Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 09, 2010
A gamer loud and proud?

Baldrake asked a very intereting question in the open Sunday thread:
"You are clearly a very committed gamer, spending most of your leisure time on this activity. Do you find it's a hobby to be publicly proud of, or in your milieu, is gaming still a nerdy, somewhat embarrassing pastime? When people ask you what you've been up to lately, do you tell them your latest accomplishments in WoW, or mumble something else? Does your family know you run this very successful blog? Do people at work know about your hobby, the same way they would if you were into skiing or gourmet cooking?"
That is not an easy question to answer. In my case my family knows both about my gaming hobby and my blog, but the people at work are only vaguely aware that I am into games. But I don't think that is because gaming is a "somewhat embarrassing pastime". Rather I think it is a question of whether other people can connect to what you are doing.

For example I do discuss World of Warcraft at work with people where I know that they played it. But talking to somebody about lets say the Cataclysm expansion only works if that person has some basic knowledge about MMORPGs and expansions and an interest in them. Not so many people do. Just look at the numbers: North America and Europe together have a population of 1.2 billion, but only about 6 million players of MMORPGs, less than half of a percent. Even if you include everybody who at least has a general idea of what a MMORPG is about, you don't get more than a few percent. Compare that to 100% percent of the population who know what cooking is about, and you see why it is easier to have a conversation about cooking than about playing MMORPGs.

Gaming is a difficult hobby to discuss because it is so fragmented. People cooking different sorts of food will find a common ground easier than two "gamers", one of which is into first person shooters, while the other plays with a Wii Fit. Conversations at a lunch table about movies or TV series work because people are likely to have watched the same movie or TV series, or at least heard about it, at the same time. If you only watched the Discovery Channel and found that none of your colleagues do, there wouldn't be much common ground for discussion either. And that is independant of whether you are proud or embarrassed about watching Discovery Channel.

Thus if people ask me what I've been up to lately, I might or might not mention computer games, but unless I know the other person is a gamer too, I wouldn't mention some World of Warcraft achievement. Not because that is embarrassing, but because "I dinged 80 with my mage" is an achievement most people simply wouldn't understand at all.
Think your spot on here Tobold. The case about mmorpg is not so much that it is embarrasing, but that it is something fery few coworkers would relate to. As a matter of fact it is even difficult to talk about wow with old friends that has played wow for 4-5 years, but now has quit the game. They are simply not interested in hearing about it annymore.
Your post is a bit evasive. While everyone knows what "skiing" is, 99% of the people would not know that "came down on a yellow lane of X ski center in 3:45" is pro, or very beginner. You can only talk about it with other skiers.

However you can tell that "my hobby is skiing, I use all my holidays to go ski and I have some photoes about me and the guys in the base point of X field".

Do you/can you tell "my hobby is the computer game WoW, I play every evening and I have some screenshots about me and the guys at the dead boss X"?
I work as a contracted consultant. As such, I'm a bit cynical about it. My colleagues (mine is a small company, there's only five of us) all know that I'm into games and I regularly talk to one or two of them about my gaming habits. They're also my friends, so that helps.

As for everyone else in my work environment, I simply don't see any sales potential in a middle-aged WEM talking about games.

I clearly need to get some games companies as customers. I'd pawn my competition with all my gaming-fu.
I'd pawn my competition with all my gaming-fu.

I hope you mean pwn, because pawning your competition is probably illegal, not to mention that it is difficult to find a pawn shop accepting them.
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This was something I have been thinking about quite a lot since coming back to WoW after a years break. I think in answer to the original point, I am proud to be a gamer...but I'm not all that loud about it.

I often feel too embarrassed to tell work colleagues about the amount of time I spend gaming.

This Easter weekend, I spend Sunday with my family and the evening in the pub with three friends. If people asked what I did over the weekend I told them this. But I also spent Friday, Saturday and Monday playing WoW for nearly 6 hours each day - I dont offer this up to anyone who asks casually what I was doing.

I'm not wholly with comfortable colleagues knowing that I play WOW because of the negative connotations the game has. A lot of people who haven't played it who are not gamers either reference the South park episode or one of the poor quality 'Documentaries' about gold farming or WoW addiction that did the rounds a while back.

I guess I'm being a bit patronising here - it is just me assuming that my colleagues couldn't understand an MMO unless they had first hand experience of one - but I have had enough uninspired digs made at me for being a nerd that I'm okay with making this generalisation.

Like what Tobold was saying, I also don’t really like to bore people and can imagine that me talking to a non-gamer about in-depth WoW stuff would be cruel!

