Tobold's Blog
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Ashamed of being a gamer?

For obvious reasons Blizzard thinks that video games are a great thing, which might have contributed to their surprise when so many people people loudly protested against being "outed" as gamers through RealID. So, are we all ashamed of being gamers? There have been quite a lot of comments on the RealID threads in which people said they wouldn't want others, especially future employers, to be able to identify them as gamers through Google. You can always claim that you are only on Facebook to connect to old friends, but being highly visible on lets say the World of Warcraft forums pretty clearly attaches a "gamer" tag on your back.

One aspect of that is that video games, especially MMORPGs got a lot of bad press in the past. Those who don't know much about video games mostly think that games are for children, while the half-informed think of video game addiction and other bad headlines. Thus few people are willing to put video games as hobbies on their CV. That might be worrying a bit too much, I used to have "role-playing games" on my CV (that was before MMORPGs), and still got a good job, and can even make an interesting talking point during an interview. There are skills you can pick up in games that are actually job-relevant, for example team-work and leadership.

A more justified concern is if you want your real name to be visible in Google for professional reasons. Maybe you have a small business under your real name, or you publish scientific papers like me. Then of course you might want to keep your professional activities on top of a Google search, and not your epic discussion thread on why paladins should be nerfed. If I had done this blog under my real name, I would have completely crowded out my scientific publications from a Google search.

But that points us towards a more general reason for not wanting to be publicly known as gamer: Most of us consider some parts of our lives as private. There are subjects like politics, religion, or sexual preferences, which some people are proudly displaying, while many others avoid talking about them. That doesn't mean you are ashamed of them, but they might simply want to keep their convictions and private activities to themselves, instead of discussing them with everybody. Not all of us are extroverts. Some subjects are known to require a lot of explanation, or to provoke a lot of heated discussion, and so many people prefer simply to keep mum about them.

There is a lot of room between being ashamed of being a gamer, and wanting to shout it from every rooftop. I suspect that most of the people who were against RealID fell somewhere in that middle ground, and just wanted to keep their private lives private. And I do believe that Blizzard got the message. While some cynics commented that an integration of World of Warcraft and Facebook would still go ahead regardless of protests, I do believe that the details of such an integration are certainly under review. A lot can be done to address privacy concerns by using the correct opt-in and opt-out choices, and by tuning the thing in a way that game activities don't show up on Google. There is a reason why a Google search for you name doesn't lead to a page showing how many hours you spent playing Farmville.

So, how about you? Are you proud, neutral, or ashamed of being a gamer? Is it something you don't mind other people to know, or do you consider it a private activity you'd like to keep out of view?
I'm fortunate to work in a company division where being a geek is practically a job requirement, so more often than not your average water cooler discussion is going to be about games. But that's because we know we're all gamers and thus we know that talking about games is appropriate. When we interact with strangers, making that judgement call about what's appropriate can be hard, so being neutral is a safe place to start. If the topic of gaming comes up, I'm comfortable sharing my gamertag. If the topic moves to politics, I'll state my political affiliations and so on.
As a programmer "geek" is one of the skills I proudly wear at work, social life and internet life. But just because I have "Games" as a hobby in my CV doesn't mean that I would be willing any future (or current) employer to know what games I play, how often I frequent their forums, or that I called in sick so I could PVP all day and then write a long post about it on some thread in the forums.

Besides that like it or not WoW is notorious for it's addictiveness. If I was an employer I would definitely hire the guy who plays Total War all day rather than a person who has an active WoW account. Maybe it would be a bad decision, maybe I should have done my research but hey there are so many CVs out there I would rather play safe and go for someone who will not end a meeting early to attend a raid.
Working with and around children, being tagged as one who play online-'children's'-games, is not a very good idea.
I even have a colleague who has two separate Facebook accounts, for the exact same purpose.

It is not that I am ashamed of being a gamer.
It is because I know that it only takes one deranged mother to practically destroy any chance of me working in the line of work that I do.

I think that this is because (maybe along with adult boy-scouts), gaming is one of the most misunderstood past-times among parents.
Like it or not in the west at least most people think of pimple faced boys who would rather play games than meet girls. Or old broken adults who refuse to grow up. And it only takes one person like a former Co-Worker of mine who was so proud of her Trekkie club that she'd put off major projects to prepare for her conventions to reinforce that among those that already have that perception.

I've read several articles where HR proffessionals have stated they won't hire gamers because they skip work to game. I don't think it's any worse than those that call in sick to watch a Football game, or any other reason people call in sick. (except being actually sick of course) but its percieved as worse by the culture.

