Turn off the Lights

A Request of Gamers and Non-Gamers Alike

I read a pretty appalling article on Gizmodo last week about an OkCupid match gone wrong.  Just so everyone's on the same page, you can read it here.  It sparked a little fire in my blood, so, as I do when I want to discuss something with my friends, I posted it on Facebook.  Alarmingly, a few of my friends were of a similar mind; learning that someone plays Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft, or White Wolf is an immediate turn-off. "It's the female mind - we don't like hearing that our potential life partner and father to our children is playing games at 30... Casting spells and shit ain't gonna get you groceries at Wal-Mart."  The underlying idea, and what my friends actually took issue with, was the idea of someone playing games to the exclusion of their everyday lives and duties.  I’m alarmed that they immediately jump to this assumption about someone who plays Magic: The Gathering with no other information.  My simple plea today is this: gamers and non-gamers alike, please stop judging people based solely on the games they play.

Full disclosure: I am an avid gamer.  I have been playing games for more than 15 years and I dabble in a little bit of everything out there, with the exception of LARPing, from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to Final Fantasy XIII to Super Mario Galaxy.  I have a room full of old video games and shelves full of newer video games.  In my living room there is a Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Playstation 2.  I have a Playstation Portable and a Nintendo DS.  In my youth I played and collected four or five different trading card games and Warhammer 40,000.  I still have the 40K models in my closet.  I play games, I talk about games, and I write about games.

Now, blasting Alyssa Bereznak is not my point with this piece.  It's a much broader problem than just one person.  What aggravated me was that all the evidence she needed to know that she did not want to know this man was his gaming habit.  And a very brief mention of his first-date choice of a one-man show about Jeffrey Dahmer, which probably would have been a better focus for her article about him being creepy.  This, combined with what my friends had to say on the subject, recalled all of the negative stigma that surrounds video games even today despite it's widespread, mainstream appeal.

The standard gamer stereotype is the flabby, pasty, virginal loser living in his mother's basement.  And it is always "him"; it's always male.  This stereotype persists to this day and is associated with pen & paper or tabletop gamers.  With the rise of the MMO, that particular stereotype made a strong resurgence with the added trait of addiction.  The vision of a slovenly male with no social skills, sitting in front of a computer playing WoW for days on end, ignoring any personal hygiene is damn near ingrained in the public conscience these days.  And later, the rise of Facebook gaming transferred this negative stigma to the female population and molded the stereotype to the insipid, bored housewife who should be doing something better with her time, like caring for her infant.

Far worse is the fact that these stereotypes are often thrown around by other gamers.  It has reached a point where one gamer decries another as "not a true gamer" because they don't play the same kinds of games.  "All you play is Peggle and Bejeweled, you're just a casual gamer."  Most recently, this particular trend has reared it's ugly head in the newly classified "dude-bro gamers"; envisioned as a drunken frat boy playing a Halo or Modern Warfare game.  And it continues far deeper than that.  A video gamer will look down on a LARPer or D&D gamer as socially retarded and beneath them.  An action/shooter gamer will look down on an RPG gamer.  An old-school gamer will look down on the new generation who doesn't like the pixelated graphics of yesteryear.  A jack-of-all-trades gamer will look down on anyone who only likes one genre.  It needs to stop.  It is harmful to the gaming community and damages the reputation of gaming as a hobby.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing.  Everyone needs to grow up and stop trying to place yourself in a class above everyone else.  I should think that a group of people often labeled as nerds, geeks, or losers wouldn’t be so quick to start labeling and mocking another group of people.

So, to reiterate and end this, I’m calling out every gamer, whether you play Bejeweled, Magic: The Gathering, or Halo: stop discriminating. Stop hating.  Let’s just play our games and be happy.  And to the folk who don’t play games, please don’t judge us.  We’re not all weirdos and creeps.  Get to know more than one of our hobbies before you make that judgement.


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