Accountants, Gamers, and Nerds
Accountants seem to be one of those professions that are universally classified as pure geek in popular culture. Watch any episode of Law & Order where the investigation leads to a trail of money, and at some point a bow-tie wearing, nervous, shifty weakling will be accosted, and the initials CPA will be associated with him. Computer techs used to get the identical treatment, until the emergence of shows like Chuck and the insufferable douchebag that hocks Macs. Douchey is better equated with lacrosse players and popped collars on golf shirts, which is decidedly no longer geeky. So why is the accountant the Lone Staple Nerd archetype among actual well-paying jobs?
I think the answer lies in the type of person attracted to the profession. Someone who loves accounting – not just someone who works as one, but the kind of person that just really likes being an accountant and doing the work – has a particular mindset. That mindset is the same one that drives a person to become a gamer.
Accounting is really nothing more than learning a ruleset. You are taught the rules, how to apply them, and accept the arbitrary declarations as gospel: Thou Shalt Equalize Thine Credits and Debits, and Thy Assets are Equal To Thy Liabilities Plus Thine Capital. People then pay you to organize money into the appropriate little cubbyhole. If you forget a rule or don’t know how to apply it, look online or ask another accountant. There is a Right Answer.
Gamers are the same way, especially gamers who love learning new games and rules. They accept the arbitrary rules as gospel – Thine Armor Class is Equal to 10 When Unarmored – and happily play in the sandbox the rules provide. The rules themselves don’t matter, so long as everyone agrees about them. Questions about the rules can be found in errata, online, or by asking friends who know the rules. Players make decisions for their actions based on those rules.
I believe every accountant is a gamer at their core, just some never got exposed to them. Others, fearing the dreaded Double Nerd designation, look down on the other group. Whenever a young gamer wonders about a future career, I tell them to stay away from Medieval History or Drama and the other bullshit humanities degrees, and just learn accounting. None of them listen, but it’s the only profession I know that pays well to play games all day.