And as you never know what your future employers will like or dislike anything you put on facebook today can hurt you tomorrow. I prefer to keep my online activities relatively anonymous for that reason. I have no illusions that someone digging deeply will find all that stuff. But the things I do at home aren't my employers business unless they start impacting my work.
I've already mentioned that I have been the butt of some quite unkind jokes from ex-colleagues, and for that reason I intend to keep quiet about being a gamer until someone else admits to being one!
Tobold, it's not that people are 'ashamed' of being gamers, per se. It's that we have to compensate for the narrow views of others.

While one might say that "I wouldn't want to work for a company that thinks that way", it is true that one cannot eat Pride or fead it to one's children, and sometimes you need a paycheck. Besides which, most we searches aren't going to be done by your prospective boss, it will be the HR lead for your boss, some person that isn't a geek and we're glad of it, usually (i.e. geeks make terrible HR reps).

In short (TOO LATE), I don't think one should confuse 'shame' with 'commonsense precautions against others' misconceptions.'
I fall into the middle ground. I don't deny playing computer games to my family and friends but I don't advertise it or bring it up in conversation unless I know that person is also a gamer. Even then, I usually let them bring it up first.

I think a distinction can also be made between what are your hobbies and what are your chosen entertainments. On a job application, under what are your hobbies, would you put "watch TV" or "read celebrity gossip columns"? Probably not. There is certainly a lot of blur between what is a hobby and what is a passtime of course, but for this reason I don't put "Gaming" down as a hobby but I would put "Game Design" down as one if I did that significantly.
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Firstly, I don't like the term 'gamer'. I am no more a gamer than I am a soccer player
I sometimes play games, true.

Secondly, I am a little bit ashamed that I play WoW instead of, let's say, EVE.

Thirdly, employer and employee is a symmetrical relationship. If you are afraid to lose your job, you've done something wrong in your life. (At least if you started your life in a developed country).
Either you didn't work hard enough on your skills in the past or you married and got a lot of children and bought a house (and a boat, and a dog and ..) and suddenly find out that you cannot afford to lose your job nor can afford to move if you do. Bad planning without any plan B.

The central theme of a life always has to be what you want. Not what you must.

If all your thinking is about what you must do (pay this, pay that, work for this guy, that guy), you can as well jump off the next best bridge.

People who are afraid of what others can legally do to them, are scared and not free. I am happy to live in a free country and I won't sell that freedom to angst.

If some employer doesn't want 'a gamer' to work for him, I am gone. But I did work hard enough in the past: Me leaving unexpectedly will probably hurt my employer more than it hurts me.
I am neither proud or ashamed of being a gamer and neither I am on some middle ground between them.
I am proud of my achievements but not of my tastes if that makes any sense.

That's why I find a bit silly being proud of what you are, be it nationality, sexual orientation, club fan and all...
My mind is a bit blank, so Ill be utterly unconstructive and just say "Great post!"
"Thirdly, employer and employee is a symmetrical relationship."

Labor relations are, if anything, asymmetrical and most of the neo-libertarian policies advocated by many countries, yours included, are truly an attack on labor in order to increase the asymmetry and thus boosting more profits at the expense of wages.

In simple terms, the employer has capital, the employee has labour. The employer can feed off his capital without labour. The employee cannot feed off his labour without capital.
"Me leaving unexpectedly will probably hurt my employer more than it hurts me."

Two aphorisms:

"You're not as good as you think nor as bad as other people think"

"Nobody is irreplaceable"
As an IT professional, being a gamer isn't necessarily a bad thing - but playing certain games seem to apply certain labels.

I remember the stigma associated with D&D players back in the late 80's - not something to be proud of. This has developed to the point of some games having a more negative effect than other, EQ and WoW for instance are well-known life stealers, and people may have had a negative experience with folks playing these games at some point, such as lost friendships, divorce, lost jobs, etc...

I keep my gaming life and my professional and home lives well segregated - most folks I know still view 'video games' as a child's amusement device.
I'm proud to be a gamer...maybe that's why I blog. So Real ID didn't bother me, just another invasions of privacy, which I think in this day and age is an illusion.

We don't have anymore privacy, and if you think we do...just google yourself. You can also get a background check over the internet for 10 bucks.
I'm a military officer. I command respect at work, and I keep my provate life to myself, friends, and family. I don't want one of my men to google me and get ten pages of *!!WOW NERD ALERT!!*. I will not do anything that could raise any doubt in anyone's mind as to whether or not they would want to follow me into combat.

I play a lot; according to my wife, way too much. Am I ashamed of my gaming habit? Absolutely not. Does gaming have a social outcast stigma associated with it? Yep, WoW in particular. Could being publicly known as a gamer have negative consequences in other aspects of your life? Sure could.