However, I wish that other colleagues have the same considerations - for over an hour yesterday I had to hear about a colleagues wedding planning and house buying 'nightmares'. If it carries on today I'm reading to her from the proposed warrior changes and what I think they will mean for me in Cata :)

Friends are totally different, I have no problem at all - I told my non-gamer friends on Sunday night that I spent 2 hours collecting WoW Easter eggs and they didn't bat an eyelid - in fact I was responding to someone asking me how WoW was going.

To Gevlon: I really laughed at your last paragraph because I think you really hit a great point. I don't think I could explain kill shots to a non-gamer without dying from embarrassment but I am still happy to collect them! Although, I would honestly be more embarrassed explaining to my friends that I went Skiing…it would be so out of character for me and has a real reputation as a privileged, middle-class ‘toffs’ sport that I would get 100% more banter about that than my Killshots – my friends know about those.

Honestly I’m not trying to bash Skiing, it looks amazing and it’s not something I have ever done or could probably ever do...I can’t even ice skate. The point I am trying to make is that *who* you are talking to rather than subject matter often makes just as much difference when it comes to embarrassment.
Well people are very judgmental very i'm at about these things.

Going out every night to a pub, watching rugby/soccer getting smashed and then talking about it at work seems to be a "normal" activity/hobby.

Spending the exact same time raiding in WoW, is considered childish/abnormal/anti-social.

So i guess i'm also quiet about it around non-gaming friends. Obviously if i walk into a gaming buddy at the watercooler we can talk up a storm , to much dismay of everyone around us since they have no clue wtf we're talking about....but you can spot them rolling their eyes .
My colleagues know that I play WoW, and I have been the butt of some less than polite comments about it between a couple of them, so I don't talk about it unless I am asked directly.

People think nothing of sitting down every night in front of the television, watching drivel like Eastenders (or whatever soaps are on the TV in Belgium), but these same people give you very strange looks when you tell them that you spent the evening playing computer games

My family know nothing about my blog, simply because I haven't told them about it as my wife thinks I spend too much time playing the game as it is (she watches TV and studies in the evening!)
"I'm not wholly with comfortable colleagues knowing that I play WOW because of the negative connotations the game has. A lot of people who haven't played it who are not gamers either reference the South park episode or one of the poor quality 'Documentaries' about gold farming or WoW addiction that did the rounds a while back."

This comment sums up my view pretty much entirely. Most people's only impressions of WoW and other MMOs, or even other RPG-type games (as opposed to sports and shooters)are extremely negative.

The view is that WoW players are all a bunch of losers living in their mom's basement, being completely addicted and throwing their life away, being utterly socially awkward, etc

(At least this is how it is in my area)

However, with the advent of Facebook games that are veering closer towards MMOs, I believe that in time the general population's view of MMO gamers will shift to be much more knowledgeable, fair, and inoffensive.

Personally, my long-time group of friends and girlfriends have pretty much been the only people I discuss my gaming with. Although with my buddies, most of them have very little interest in discussing RPG games of any kind (being into the party scene with much substance (ab)use).

I usually let my instincts decide for me; so if someone is clearly a person I'd consider not a gamer at all, I won't discuss them. If someone mentions games then I will open up more about my gaming.

As opposed to other hobbies, there is a very real stigma attached to gaming. In addition, many people simply have no desire to listen to somebody drone on about what seems like a highly complicated, stupid, time-wasting hobby (to the uninitiated).

Anyways, I think my point is this:
Until you actually experience listening to someone describe their WoW epics and raids, with no real knowledge of the game or MMORPGS, you have no idea how excrutiating it is.
I don't really talk about it except with other gamer friends. Sometimes I try to relate it to the sciences with mention of economics or the social interactions, but most people appear to be incapable of thinking beyond "it's a game."

@Gevlon: Knowing what skiing is will give a starting point; a general idea of what it means when someone says "I did the hardest slope there and raced my friends down." They won't know the specifics, but they can have some appreciation. In contrast, the game is "just a game." They won't even attempt to care because they have no reference point at all. It's all just pixels to them.
I agree with ernoldsame and the others who are saying that there are too many negative stigmas attached to MMOs to make them worth bringing up in casual conversation. People automatically look at you funny and wonder if you’re an addict if you mention playing an MMO, and the fault for that doesn’t fall solely on WoW. MMOs have been viewed as a drug by people ever since Everquest, WoW just made the drug popular. But like any drug, ask people in a smaller group or one on one about it, and they’re more receptive to it, and more likely to mention their own interest or history with the genre.

