Mom, I am a gamer

We would like to introduce our newest guest writer for D Pad D Bags. Pyronia is an avid gamer,  she and I have played various games together including WoW and Starcraft II. We are honored to have her writing content for the D Pad D Bags. She will provide a unique point of view of the gaming world.

Hi fellow gamers, I am writing a series of articles focusing on different aspects of being a computer gamer. For our first adventure of Pyronia’s Panarchy I’d like to explore some of the root challenges gamers face. Please read, enjoy, and discuss.

Hey Mom, I have something to tell you.
I’m a gamer.

Without a doubt gaming is becoming more mainstream, but admitting that you identify as a gamer in many social situations is like coming out of the closet. Throughout the past 15 years the video gaming industry has exploded. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) the industry generated a measly $5.1 billion in 1997 as compared to $25.1 billion in 2010. The gaming industry executives and players should be proud of this growth. The ESA also states that nearly 75% of households in the U.S. have some sort of gaming console. These numbers show that gaming could be considered “mainstream” since the industry is growing and more households have gaming systems than not. If that is the case, why does the social stigma of being a gamer still exist?

As a High School English teacher, let me preface this belief in the stigma being alive and flourishing for you. High School students are notorious for having cliques, striving for popularity, and being cruel. As a teacher, it’s my job to observe, but not interfere with students on the social level unless it crosses certain predetermined lines. I have many students who own consoles like the XBox 360 and PS3, but I don’t have that many who are computer gamers. As a diehard computer gamer since Diablo 1, I am obviously partial to computers as a gaming system. Many of the console gamers at our high school are considered part of the “cool crowd”. They play on the sports teams, get nominated for homecoming royalty, and party every weekend. Conversely, my computer gamers are still on the fringes of the social groups.

This schism between console gaming and computer gaming is part of what prevents gamers from being open about their gaming. I think, in general, that much of the populace in the U.S. will make automatic associations to particular games when you mention that you are a computer gamer. When I told my students that I play Starcraft 2 many of them just heard the word “craft” and started associating me with all of their preconceived notions about people who play World of Warcraft, even though those notions are often inaccurate. I did play WoW for many years while waiting for Starcraft 2 to launch. I was in a healthy relationship, was a working professional and still maintained an active social life. While I don’t play WoW anymore I am still very much a computer gamer. For whatever reason, perhaps Blizzard’s ad campaign, the South Park WoW episode, or the extreme popularity of the game in general, my students know about WoW, but they have no knowledge of SC2. SC2 isn’t as big a step from all of the First Person Shooters that many of my students play. Both Real Time Strategy games and First Person Shooters are fast-paced and competitive. These aspects have brought both genres to the forefront of the up-and-coming eSports arena. Regardless of the extreme popularity of games like Diablo and World of Warcraft their legacy of being games for nerds seems to rub off on computer games in general, even though many of the popular console games also have computer versions.

So what are computer gamers to do? I know that I don’t always admit that I play computer games in certain social situations. It’s not that I’m not proud of being a gamer (I am proud of how I spend my free time), but I know that people will judge me based on the admittance. I am extremely lucky that my significant other plays computer games as well. Brood War actually helped us stay connected while in a long distance relationship. But I imagine it’s difficult for many gamers out there to explain their passion for computer gaming to the people they date. Do you wait to let the person get to know you, so that they can reconcile their ideas of a “gamer” with what they know of you? Or do you just explain to them the importance of gaming in your life up front and they either take it or leave it? If you tell a girl hey, “I play basketball in a recreation league. We have practice almost every night and games on the weekends, is that OK?” Most girls wouldn’t think anything of it; women have been dealing with significant others watching/playing sports recreationally for years. Unfortunately, I doubt most ladies see eSports the same way. So not only do gamers fight against the general stigma of being a gamer, we also fight against the societal expectations people have, which definitely can put strain on relationships.

At the end of the day, we as gamers, simply have to be more open about it in general. If more people come out of the closet as gamers, people will start to realize how many of us there are out there. eSports is quickly becoming an industry to reckon with, but I think it still needs to reach an adolescent phase prior to becoming a legitimate form of mainstream entertainment. In the mean time, gamers need to create awareness of computer gaming at a more grassroots level. Be proud of being a gamer and start sharing that passion with more people, even if it feels awkward or embarrassing to mention it. If everyone just starts acting like it’s common-place maybe someday it will actually become common-place, but we have to be ready to face the social stigmas and stereotypes in order to get there.

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  • Braxton Romack

    I’m 25. I came out as a nerd/gamer at the age of 16. Once I saw episode 100 of the day9 daily. I got angry at myself and never again was I afraid of saying I played certain games. Even going so much as trying to teach a rather non nerdy girl the finer points of sc2 and offered her free drinks if she could answer some quiz questions about protoss later. 

  • Pyronia

    That’s awesome Braxton!  I think this would be pretty common to see at a Barcraft, but not just on your typical evening out.  Hopefully you separated yourself from the herd a bit with it =D.  I think more girls would be into computer games with the right marketing, but it just doesn’t seem like the industry puts much effort into it.