It’s happened to all of us at some point in our lives. You’ve expressed your love for games to someone only to find that they do not share your enthusiasm. In fact, they look at you as if some odious being most foul had taken your place, an otherworldly phenomenon besides whatever slop the cafeteria you are in has deigned to call food. Then there’s an awkward pause and you say “So, err, you going to prom?” and they say “Nope, I’m uhh… studying for my AP Exam”. Then Jockstrap McAsshole comes over and says “This guy bothering you babe?” and she says “No, he was just leaving.” So you leave. Then you see her at prom, grinding all over his crotch like she’s trying to put out a fire with her butt and
Okay, Maybe not everyone has experienced that exact scenario in their life. The point I’m trying to make is there is still a very real stigma surrounding video game culture and those whom it consists of. The word “Gamer” has both positive and negative connotations inside and outside the culture, just look at “Gamergate.” Not to step into a hot, steaming pile of controversy, but that term evokes a lot of different meanings for a lot of different people. There are as many different lenses to look at the world through as there are people, yet we have distinct cultures that tint those lenses in a particular manner so as to imbue the values/traits of that culture. What I’m getting at is that in today’s world, there are many who still see “Gamers” as niche hobbyists in a very broad cultural landscape. Many more simply do not understand it, and that is where social stigmas find their origins.
So what are some of these stigmas? I know of a few myself: Gamers are lazy, gamers are socially inept, gamers are obese, gamers are destined to live in their parents’ basement, gamers aren’t successful. What about games themselves? Games are a waste of time and money, games cause their players to become more violent, games are…. are…. Huh. Those lists are a lot shorter than I thought they would be. What does that tell you?
Perhaps it means we are finally beginning to beat back these social stigmas about Gamers and Video Game Culture. Entire generations have grown up and are growing up with video games as a part of their life, their mainstream culture. The Smithsonian and many other museums have exhibited video games, Minecraft has blown the doors open to an entire generation of gamers and Steam has over 65 million concurrent users. Conventions like PAX draw tens of thousands of attendees. Video Game unit sales can climb into the millions, and smartphone technology has in many ways made gamers of us all. Even Virtual Reality, the holy grail of gaming, has seen great strides in its development with the Oculus Rift and its counterparts. Then there are the unsung heroes of game development, the hundreds, thousands of people who grew up with this great medium. They toil away in their workshops, tinkering with what may be the next great advancement in the way we experience games.
I know that most of this is common sense and we see articles about it fairly often, so why write about it? I feel that the more we see these changes, the more we talk about them, the more we realize what it means for us as Gamers, we’ll be able to share the culture we love so much with so many more people. I’m not trying to justify myself to anyone or “prove” that video games matter. I just look around and see the medium I love evolving with each and everyday, and I can’t help but feel happy about that.
So, how do we tear down the social stigma surrounding video games? Love them, and share that love with others. The more love we have to give to each other, the better we make the world. You can call me an idealist if you like, and perhaps I am one. I just also happen to love video games.