Part of the reluctance to talk about it may also come from the fact that there isn’t much to talk about. If you go skiing on bunny slopes, all you can say in conversation is “I had fun”. If you go skiing on double black diamonds, THEN you have a story to tell. The difference is that not everyone has the skill to conquer a double black diamond. Since everyone is doing the same thing in WoW and overcoming the “tough” obstacles is more a matter of time than skill, what can you really cite as notable and worth mentioning? If there was more impact and significance to what we did in the game, then we’d have stories to tell. Oddly enough I wrote about a solution to this today!
Ernold - Try skiing sometime. It's waayyyy easier than ice skating(after an hour or so of feeling out how the skis feel underneath you.)

Tobold - So there are no situations where you don't mention it because of a perceived negative connotation? I see what you saying, but you must never be embarrassed by much of anything! Because I agree, there are some people I don't talk about WoW with because they just wouldn't understand, or care, at all. But there are others who don't game much, but are very familiar, maybe they play some games, shooters and sports and they such, that I wouldn't tell because of the embarrassment factor.
This is something I can relate to. When I was in High School I didn't tell people I gamed, in fact I tried to keep in on the down low with alot of my friends that were more "outdoorsy".

I'm married, I have 2 kids, and I have had the same group of friends for nearly 15 years now. What the hell do I need to hide now? I don't need to impress or flatter anyone at this point in my life, so yes I don't mind telling people I play video games as my hobby.

My wife's only issue is I don't want to hang out with people whom I don't have a common interest with. I don't like people who have nothing in common with me because they don't really care about what you have to say, they are just waiting for their turn to tell some mundane story.

So I refuse to meet most new people. I have a large group of friends I have gamed with since High School and another group of friends I do outdoorsy stuff with. I have no need or desire to impress or meet new people that have nothing in common with me.

I'm a normal(ish), older medical professional. I work out hard, run half-marathons, snowboard 10x a winter, mountain bike, garden, travel, watch baseball and lots of other hobbies.

I also play WoW 10-20 hrs a week, and really love following WoW blogs. Would like to blog myself someday.

Explaining my passion to non-gamers what it's all about has been actually pretty easy, sometimes a bit embarrassing, but rarely.

I just let my enthusiasm come through, and I avoid using jargon. I don't take myself or the game too seriously, but I really believe that MMO gaming, online retail, social networking, education, entertainment etc. are on a crash course, and are actually very similar in a lot of ways. The most obvious way is that we all sit and stare at a screen for hours at a time, minipulating pixels and moving large amounts of cash around.

We are witnessing the birth of an amazing era of technology and a whole new way of relating.

I started gaming because I didn't want to just observe, I wanted to experience it and now I actually feel a PART of it. And seeing your opinion posted on a blog with someone like Tobold or Gevlon ROCKS.
At work only a few people share my interest in interactive entertainment. Most people in my age group (40-50) have no interest in it. Only two people play WoW.

I was having a discussion with one of my work friends who is a big gamer about having time to game (his wife just had a baby). Another work college butted in and said once you have kids you won't have any time for "such nonsense".

I found the comment deeply offensive. It came from someone who continually complains about his wife and three children. My thought was "Well buddy I didn't force you to have kids".

So yes I am careful what I say about my gaming hobby to various people. Yet I am sure if I watched football 4 hours a day or played golf on weekends people whouldn't think twice.
I feel the same way at work.

It's great when you can find a fellow gamer who is into the same games you are. I love geeking out and talking games with work friends. But, as you said, it is a very narrow niche and not everyone falls into it.

Most of the gamers I can talk to at work are my same gender and age (male/23) and almost everyone outside of my age-group would have no idea what I was saying.

It is much easier to talk about cooking or current events.
I'm never embarrassed about being a gamer. Then again the people at my job are mostly under 40, and my boss played WoW (I ganked his rogue... must be why I haven't been promoted).

But I was talking to a co-worker, about some subject or another, and WoW came up, and after I described it to her, she started playing it. She's over 50, and now owns and Xbox360 and is playing Mass Effect 2.
Coincidence or not, but in the latest episode of FlashForward serie (1x15), it shows a scene where co-workers are talking and one of them says he plays a online RPG, the character name, level etc. ^^

It happens on 18:50 time.
There's definitely a double standard in perception when it comes to gaming vs "conventional forms of recreation" ie, being a couch potato, board games, reading. It's probably because gamers and especially those of us into MMO's are still a minority compared to those other activities. A lot of people just haven't accepted the fact that adults play video games. Some parents aren't even aware that games have a rating system... I can honestly say I've never worked in an office where a sizable amount of people played video-games much less knew what an MMO was. If your lucky enough to have even a few gamers at work I feel that's definitely the exception. Friends are always different of course because they already know you and are interested in what makes you happy so although they don't know WTH your talking about, the level of enthusiasm you bring when your telling them about a pwning an '07 EVE pilot can make for good times.
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