Login | Signup

The Great, Secret Shame

Tamsin Oxford

Admitting that you’re a gamer still seems to be akin to confessing a love for pulling the wings off butterflies.

It’s interesting, there have been several articles over the past week about whether or not gamers are ashamed to admit to their predilection for sitting in a dark room playing with pixels. In an article, that was in turn funny and insightful, Jack Arnott confessed that gaming is “something [he] barely ever talks about.”

The Great, Secret ShameWhy? Because people who play games are still seen as sad little nerds who don’t have social skills and are probably either suffering from a raging addiction (about to start selling our furniture at a moment’s notice to afford more crack games) or are about to kill everyone in sight.

In fact, some people do look at me, when I confess to my Love That Has No Name, as if I’m going to suddenly go insane and open fire with that Kalashnikov I have handily tucked into my Prada bag.

Senior designer at Splash Damage, Edward Stern, was quick to retaliate to Jack with his article in the Guardian “Gamers will inherit the virtual earth”.

He raises some extremely interesting points about where the games industry is sitting in terms of historical development with references to the horseless carriage phase and how the industry is evolving.

He also points out that this is an industry where “the UK spent £4bn on games: more than DVD and music sales combined.”

Now that statistic makes me go “HA!”

If it’s true thatThe Great, Secret Shame we hide our love of gaming like we would a love of biscuit wrappers, then there are more people out there lying through their teeth about what they do on a cold winter’s evening that you could imagine.

However, I must agree that it is true that people do look at you with either concern or disdain when you admit to playing computer games.

More so if you’re playing World of Warcraft . I’ve noticed that any admittance to having a level 80 Death Knight has led to people laughing at me and asking me if I “dress up.”

No, people, I don’t dress up. In fact, like you, I wear jeans and a t-shirt to my social gatherings except that I don’t necessarily meet the people I’ve made friends with online. You may think that sitting in the same pub every single night for the rest of your sad little life constitutes a far more acceptable form of relaxation and socialising but I don’t. I may still get a little drunk (who doesn’t enjoy a nice beer while gaming I ask you?) but just because I’m not sitting side by sweaty side with my compadres does not mean I am a sad addicted git who needs to go to a specialist.

Amusingly the first ever game addiction clinic in Britain has just thrown open its doors to us sad, sad creatures.

Now before you start yelling at me about how there are genuine cases of addiction where people have lost their homes, wives and socks to games like Everquest and WoW, I’d like to point out that these cases are not an everyday The Great, Secret Shameoccurrence.

Sure, the media would love to have the world believe that gaming addiction is sitting right on your left shoulder, ready to pounce the moment you spend longer than an hour with Lara (or perhaps the first moment you try the hack to see her knockers?) but  this is patently not true.

Destructoid have it in one with their description “a trendy new affliction” for it seems, to me, to be just that.

But I digress...

Is it because of the 80s stereotype of the skinny, pale, glasses-wearing dork who’d never had sex and wouldn’t know a girl if she sat on his head that we are left with this lingering sense that we are social outcasts?

I’m not sure.

I love gaming, I’ve always loved gaming. I’ve never been ashamed of admitting it and I’ve taken it as a compliment when people have called me a geek or a nerd. Why not? Shall the geek not inherit the earth? (sorry)

The Great, Secret Shame

You look at men like Bill Gates (you don’t have to like him, ok), John Carmack, Nolan Bushnell, Sid Meier, Will Wright – the list goes on – and these so-called geeks are blindingly intelligent and stupidly rich.

I don’t see anything wrong with that stigma at all. I wouldn’t mind being blindingly rich myself.

What I do object to is the fact that people seem to think its ok to make sweeping character judgements based on your enjoyment of video games.

When I was working for a large company last year, the conversation about gaming came up and many of the people sitting around in this open plan office confessed to being bewildered by WoW and what it was all about. I innocently confessed to playing it regularly and soon found that I became the butt of ridiculous jokes and that my abilities were taken into question as a result. Not openly of course, but rather a sense of “Hmm, she can’t possibly be taken seriously now”.

That irked me. I refuse to accept that my passion for this activity, as solitary and sedentary as reading a book I might add, means that I am any different from someone who chooses to do something else.

Gamers, it’s time to stand up with pride.

Add a comment7 comments
Marius Goubert  Nov. 6, 2009 at 12:46

I think gender is an issue. Being a female gamer has much more of a stigma attached to it in my opinion. There's a definite double standard - although WOW has to be the exception.

MrRobin  Nov. 6, 2009 at 13:19

Excellent article, well done!

I often get mocked by mates down the pub for being a gamer, often as a result of the girlfriend mentioning something in passing about me playing xyz game or even just spending time on the net. I become all abashed and defend myself with 'Oh I hardly play much anymore' or 'I only play when she's not around' etc. but why should I feel the need to? Gaming is just the modern man's (or woman's) way of relaxing on their own!

Lydia Low  Nov. 6, 2009 at 13:33

I love working at my current company. It's just assumed that you like games - the only question is which ones.

I've never felt embarrassed to admit i like games; thanks to my appearance people tend to think i am weird anyway, hah.

deepz  Nov. 6, 2009 at 13:40

you are a good writer. you should write some of the articles on bitter wallet too lol.

Gunn  Nov. 6, 2009 at 14:54

I thought things had improved greatly, surely any passion or interest can look dull or weird to those who are not into it.
Take Football for instance, massively popular and if you ever listen to people talk about the level of detail they go into is amazing, real passion but from an outsider view, really boring or dare I say geeky.

The fact that you can have your console in the living now and not the bedroom is a huge step forward.

natasha  Nov. 6, 2009 at 18:25

Actually - to be pedantic - it's The Love that Dare Not speak its Name - which I suppose makes gamers even more conscious of living on the margins of society. ANd aren't the government health drives adding to the woe - all that stuff about getting out in the fresh air and playing healthy games like football rather than staying cosily inside with a console?
Give me games any time!

Jad  Nov. 17, 2009 at 16:22

Awesome article!

My husband and I have been playing WoW for over two years.

We have good jobs, a nice home, we got married this year (planning a wedding is very time consuming), we own two cats (another "shameful" admission), we're healthy, we get together with family and friends regularly, and we are very very happy.

Meanwhile, I know some people who seem very worried about my unfortunate "addiction/illness/perversion", while they are not happy nor well.

Addiction to computer games, while real, is a symptom and not a disease. The addicted would have gotten addicted to something else if it weren't for games - alcohol, drugs... Maybe games are the better option.

I wish people would get some perspective.


Leave a Trackback from your own site

Email Address:

You don't need an account to comment. Just enter your email address. We'll keep it private.