Is there still a stigma to gaming?

Recently some established gaming bloggers discussed the pros and cons of using real names versus screen names for their gaming blogs. (See Survival and Identity, Using a pseudonym and What’s in a Name?) They raised a lot of interesting points, but one major theme was whether there is any stigma nowadays to being identified as a gamer.

Here’s stand-up Dara O’Brien on the subject of gaming and how it’s perceived by some… (Note: Includes a bit of adult humor)…

The serious point is that while there are plenty of circles in which gaming is perfectly well accepted, there are others where it’s not much understood and people are likely to be judgmental based on stereotypes they’ve picked up. Times are changing, but they probably haven’t changed completely and everywhere yet.

The story of Colleen Lachowicz, a successful candidate for the Maine State Senate, cuts both ways. Her opponents tried to portray her as someone who “lives in a fantasy world”, which suggests there’s still plenty of stigma for them to work with. But whatever there was, it wasn’t enough to stop her winning the election.

An interview with Lachowicz and another about her unusual guild make for interesting reading. To some extent there’s a paradox in these interviews that while underlining that serious grownups play such games and there’s no shame to be attached to that, they also make a point of stressing not being “hardcore” and that the people in the guild aren’t “typical gamers”. Which maybe suggests that “typical” and “hardcore” players are viewed with disdain, perhaps even by those gamers that see themselves as non-typical.

Perhaps the thing is, none of us actually know if we’re what is typical, or if we’re exceptions.

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17 thoughts on “Is there still a stigma to gaming?

  1. The funny thing is that even among gamers I’m somewhat reviled for playing WoW and I have to explain how I’m in the top 1% of players and not the stereotypical WoW idiot.

    Welcome to blogging! Though you may have set a dangerous precedent with a post per day so far…

    • Thanks for the welcome!

      I don’t see me being able to keep up a post a day, but I wanted to have at least a couple before I made the blog public. A blog with just one post would’ve looked a little sad. 🙂

      Interesting what you say about WoW stereotypes. It’s a funny thing about people, we seem wired to stereotype groups and find ways to feel superior to them.

      Do you think a lot of WoW players actually fit the “idiot” stereotype? In LOTRO there is a fair amount of trashy talk in the chat channels, but I suspect those are the noisy but highly visible minority. Most of the people I come across are very nice.

  2. “A blog with just one post would’ve looked a little sad. :)”

    I dunno, you probably could have just linked that video without any actual writing in the post and people would have thought it was an amazing blog due to the awesomeness of the video.

    “It’s a funny thing about people, we seem wired to stereotype groups and find ways to feel superior to them.”

    My progression is X. Anyone with progression >X is a no life basement dwelling fat virgin. Anyone with progression <X is a casual scrub who doesn't care about the game.

    "Do you think a lot of WoW players actually fit the “idiot” stereotype?"

    A lot? Yes. The majority? Probably not. I wasn't even basing that on chat channels simply because a few trolls can really dominate. Was instead looking at LFR runs I've been on where 75%+ of the raid sometimes doesn't care or try at anything. Now, people in that category probably only make up 20-30% of the playerbase (with like 50% not at max level, 10% doing normal or better raids, and the rest at max level but not doing LFR (PvPing or just pet battling/mount collecting/etc)). But it's probably a majority of max level players or very close to it.

    • *Makes note to post hilarious vids from time to time*

      I think we might be working with different definitions of “idiot” here. Sounds like you meant more “clueless and incompetent player” and I was thinking more “badly-behaved brat”.

      • Not really. You’ll notice I didn’t even include the like 50% of players not even at max level who are almost entirely clueless and incompetent — but they don’t inflict that clueless and incompetence on others. The LFR players who are clueless and incompetent and who also don’t give a damn and drag down groups of players (often going AFK during fights or doing nothing but auto-attacking or intentionally dying so they can go AFK without people noticing) are in fact being badly behaved brats.

      • Ah, that does sound particularly depressing.

        I don’t PUG much, but when I do most of the time in LOTRO people are at least trying their best. It’s more often the people that fancy themselves good players that behave badly by just walking out mid-run on a group that’s struggling.

        So maybe there is a teeny bit of truth to the LOTRO & WoW stereotypes.

      • “I don’t PUG much, but when I do most of the time in LOTRO people are at least trying their best.”

        I’m not talking about PUGing (assembling a group), I’m talking about LFR (queue for a group). In a PUG, there are social consequences for intentionally dying or being an ass or AFK autoattacking — you get booted and blacklisted. In LFR…you *might* get booted if you wipe and people notice you were AFK. Maybe.

        It’s a toxic cesspool with no accountability that should die a fiery death — and unfortunately it’s now seen as the face of WoW by many people, especially since most people (unless they have friends in-game) see it before Flex/Normal/Heroic and then go “Hang on, Flex/Normal/Heroic is more of this? Screw that, I’m outta here!”

      • Oh, and to be clear, Flex/Normal/Heroic is NOT more of the same — the social atmosphere is wildly different, it’s challenging, and people actually work together. But this is not clear to new people doing LFR.

