Gamer Growing Up
Ever since I can remember, there’s been this stigma around gaming that has branded it as a somewhat odd and relatively uncool pastime. This is most likely due to the media’s early portrayal in films and TV shows such as South Park of gamers as basement dwelling recluses who still live with their parents despite being well into their late thirties and are entirely incapable of socialising in the real world.
Despite this representation being obviously inaccurate and primarily a comedic device, it’s one that really stuck with me growing up as a kid who loved video games. Looking back, I never consciously worried about this stigma, and it certainly didn’t stop me enjoying any of my favourite games. However, when I really think about it, I never would have called myself a gamer in primary or secondary school.
Even though playing video games was one of my favourite hobbies, when it came to telling the class about myself or introducing myself to someone new, I never mentioned gaming. It just seemed like a no go. It wasn’t worth the risk of coming across as a ‘weirdo’. Someone who sat in their room all day staring at a screen. It always seemed safer to stick to sports and music, because I’d never experienced any stigma surrounding these hobbies like I did with video games.
Obviously, I’ve matured a lot since then. Now I understand that I was naïve to (subconsciously) believe liking video games was weird or something to hide. Since embracing my title of a ‘real’ gamer, I’m happier in myself as I’ve learned to accept that gaming doesn’t define me as a person or automatically suggest I’m anti-social and have trouble interacting with my peers.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the media has grasped this concept yet. Despite gaming being one of the most popular hobbies in the world. Gamers are still being portrayed as socially awkward and as outcasts. TV shows like The Big Bang Theory continue to feed the idea geeks and gamers are unable to function normally in a social environment. The characters in the show are depicted as comically ‘quirky’ and almost peculiar. Their love of science, video games and all things geek fuelled nearly always being the cause of their consistent social blunders and mishappenings.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like The Big Bang Theory.
It’s just that every time I see this typical ‘awkward gamer’ stereotype in the media it irks me. Primarily because it’s just not true. For most other gamers, playing video games is one of the key ways in which we can engage with people socially. It’s not an excuse to lock ourselves away in our bedrooms never to be seen again.
Like many gamers who play competitive online games and MMO’s, I’ve made loads of online friends. All from chatting with teammates while playing Overwatch and League Of Legends.
These are people from around the world that I talk to and have fun with on a regular basis. We take an interest in each other’s lives and talk about things we share a common liking for.
A Community United
A lot of people will say this doesn’t count as socialising. Due to the fact there’s rarely face to face contact, unless Skype is used as a medium for communication. I know tons of people with ‘legit’ twitter friends who engage with each other in the same manner. These online friendships can be a great deal more cemented than those we have in real life. They cannot be overlooked.
But even if that’s not enough to convince people that gamers are not inherently anti social. Just look at the popularity of ‘geek and gaming’ conventions in Ireland alone in recent years. If gamers are total recluses who are unable to thrive in a social environment it wouldn’t have been plausible for conventions such as Dublin ComicCon, QCon and ArcadeCon to not only have existed in the past, but to have flourished. On top of that, the fact that new conventions such as PlayersXpo have the confidence to start up now just proves that, in reality, gamers are social beings. We love to meet up with each other and enjoy games as a community, not as sole individuals.
Most people play video games to unwind and have fun with friends. So when is the media going to stop and acknowledge this fact? How long will it take to dispel old stereotypes and paint gamers in an honest light?