That damned stigma about talking about games

Great weather!  I was a bit miffed biking to class because the sun was all out and I was like ugh, but then I came out of class and it was cloudy and I felt invigorated.

Anyways, I was writing some fanmail to Leigh Alexander and reading over this post while doing it.  I think that we tend to view gaming under a really heavy “lens” because of all the associations and experiences and stereotypes that we have about it, so it’s important to compare and contrast it to other mediums, like film and art and things like that.

We can look at people who play video games, or watch anime, or stuff like that a lot, and as much as I hate to say it, you often (not always, maybe not even most of the time) run into people who are a little bit quirky, or socially maladapted, or emotionally insensitive.  Of course, it’s all relative because IMHO so many people in the world are emotionally insensitive anyways.  But you can say that these sorts of people don’t know how to interact with people as well because their main interests don’t involve interacting with people as much.  I don’t know if there’s that much meat behind that statement though, because there’s lots of other hobbies that don’t involve interacting with people much either…

But the thing with gaming is that well, on the one hand, you’ve got these really weird people who are used to the anonymity of the internet and everything, and those sorts of people can be kind of not fun to talk with.  And then you’ve got people who only play games because they want to show that they’re better than you…and people who only play games to kill time.  If we can’t even talk among each other in a mature way, how can we expect to be able to talk to nongamers as well?

Sometimes I think I should be more vocal about games.  Sometimes it feels like I have some duty to spread the gospel and let it be known that they are something that can be appreciated in a multitude of ways.  That isn’t to say that I should teach everyone to appreciate games as art or anything…because who are you to say that everyone should appreciate games in that particular way?  And who are you to say that everyone should even -like- games in the first place, anyways?  But somehow it seems wrong to have this huge disconnect–to have this thing where if I mention that I’m a gamer, you totally don’t understand who I am.

Then again, isn’t it the same way for all of these other labels too?  If you say you’re a goth, or into lolita fashion, or you’re a hippie, or a punk rocker, that “us vs them” disconnect is there in much the same way.  But I think there’s still a difference here.  If you say you’re a goth, then I just honestly don’t have much of an idea of what that entails.  So yeah, I’m not going to understand all that goes on in that world.  But at the same time, I don’t have many preconceptions, so I’m not really going to =misunderstand= either.

In contrast, when I tell people that I like trance music, the conception that they get is totally wrong, because the only “trance” they know sounds way different than what I actually listen to.  And it’s bad because it’s not like they just have no idea what trance is–it’s that they have ONE idea of what trance is, and that idea is different than what it means to me.  The only thing they’re not sure about is “what’s the difference between trance and techno” which is a totally futile question to answer anyways because “techno” is meaningless as a term now and even sounds silly as a word, to boot.

 

Of course, it’s difficult to say “don’t draw conclusions about anybody”, because I know I draw inferences about people all the time.  Just today I was in the bookstore and there were these asian kids running around (tourists?) and I actually found myself getting really ticked off.  They weren’t being totally obnoxious or anything, but you could tell that they weren’t being respectful and cautious of what other people thought of them.  Which is, again, something that could be said about many people in the world, but it still managed to irk me far more than it should have.

 

Most (?) of the time, I don’t really mind the fact that I don’t talk about games very much in real life.  For me, it’s not a social activity, just like reading a book isn’t a social activity.  But sometimes it -does- bother me–the fact that this is a big part of my life yet the people who are close to me hardly even know about it sometimes.

And again, I think the biggest fear isn’t that people won’t understand what games are to me.  It’s okay for you not to have the same emotional responses to chiptune music as I do.  It’s okay for you to not think that pixel art is the greatest form of art in the world.  It’s okay for you to think that 3d graphics are better than 2d graphics.  It’s okay for you to get excited about gears of halo: modern warfare WHATEVER.  It’s okay for you to only play madden.

But it’s not okay for you to think that games are “just for kids”.  It’s not okay for you to think that chiptune music doesn’t have musical value.  It’s not okay for you to assume that I like “shooting other people in a virtual world all day”.  It’s not okay for you to think that games are something I do just to waste time, or that they somehow have less merit than other forms of art or recreation or media.  It’s not okay for you to =misunderstand=.

Sometimes gamers themselves are the biggest culprits too, either because they only know one small part of games and they assume everyone thinks the same way “what?  What the heck is Katamari Damacy?  Come on let’s play Halo; you said you’re a gamer, right?”…or because they’ve become so entrenched in their own particular way of thinking that they assume the other ways are “wrong” or invalid or inferior in some way.  “Guitar Hero sucks.  Japanese rhythm games are clearly better; you guys are all noobs.”

 

The thing is, though–even -without- the fear of being misunderstood, talking about games just isn’t something that really comes up in conversation.  Maybe it’s just because I don’t talk about myself that much–after all, a lot of people don’t know that I’ve been producing electronic music for 7 years.

 

The worst part is that there’s still that stupid =stigma= that’s still weighing down on my shoulders.  The idea that “I spent the whole day playing video games” is somehow a worse thing to say than “I spent the whole day reading books” or “I spent the whole day social dancing” or “I spent the whole day making music”.  And it shouldn’t be.  I know it’s hard because even I’m having trouble with it, so I want you to read those sentences over again and convince yourself that there is nothing wrong with spending the whole day playing video games, any more than there is with spending the whole day social dancing.

“But, video games are just a waste of time!” you say.  “They’re just a time killer and it means you’re procrastinating!”  “Plus, you’re not even interacting with other people!”

NO.  Stop right there because you’re just making excuses and assumptions, and you need to realize that and STOP.  Remember what we said earlier?  To some people, playing games isn’t just a way to kill time.  For some of us, playing games has emotional value, artistic value, etc.  I’m not saying that -all- games or gamers do, but you need to realize that games have just as much merit as books do in that sense.  Heck, some games ARE basically books (interactive books, at that).  And don’t give me that crap about “being antisocial” because reading books is just as antisocial.

I think this is why I feel such a bad vibe when I think about talking with “people in the real world” about video games.  It’s because that damn stigma is still there, and I don’t like the fact that the stigma is there, because it really ought not to be.  On the other hand, now that everyone and their mothers (literally, in some cases) has iPhones and is busy playing Angry Birds and Farmville, maybe all of these “people in the real world” will also learn what that “stigma” feels like.

 

Perhaps I really ought to start fighting that stigma.  It feels like I really ought to.  Maybe I’ll start.

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