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What's Your Secret Then?

Tamsin Oxford
Features, Simulation games

Do you play a game you dare not admit to?

Just like books, games have a certain snobbery attached to them. For those of us in thWhat's Your Secret Then?e know, there are specific types of games that are looked down upon and those that play them are pitied or mocked.

These games are the Twilights or Harry Potters of the gaming world. You play them secretly in a dark underground bunker just in case somebody pops round and catches you at it.

Of course there is a ton of debate as to exactly which games fall under this umbrella – everybody has different tastes, right?

Well, yes, sort of. But, like trainspotting, Solitaire is considered one of those unmentionables. If you nurse a secret addiction to Algerian Patience on Facebook or Spider Solitaire on your Windows desktop I’m willing to bet that you’d never admit that in company.

What's Your Secret Then?

Imagine the scene: a group of gamers chilling out over some beer at the local and talking about their latest efforts in [insert cool game here] and you then confess to having spent eight straight hours trying to beat the computer at Hearts.

It will never, ever be cool.

And yet there are plenty of people that do enjoy a nice game of solitaire with a hot cup of tea, and they aren’t all wearing curlers in their hair or knitting a sweater either. In fact, one pleasant (and extremely anonymous) person that I chatted to when I was writing this piece said to me, “It’s funny because my partner will play Left4Dead for hours and that’s ok, but if we get into a fight about it he’ll openly sneer at my time spent playing Patience. It’s as if his gaming is an acceptable time sink but mine is not.”

Solitaire isn’t the oWhat's Your Secret Then?nly game to meet with an arched eyebrow and a pitying pat. What about Train Simulator? I’ll be brave and admit that I loved it. I spent hours and hours playing that game until a chance conversation at a gaming event had everyone stop talking and stare at me as if I’d grown an extra eye.

I succumbed to peer pressure and stopped playing pretty much immediately (not without a couple of sad glances at the case though). Still, at one point most of the games being released were sim titles of some shape or another so, as a reviewer, I got to play them all without the fear of being burned at the gamer stake. Obviously I pretended to hate every minute of it....

The Sims were also shrouded in this veil of shame at one point although it seWhat's Your Secret Then?ems that later incarnations have seen it become a more universally accepted title. The more dedicated gamer is likely to be snorting into his caffeine at this point but overall the comments on gaming sites are a little less patronising when referring to the Sims nowadays. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that Train Sim may still be considered dodgy.

Another title that was thrown my way during my investigations was Flight Simulator. Yes, I’m aware that I’m still lurking in the sim genre but this one I simply had to raise. I’m definitely one of those gamers who looks at fans of Flight Sim and goes, “What? Seriously??”.

What's Your Secret Then?I understand that it’s got every airport in the world including Barack Obama’s personal landing strip but what on earth could be the attraction of sitting in your chair for the (wait for it) same length of time as the actual flight itself? Then you get there and fly somewhere else. You don’t, as I would expect after such a long wait, get out and have someone hand you a beach and a Mai Tai.

Age of Empires, during its giddy heyday was also considered something of a no-no in gaming circles. While the fan base tried not to take it too personally, FPS lovers would stalk them at events and menace them in dark corners. Usually it was best to keep it all a bit quiet.

What's Your Secret Then?

Interestingly World of Warcraft has actually become the King of the Game with Shame in spite of being one of the most popular games on the planet. Talking about it in any circle gets you looks of dismay (oh, God an addict), pity (play a real game weirdo!) and fear (he isn’t going to go all Jehovah’s Witness on me, is he?). You can kind of see where it came from but it still takes me by surprise when I realise how far the mantle of WoW has fallen.

What about you? What games have I completely missed out on that you believe fit neatly into this category? Why not admit your little gaming secret while you’re at it, after all if we all confess to one tiny little lapse in taste then perhaps we’ll be more accepting.


What's Your Secret Then?
Add a comment8 comments
CompactDstrxion  Nov. 19, 2009 at 14:52

I play RailWorks (the sequel to Rail Simulator) and I love it! I even bought an extra train and the Isle of Wight pack!

Gunn  Nov. 19, 2009 at 15:02


Nothing wrong with that, I used to love a simulator called A-Train, spent countless hours on that.

Can't say I play any games I'm ashamed to admit too.....

Late  Nov. 19, 2009 at 16:00

Nicely done, Tamsin.

My dad plays freecell. If a "normal" person were on a very old computer with no internet capabilities and no installed games they would probably reach the levels of boredom required to give the game a whirl - at which point they'd be presented with a "random" layout of cards. I put the quote marks around the word random, as every possibly combination of cards isn't included in the game. In his there are 32'000.
After playing a few games, about 10 years ago, he then decided to try combination 00001. (Yes, you can pick which set layout you want to play. And you can probably see where this is headed...) After completing it he moved onto game 00002. Then 00003...
I think he's at about 8000 now, but I'm not sure. It's not something you talk about, other than to laugh at him. He's completed each before moving on to the next. (To remind myself how many games there are I've just been on wiki, and I noticed that all 32000 are solvable except for #11982. Should I tell him? lol)
His computer's actually in decent shape (though no gaming rig, of course) and he has broadband, so there's pretty much no end to the games he could be playing, but freecell has him hooked.

Personally, I'm a big fan of tower defence games, and I think there's a stigma attached to those, too - though it's not as bad as being into vehicle simulators or freecell, naturally :P
I think there's more tolerance for very simple yet addictive games, such as the TD genre - think Tetris, and Pacman, for instance.

Other than that, no embarrassing gaming guilty pleasures here (though I did enjoy Crackdown on the xbox360, which puts me in a distinct minority, but I don't think there's any embarrassment in that one).

Late  Nov. 19, 2009 at 16:01

Hi dad, if you read this.
Love you to bits really!

Tamsin  Nov. 19, 2009 at 16:28

Late that has to be one of the funniest comments I have read in a long, long time.

Matt Gardner  Nov. 19, 2009 at 17:05

Great article! You're right about WoW....especially in the face of the meteoric rise of other online multiplayer experiences. The Guild has been tackling it very well recently.

As for me I spent my last year of uni living in a house with four guys and a beer fridge and was castigated for buying the two latest Harry Potter games.....but I really liked them!

A semi-guilty pleasure if your days are structured around work be it academic or otherwise is any instalment of the Football/Championship Manager series, although part of this is due to it's severe addictiveness which leads to people treating you with both the patronising and sympathetic 'There, There' that is the reward of the hopeless addict.

@Late: You're not alone when it comes to Crackdown or Tower Defence :)

Tasha  Nov. 19, 2009 at 23:19

I don't think my girlfriends even know I play any games to be honest...! If they came round and the 360 or PS3 is left on, I just casually mention "yeah my boyfriend's playing some stupid game...I dunno" I really don't know what they'd say if they knew! So yeah, I'm embarrassed by every game I play!

Jad  Nov. 22, 2009 at 09:11

Diner Dash hooked me really bad. :P


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