What's so bad about Being a Gamer?

Monday, October 20, 2008
Come on, we've got better things to talk about than this right? Who wants to listen to some pathetic philosophic talk about the deeper meaning of "gamer" or to hear again that we aren't alone out there, we run shit, blah blah blah. Well little child ,the day of reckoning has come, this isn't about any of that. This is a philosophic talk of the more militant variety. Metaphorically speaking of course.

Let's be honest. Most of us still feel a little ashamed by our hobby. We were told or are told that video games are a waste of time. Frivolous things that, lest we anger the Gods, we ought to cast away. We still feel a little twinge of shame and or guilt when relaying tales of our gaming exploits, even to other gamers. Well, sons and daughters of the polygon, it's time we stopped feeling so damn ashamed of how we spend our time.

I play D&D every other weekend and when I come home my wife often wants to hear about the game. I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. My wife is a gamer just like me. No hilarity has ever ensued due to a lack of understanding in our house. Anyway, I realized that I felt a little hesitant to tell her about the game even if it had gone well. I was in some kind of geek denial.

It struck me as very odd that I would feel this way. I know I feel a little strange relating stories of virtual high adventure to people that don't play games but to have this pit of guilt well up when I'm talking to my Halo playing, die rolling, DS slinging wife is the height of absurdity. I should feel no more guilty about that than getting my ass kicked by her. On a side note, if you see my wife in a ghost, run like hell, she's a nightmare.

So why did I feel ashamed? Despite what the numbers say, many people still look down on us gamers for what they perceive to be a waste of time, or even a dangerous addiction. In some cases they're absolutely right. There are plenty of people that play far too often, to the point that they bury themselves in debt, completely isolate themselves and so on. The thing is, those people don't represent gamers on a whole.

There are good and bad uses of time. It doesn't matter what the substance or medium of entertainment, someone will always take it to far. It's not a problem with the games, it's a fact of the human condition. We all take things a little too far sometimes. For some it's drug use, others it's sports, others it's video games. The reason video games get so much of the spotlight is that they're still relatively new on the scene and people are still trying to figure out how they fit into their daily lives.

Every new media is met with fear and anxiety. Rock music in the 50s, film in the early 1900s, video games today. It's a symptom of a society getting used to the idea of a new medium of entertainment. A crucial facet of the human race has always been that new ideas are met with fear, even outright rage. This is how we test the waters, how we begin to understand the issues surrounding us. The world will always fear change, but change will always come.

Those people that still believe video games ruin lives need to be shown that they cause no more harm than film, music or TV. One way to do that is to show them how passionate we are about games. Talk to them about games, especially those close to you. Find out their concerns, address them, maybe even get them to sit down and play a few. My mother-in-law is a perfect example.

Before I exposed her to games first hand, she didn't see them as works of art or beautifully constructed stories. They were, say it with me now, a waste of time. All I did was talk to her about what games meant to me, what they had done for me and what they can do for other people. Now, she sees things much differently, actively asks me about games I play, or things she's heard about the industry. It's a wonderful thing to see. In case she's reading this right now, Hi!

The biggest thing we can do as a community is probably the easiest thing to do. Stop feeling ashamed by your level 70 warrior, your kiltacular, your five star rating, your pen & paper wizard. It's time we showed the rest of the world that we have nothing to be ashamed of, that this isn't a waste of time. We are all gamers here, the only difference is what we play.