I always say that Star Trek was a pretty good show. I really enjoyed it when it was on and occasionally catch some reruns. It's the people who speak Klingon and wear Starfleet uniforms on the bus that ruin it for the rest of us who want to be comfortable talking about our favorite TV show.

The same holds true for WoW. No one hears about the guy who plays a couple hours a day after work. You hear about the people who let their baby starve to death while they played for three days straight. They had a friend in college whose roommate showered once a month and skipped class every day so as not to interfere with his mmo of choice.
I'm an artist in the game industry and a gamer. I'm ashamed that many games are either awful or contemptible, but I'm one of those weirdos that think games have a lot of good things going for them at present, and a lot of potential.

Still, like politics or religion or any other hot button topic, there's a proper time and place for discussion. I'm not ashamed of my politics, my religion or my gamer...ness, but neither do I think it wise to discuss them in the wrong setting.
As you indicate most people's knowledge of computer games, and online games in particular, bears little resemblance to reality.

So rather than get into a debate with an ill-informed idiot whose mind I have no chance of changing anyway I'd rather just do my own thing.

I do actually run into the same problem with one of my other hobbies - motorcycling. I don't usually mention it or advertise it. Though in that case it's not as easy to avoid discussion since carrying a helmet around is a pretty big giveaway.
don't forget guys that there are places where you can only be fired for cause and places where you can be fired because your boss feels like it. In large parts of the U.S. you can be fired for any reason except race,religion or sex.
What you post online will be there for years and on some sites possibly your entire life. One bad day, one beer too many and sucks to be you. And everybody says something they regret at some point in your life. Doing it online while blowing off steam can be like AIDS for your career.
In this age of information overload people skim, judge and don't dig any deeper unless necessary.
If your smart you'll just separate the two.
But I'm not "a gamer". I'm someone that playes games. There's a difference.

I don't go round calling myself "reader" because I read books or a "listener" because I listen to the radio all day. Gaming is just something I do among many things - it's not an identity.

I generally include playing computer games on my CV and I mention it normal conversation as and when it's relevant. I can't say I'm aware of it having done me any harm so far. Some people do like to take the piss out of me for it, but then they do that for my musical taste, my haircut, anything that makes good banter. I give as good as I get and it all adds to the joyity of nations.
I think the real issue for me is the loss of control.

According to Blizzard's privacy policy our personal data is an "asset" of the company. I don't accept that and rather resent it.

If real names became mandatory then for many of us extensive information about us might be available on the internet. Some of it might be false. Some of it might be out-dated. The people who now work in IT may switch careers and work in an industry where gaming sends out the wrong image.

We've also not touched here on the real possibility of being harassed. I'm not talking so much about the lunatic with an axe. But many of us work in areas where a complaint about us from a member of the public is taken extremely seriously. Some of us work with children. Children love to get authority figures into trouble - it's a natural and normal response to the powerless that goes with being young.

I really don't want to be called into my manager's office to explain why I "beat up" a nine year old girl and made her cry. If I were supervising a gamer about whom such a complaint had been made I would have no choice but to escalate it.

And would gamers game the system? Of course they would.
Being a gamer certainly has a negative connotation with a number of people. Not with all and maybe not with most, but still some downside and very little upside. So why do it?

Even in a positive context on the most politically correct forum, there is some downside (fraud, spam, identity theft,ex are low but definitely not no risk) and very little upside.
I am certainly not ashamed of being a gamer but there are some serious reasons for not wanting my status as such plastered all over the internet. As a recent graduate I hope to be employed (preferably sooner rather than later) and having a google search bring my name up in the World of Warcraft forums can be problematic. As a historian I hope to be able to build a certain amount of credibility among my peers as a serious professional.

The main problem here is the social stigma that is still very much attached to playing video games and especially MMO games like WoW. With the number of people looking over my resume I'd rather not take the chance that they're all unbiased toward gamers. Once I work somewhere and have established myself as a valuable employee it's fine to share my hobbies; until that happens I'd rather play it safe. I'd still keep my name unassociated with it on the internet though, the image of a serious professional is hard to maintain with people you don't know when they know that you enjoy stabbing gnomes.
I don't often talk about games at work. Didn't mention it on my CV.

I've read articles in the newspaper where job hunters were asked to decline any candidates that have WoW on their CV as that wouldn't leave them enough time to do their job properly. And in any case, games still have a bad aura around them.

Not that I hide that I'm gaming. My boss used to play half life, carmaggeddon etc ten years ago. So I talk about it from time to time. But overall, it's not really a big issue.
@Nils: "If all your thinking is about what you must do (pay this, pay that, work for this guy, that guy), you can as well jump off the next best bridge."

I hope this is some form of hyperbole.