  3. “The serious point is that while there are plenty of circles in which gaming is perfectly well accepted, there are others where it’s not much understood and people are likely to be judgmental based on stereotypes they’ve picked up.”

    I’m quite lucky in that my profession, Software Development, gaming is pretty common, so linking it to my real name isn’t a big deal. Nobody sees it as a downside, and in fact it’s likely more rare to find folks who don’t game in some manner or another at my job. To be fair, I think I’d be moderately suspicious if I ran into a developer who *didn’t* play games of any sort.

    Makes me feel bad for those folks where gaming is still a stigma. Certainly not as extreme as being the closet because of your sexuality, but there’s a definite parallel where it can radically alter the opinion of certain folks. It would be pretty crappy indeed to get passed over for a promotion just because you played video games.

    • To be fair I think the chances of people getting passed over for a promotion because of gaming aren’t very high. Once people know you well then your hobbies and whatever they think about them are just one part of the picture they have of you. They might contribute a bit to an impression that you aren’t as serious and mature as needed, but there’d probably have to be a whole bunch of other things that (in their minds at least) pointed the same way. If you’re otherwise professional and productive, being known to be a gamer is not going to hurt you.

      My guess would be, it’s not a big problem for young people in general because it’s sort of expected for them. It’s also likely not a big problem for older people with others that know them well, like long time colleagues. It’s just one aspect of you, whatever they happen to think about that particular aspect.

      Where it might be a problem is if you’re an older person and for whatever reason you need to deal with people that don’t know much about you, and they could fixate on any one thing they hear about you. The example in the post is classic: A candidate in an election. It might only take 5% of the voters thinking “Gee, she runs around pretending to be an Orc?” to lose you the election.

      I think there are situations where people are going to make snap judgments about you based on a Google search or reading a bio, and in some of those situations if they see “gamer” coming up, they might dismiss you based on their stereotype of that without looking much further.

    • I agree with Talarian here, it really depends on the circles you are in. I sometimes find myself in the wrong ones: if I tell other women I’m into gaming they’re a bit like “well that’s a waste of your time” (or they will not say it but you can see they are thinking it) or it’s just not a great source of conversation because they express they don’t know anything about it. On the other hand, sometimes when guys are talking about gaming and I try to chime in, they’re a bit surprised like “oh, you’re also into that” but they feel a bit uncomfortable because I’m a girl (or is it just my ugly face). Funnily enough, this is not the case if I met people *through* a game. Alternatively, I have a good friend that also got into MMOs separately from me, and we can talk about it and have great fun.

      So around me, I certainly notice that there sometimes still is a stigma, depending on the group/people. I’m not super bothered by it, though. I like doing what I like, and I don’t care that much what others think of it. And if people tell me they don’t get it, I’ll just show them my blog (there’s loads of pictures, so that usually helps them get an idea).

      Oh and, I loved the video as well. ^^

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  6. I think there is but I’m also noticing slight improvements over time. I think it just takes a long time for such opinions to change. I wear my ‘gamer’ badge with pride no matter what anybody else thinks though. Upon mentioning that I play games I sometimes notice a slight change in expression or I’ve been instantly treated like I’m addict without the other person knowing anything else about me – if they took the time they’d realize I have many other hobbies alongside games like art, reading, running… etc… Anyway, I think that such a quick judgement says more about them than it does about me. I’m not going to hide who I am but instead correct people of those initial assumptions, which should hopefully in time help them to realize that we’re not all the same.

    • People who don’t know much about a thing have to go by how it looks or how it’s represented in the media. That even goes for gamers who don’t know the games and genres you like.

      There was a time when I’d barely just heard of Harry Potter for example, and if I heard of an adult reading it I’d prob have found it a bit odd. (Though I’m ok with oddness anyway!) All I knew is it’s a book about kids at wizarding school, it’s a craze with pretty young children, and the covers look like they’d appeal to a ten year old. Then I happened to catch Stephen Fry reading part of it on the radio, and I thought “Hey, this is great!” So I went and caught up on all the books that were out at that point.

      Similar thing happened when I mentioned it to my sister and her husband. You could see they thought it was odd me recommending that, and they were probably thinking: “Fine if you like it, but prob not for me.” They didn’t take me up on my offer to lend them my copy. Then later on, don’t remember how it came about exactly, they did read the books and loved them as much as I did.

      • Yeah, admittedly I probably also do the same at times with other cultures and interests and maybe I don’t even realize it. It can be difficult, but I do try to keep an open mind and ask lots of questions so that I can better understand. I know of people who will drop their interests or tone it down just to get along, but – like your Harry Potter example – I prefer to instead try to help them to understand rather than concealing it. I feel happiest and most confident when I’m allowed to be myself.

        That’s interesting because I read Harry Potter as a kid so I never really considered it to be seen in that way, but then I’ve heard criticisms of the idea of adults reading them before. I get the feeling that just like games there can be a lot of judgement placed on what types of books you choose to read.

      • We can’t really help it, and maybe we shouldn’t even go overboard in trying to either. Most of the time a book that appeals to ten year olds isn’t going to be something I’ll enjoy. But there are large categories of adult fiction that I could say the same about as well.

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