlikely heroes take the center stage such as General Flagg (the original leader of the Joes from Marvel’s series) and NO ONE IS SAFE! Just ask Bumblebee, who’s head becomes bling for Megatron. The book is hilarious, the stories are insane, and the art is bombastic comic perfection – so rife with Easter Eggs the book has liner notes. If this is the first you’re hearing about Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe, now you know. …And knowing is half the battle.
07) Mouth’s Cradle’s SAKURA
SAKURA is an unprecedented tribute to anime themes and J-POP from one of the most unique voices in nerd music, Mouth’s Cradle.
Heaven Hegedus aka Mouth’s Cradle aka Heaven Pegasus is a musician driven, not unlike a Pokémon, to keep evolving. Having honed their special brand of quirky nerdy rap, this year they set their sights on paying homage to a lesser-explored corner of the nerd music world. In the SAKURA EP, Hegedus covers their favorite anime themes (School Rumble, Ouran High School Host Club) and J-POP tunes from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, AKB48, and Hatsune Miku via lovingly crafted English language translations.
06) Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Carl Sagan’s original TV series helped a generation discover the scientific wonder of life itself. The new series, hosted by Sagan’s pupil, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and written by Cosmos co-author Ann Druyan, continues Sagan’s message and goes beyond with new stories to tell and new worlds to explore.
05) The Midas Flesh
Mix Greek mythology with radical hard sci-fi and dinosaurs and you’ve got not only one of the most original stories of the year, but undoubtedly one of the nerdiest.
Writer Ryan North and artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb have crafted what is truly a sci-fi epic for the ages. Imagine, if you will, that centuries ago King Midas’ fabled wish came true to apocalyptic effect: a shockwave from his body tuned the entire world to gold; leaving Earth a dead planet. Not just a dead planet, but a killer planet because anyone who touches it becomes gold too. Cut to the future and three teenage geniuses (two humanoids and a dinosaur) find the dead world and employ force-field technology to cut up and weaponize Midas’ body against the evil galactic Federation oppressing the galaxy. It’s an insane premise that North and co. pull off with the utmost grace and style. Amazingly fresh story? Check. Wonderful artwork? Check. Charming and awesome characters? Check.
If Ryan North’s name sounds familiar, you may know him from his long running webcomic Dinosaur Comics and Boom’s Adventure Time series. He made a name for himself with his distinct style of observational humor and quirky characterization. In Midas Flesh we see him bring all the skills he honed writing comedy to dramatic effect. Even with a touch of magic, the sci-fi is deep enough that the book has a physics adviser (no joke), and even with lighthearted moments this adventure is life and death. For lovers of all things truly awesome, we can’t recommend Midas Flesh enough.
04) To That Sect by ANGELINA
“This is a game about a disgruntled child. A Founder. The game only has one level, and the objective is to reach the exit (the yellow cylinder). Along the way, you must avoid the Tomb as they kill you, and collect the Ship.”
With that wonky description and primitive-looking screenshot, you might be wondering how such a mundane game made our Top 20. Did we mention that this game was made by an artificial intelligence? No? Well, meet ANGELINA.
ANGELINA, was created by PhD candidate Michael Cook. The goal of his research is to create a computer program that can both design and develop video games – to study how software can design creatively. First, ANGELINA is given a “key noun” and builds on the concept by finding associations and content online. In the case of To That Sect, the noun was “one”, but that was too vague, so she chose another. Not only did ANGELINA successfully design a working (albeit primitive) game, but it’s the stuff of nightmares. See for yourself:
03) The ESA Lands On a Comet
On November 12, the European Space Agency (or ESA) made history by landing the Rosetta space probe on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
It’s the first spacecraft to orbit and land on a comet. The trip took 10 years and 6.4 BILLION kilometers (yeah, kilometers, learn your metric system kids), entered several periods of deep space hibernation, and relied on multiple gravity assists from both Earth and Mars! That’s insane! Here’s a visual:
Just think about the amount of planning and calculations that went into ensuring this mission was a success. It’s been a bumpy ride, but it’s already paid off. For example: we once thought it most likely that Earth’s water was derived from comets, now we know that’s not the case! Changing our perspectives on the origins of life on Earth is only the beginning! There’s still a full year of research to be done as the Rosetta probe continues to hitch a ride across our solar system.
02) Secret Cinema Presents: Back to the Future
In an unprecedented tribute to pop culture, Secret Cinema brought Back to the Future to life and recreated the entirety of Hill Valley in an unparalleled interactive experience.
Word on the street is they’re going to be bringing the show to California for the film’s 30th anniversary next year… but when and where is still a secret.
- Hear Cap’s First-Hand Adventure in Hill Valley
- Photos From the Event
- Secret Cinema Official Site
- Secret Cinema on Facebook
01) Twitch Plays Pokémon
We’re truly living in an age of wonders. Twitch Plays Pokémon is proof of that. This unlikely social experiment captured the hearts of millions, made us laugh, made us cry, founded a religion, and in its own warped way gave us hope for humanity.
Here’s what went down: an emulator of Pokémon Red was published to the streaming service, Twitch. It was uniquely rigged up so that input from chat commands translated to Gameboy button selections. That means everyone in the stream finds themselves fighting for dominance to just move the character around the screen. And when “everyone” is hundreds of thousands of players all sending commands simultaneously: pandemonium.
The stream became “the hivemind” – a chaotic force struggling with anarchistic impulse and democratic cooperation. In some ways it became a living personification of the Internet itself. 1.16 million people took control of the Pokémon trainer (if you can even call his erratic movements “control”) and 55 million people watched the mayhem. The participants observed the random, often baffling actions of the game’s avatar and created their own mythology. Accidentally checking the indispensable story item, The Helix Fossil, became not unlike consulting an oracle; and once the fossil had unleashed the Pokémon within, Omanyte, he became “Lord Helix”, a god-king.
“Lord Helix”, “Bird Jesus”, “Dig Rat”, and countless other Pokémon as well as in-game mishaps became the stuff of legend, shared over Reddit as travelers of old might recount stories around a fire. Twitch Plays Pokémon is human nature laid bare, and surprisingly it has a happy ending. After 16 days, 7 hours, 50 minutes and 19 seconds – the hivemind beat the game! And that was just the beginning. Since then, the schizophrenic conglomerate of the Internet has completed each successive Pokémon title and as of this writing have moved on to Pokémon Battle Revolution.