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Gamer Shame

May 25th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · 12 Comments · Uncategorized

Womengamers.com recently posted an article by Fizgig (pseudonym, of course) about being afraid to reveal to your hobby to you colleagues and friends. “Why don’t I tell people at the university where I work that I play videogames?” Fizgig wrote. A university teacher, she would hide her hobby. (At last week’s E3, ESA chief Doug Lowenstein brought this article to the attention of the industry at large in his State of the Industry Address.)

Fizgig focuses on the shame of women gamers, but there is still a prevailing fear among adults that games are not a serious hobby and a waste of time. She makes a connection between the objectification of women in the industry and the corresponding resistance of women to share their interest in gaming.

But, as she notes, her own fiancé was reluctant to reveal his interest in gaming. Gamer shame is an equal opportunity disorder.

I have been “out” as a gamer for a while now. And Fizgig is on the way there. She doesn’t go into people’s reactions to her hobby, but I can guess. Most people are genuinely interested.

At the high school where I finished interning, about half of my department gamed in one fashion or another. There was one teacher who was a serious flight sim nut. Another was your standard console gamer. A third confessed to playing a lot of Rome: Total War. One female teacher took the trouble to explain that she had no games on her computer because she wasted too much time on then.

And the age range of this group is from early 20s to mid 40s.

My other non-gaming friends find my hobby (and the fact that I occasionally get paid to write about it) interesting, but in general just another hobby. They put it on the same level as watching movies or reading mystery novels. It’s a harmless distraction of no real importance. I am not a freak – though their lack of gaming knowledge does limit the types of conversations we can have about the subject.

In short, I think that the fear of ostracism, mockery or pity is pretty overblown. There will always be those snobs who think gaming is pointless, but these are the same people who don’t watch TV and talk about it endlessly. Games have been part of the background of my generation for as long as I can remember, so it’s not like you are unveiling that you are a LARPer.

Games may not be mainstream yet, but they aren’t in the shadows. Gamers shouldn’t be either.


12 Comments so far ↓

  • Lord Chimmy

    I have no shame as a gamer. 31 years old and I still have the interest. I guess I am just enlightened enough to realize playing video games doesn’t mean you have to be an idiot.

  • Jim9137

    I’m 16. I haven’t ever felt any shame of playing games, which probably comes with my age. But I’ve noticed that I’m quite reluctant to talk about games I really love, X-Coms and the like with people I don’t know. Less mainstream games, that is. While other people gloat how great GT4, Halo 2, WoW and the like look and play, I have the urge to tell them what I think of them…

    I’m ashamed that I play old, ugly and less fashionable games, think about that. Although I managed to make a friend of mine to play Fallout, which personally is victory to me.

    Hm. Curious, it seems as if games we’re trendy and if you don’t play certain games you’re out of fashion. .. Hm hm hm.

    EDIT: I deleted previous comment, as I have something to add.

    I’ve noticed that not everyone feel the same way I do, I’ve heard snippets of conversation where they say Fallout is the best thing since sliced bread. I’m probably just paranoid here, but in any case.

    Gaming in fact, is more popular than movies or books these days, which is saying a lot. Over 10 years it has grown vastly, but it still seems, as Porcius mentioned here few posts ago, that the games don’t mature the same rate. We still get Lara Croft’s regularly and big guns. In fact, I haven’t seen a thoughtful plot since well…

    cough! back to the topic. My point is that, I can pretty openly admit I like Half-Life 2, which is a lie, but that’s pretty much it.

    I’m still quite baffled how one person said “Blood 2 is way better than Blood 1, just look at those graphics man!” but that’s again little off-topic.

    Heck, I can’t find the red string in this comment, no matter how hard I tried.


  • Anonymous

    I have been playing computer games since they were written in DOS. I am 55 years old, a financial professional and my husband thinks I have gone off my tracks (in an understanding way). I really don’t want my clients to know how much time I spend playing games, but I feel that my game playing provides an important outlet for relaxation, challenging intellectual stimulation and just plain fun. I’ll probably be playing games forever.

