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Friday, April 1, 2011

Shame of an Elder Gamer

We have all heard the stereotypes associated with playing games, especially MMORPG style games. Nerd, Geek, or my personal favorite “No life loser living in your mom’s basement” are all used in society to label a gamer, especially an adult gamer. In fact the negative names are often used the most by gamers when describing other gamers. Is there anyone over 18 that is not a gamer? Also at what age is it no longer considered cool to be a gamer?

Everybody plays Games

            The first thing I did when I thought about this was to look at the people I know and see who does and does not play video games. I was hard pressed to locate a single person that I know that doesn’t play video games at some level. Each and every person I thought of had or actively does play video games on a daily basis.
            Today video games are everywhere and are played on all types of devices and mediums. From social media sites like Facebook to consoles to cell phones, video games have infiltrated modern society like no other form of entertainment available. How then it is still considered weird or not acceptable in society? Why do people feel it necessary to conceal their online lives behind avatars and pseudo names?

Secret Identities

            In comic books super heroes always hid their true identities for fear of being discovered. In video games we follow this same line of thinking and hide our real selves behind cleverly (in some cases not so clever) fake names. In some part it is the desire to live a secret life that causes us to do this, but how many of you have during the course of a conversation will talk about your latest exploits in Azeroth? Or how many times have you included your gaming life as part of your resume for a job, even under the hobbies portion?
            Normally we are very discreet when disseminating information about the games we play to the general public and will often only do so when we know someone is of like mind. What causes us to shy away from our hobby of choice and hide like a vagabond afraid of the dirty little secret? IS it this preconceived notion that gamers are in general social outcasts unable to maintain a real flesh and blood relationship? If that is the case then how can anyone today be considered normal since for the most part we all play video games to some degree? Shouldn’t the person who doesn’t play any type of video game be the one given weird looks and talked about at the water cooler?

 Fantasy Phobia
            As much as we might like to believe that our society has become more modern and forward thinking, a lot of the old world taboos still exist today. This is never more evident than in the worlds of fantasy and Sci-Fi. Saying you enjoy movies or books like The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars in many cases will still get you labeled as a geek or weirdo. However these movies and book series are some of the best selling of all time, so just how many closet geeks exist out there? When you combine these genres with video games, which is the case in most MMORPG titles, you have a recipe for ridicule and shame.
            Whether we like to admit it or not Fantasy and Science fiction will most likely always be considered outside the realm of normality. Go ahead and do a search for “Sci-Fi fan” on your favorite search engine for images. How many “Normal” people do you see in the photos? The image most people have in mind when they hear fantasy or Sci-fi video game, is often one built on pre ordained prejudices and misconceptions.

Add Adult and stir until well blended

            When we interject the word adult into this equation the recipe creates a hideous monstrosity of social awkwardness and deprivation. An Adult Video Gamer is someone who refuses to grow up and move out of their mother’s house. Now the person is unable to maintain a meaningful relationship and most likely is a 40ish year old virgin. Hmmm remember the scene in that very similar sounding movie with all the action figures and collectibles?
            This is the preconceived image that anyone who is over 18 years old and still playing video games, especially MMO games is perceived to be. Going to a Star Trek Convention or ComicCon this year? Better not let that out of the bag to the wrong person because you will most certainly receive a label that is not kind. I think we can all agree that this is not fair, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist today.
            I applaud those who bravely go to these events in full costumed regalia unafraid of what others think, but for the most part I tend to believe that most attendees are unwilling to admit attendance to non followers of the genre. We talk to or fellow gamers about the things we do, but very rarely do we discuss it in open public.
Maybe this is acceptable; maybe it is supposed to be this way, but I have to believe that as these games grow in popularity so will it become more social acceptable to be a fan of them. I look forward to the day that I can say “I am an Adult Gamer who plays an Armor Wearing Paladin” without be looked at funny. Well ok that might be a bit much, but at least allow me to claim my love of online gaming without ridicule.

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