If not, consider the following: You are advocating that people give up life, because they grew their family too large. Or for not having a plan B.

They could struggle to get to the point where they can get a plan B. Shouldn't THAT be the suggestion?

Secondly, most people wouldn't kill themselves. Think about how many homeless people exist. Who remain alive as long as possible despite starvation, and lack of a life worth living.
I've always been unafraid to talk about my gaming habits. I am always careful though to not discuss it with or around people when it's not of interest to them. I'm not going to bore co-workers with the details of my first time killing Lady Vox or raiding in Molten Core or anything like that. But everyone I know finds out fairly quickly that I play a lot of video games.

I'm against things like blizzards realID initiative though. The two big reasons being first that freedom of speech pretty much requires anonymity as an ever present option, and second like you said future employers and the like don't need to be able to track down everything I've ever said on the internet.

I can't prevent others from using my real name but I can limit how I expose it and so far I think I'm doing pretty good at keeping it low in the search results.
Google already knows I'm a Trekkie.

Wait.. I'm writing under my real name here. Hello future employers!
@ Wyrm:

Labor relations are, if anything, asymmetrical and most of the neo-libertarian policies advocated by many countries, yours included, are truly an attack on labor in order to increase the asymmetry and thus boosting more profits at the expense of wages.

I agree. Time to do something against it. It's not too hard on an individual scale.

In simple terms, the employer has capital, the employee has labour. The employer can feed off his capital without labour. The employee cannot feed off his labour without capital.

The employer cannot feed of capital without labor. He can try to replace labor, like me. Which is easy if I chip wood and harder if I bear some responsibility for complex projects.


"You're not as good as you think nor as bad as other people think"

"Nobody is irreplaceable"

In the past I repeatedly found out that I am better than I thought. So I am really not that certain here.
I am not fully replaceable. Impossible. I am partly replaceable. My employer wouldn't go bankrupt if I left - but nor would I.


@ Pangoria:
I hope this is some form of hyperbole.

If not, consider the following: You are advocating that people give up life, because they grew their family too large. Or for not having a plan B.

Now you exaggerate. All I was saying was that I found it highly dissatisfying to have no choince in my life or to be too dependent on things that I have little influence over.

That's the whole idea of freedom! Why do I live in a free country if all I do is building my own prison?

One of the main reasons I play MMOs, is because they are so incredibly cheap. Thus, I can invest my cash flow elsewehere and become independent = free.

Secondly, most people wouldn't kill themselves. Think about how many homeless people exist. Who remain alive as long as possible despite starvation, and lack of a life worth living.

Being homeless is a special case, because, if you are, you don't really have anything to do and you do want to do a lot (, but it is usually too costly).

I'd still rather be homeless (in Germany) than imprisoned by an addiction to consume or own (houses, boats, cars, pets, costly wifes..)
I used to be totally ashamed of being a gamer, especially around friends and coworkers.

But over time, and with the expansion of just my two copper, I've really taken a liking to being 'the nerd' so to speak.

Good luck with your real life stuff Tobold!
I talk about the video games I play with family and close friends who also play(ed) them and don't bore others with it.

At work I am "that IT guy" anyway and it's a damn rumour factory so I don't disclose anything personal if I can help it.

Somehow people are unable to silently watch me fix the computers they broke, they want to chinwag. Then I talk about my other hobby, football.

Some workers I know for a longer time know that I play video games, but talking about a three-hour-raid to kill some big scary monster makes me a geeky nerd, while them watching three hours of pointless casting and reality shows on tv is normal. So I do not talk about games anymore at work.
I'm not ashamed to be a gamer. The issue is I don't want there to be a public record of my play time or dialog. There are a couple of reasons why.
I wouldn't really call it shame. But there is just no benefit to broadcasting that you play games, while their could be a potential risk. I actually wouldn't care for my real name to be associated with any kind of online forum because I wouldn't want anyone to analyze the caliber of my writing.
I don't really agree with this post. I agree that other people can be closed-minded, but if you can't explain the productivity of your hobbies to someone (especially something as mentally valuable as video games) then that's a totally different problem than "zomg people are prejudiced."

It's not difficult to create plausible justifications for why video games are valuable in whatever career path you are in.

I'd spend less time making an alternate facebook or whatever and spend more time developing the basic social skills needed to explain why you do things to other people.

And seriously, if you're a schoolteacher who fears a mom freaking out at you just because you play video games, you are either paranoid or you have something to hide.
I must admit that I feel ashamed. although it's totally irrational since video games are an integral part of my life and (dare I say) being!
I know I'll want to be part of the game industry when my abilities can handle it and I love the games I play with all my heart.
I can't fight with what's in my nature although my environment forces me to somehow do otherwise.
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