  • Anonymous

    Dang! I thought I was the oldest at 50. There is no shame where I live aside from not “winning.”

    I teach and edit for a living. My students realize I’m trying to connect when I tell them my game stats. When I edit, I willingly tell my clients that I game and they should as well. It clears the mind and knocks the edge off a deadline too.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    When I tell my students that I game, there is an instant bond with many of them. When I tell them that I occasionally get paid to do so, they are envious.

    I’m in my early thirties and should be spending more time doing “serious things”, like finishing my book or washing the car.

    I wonder how many secret gamers there are out there? Anyone who is not out want to comment?

  • Anonymous

    52 here, and I suspect our age group is more reluctant to admit to being hardcore gamers than most. My wife accepts this begrudgingly, and is starting to resent the rapport I share with our 13 year old son. He and I talk gaming all the time.

    I have admitted to being a gamer to some of my colleagues, but I’m a programmer, and we give each other a lot more leeway. Not as much as you’d think, though – the line in fizgig’s article about wine tasting and boating struck a nerve. It’s like they’re thinking “Ah, I see he never really outgrew those childish pursuits…”

  • hey more

    Just thought I would share, since some of the comments had to do with gaming and academia. I have written over a dozen uni papers on video games in relation to different topics, from philosophy, to classical literature, to “language and gender”, whatever category that falls under.

    Invariably, I always get odd looks when I make a proposition for one of these papers. But what I’ve discovered is that, if you have the interest in you to show what is so fascinating about your hobby, people tend to integrate your interest into theirs. Thus I’ve had many professors ask for more background after reading what I’ve written.

    There’s never any reason to feel shame. As long as you really love what you do (whether it’s for a living or just for fun) people tend to warm up to that regardless of the topic.

    (However, I’ve found that being positive about it helps, so starting out by explaining why FFX sucked is probably a bad idea.)

  • Brinstar

    I outed myself as a gamer at work today, in front of about 300+ people. We have a full staff meeting every month, and new employees get introduced there. I work at a fairly conservative business organisation. My boss knew that I game from when we had our getting-to-know-you lunch at the start of my work there. But when asked to give a description to read at the full staff meeting, I hesitated about including gaming, one of my major hobbies, as part of my personal description. In the end, I just left it in. But I tell you, I felt irrational fear that people would see me as less professional or less capable than someone who didn’t game as a hobby.

  • Anonymous

    Over at Four Fat Chicks one of the lead reviewers is, I believe, in his seventies. Average age of the frequent posters is easily north of forty. No wonder it’s one of the few forums where the knives are sharp but the behavior civil.


    No shame there. We’re lucky to have someone your age who knows some of the older games. As a hobby (and an industry) gaming has two major potholes into which it often trips: lack of knowledge about even its recent past and the less common but equally dangerous blind nostalgic worship of the Good Old Days (whether 2D fighters or SNES or early coin-up — the Golden Age of video games is twelve). So keep playing the older titles, don’t turn your nose up at the new, and have boatloads of fun. :)

  • Jim9137

    Dear Anonymous who so kindly replied to me: I only know these things because my parents practically shoved me on NES when I was about 4 or some such. Super Mario Bros. 3 was a killer for such a toddler.

    Anyway, what you’ve said might be true in my case. Especially the latter case, “clingy, nostalgic, cheap” on old games is me. It might be either that I don’t just get inspired on new games like I used to do, it might be because my computer’s such a piece of junk that I make myself feel better by claiming old > new. Who knows? In any case, I’m now persuading Po-… Troy, to play UFO2000.sf.net with me. Winnar is me! (most likely not)

  • Hieronymus @ The Game Chair

    I’ve been a game geek for 40 years now, both board and computer games. I tend to hang around a pretty geeky crowd, so playing games isn’t thought weird by any means. I find explaining board games actually harder than explaining computer games for some reason.

  • Stu

    ‘Serious hobby’ is an oxymoron anyway imho.