Weekend Double Feature: Gamers, what we are, and are not

I first wrote this to celebrate Winter-een-mas, a silly winter holiday invented by the web comic, Tim Buckley. The reasoning being, if everyone else gets a holiday, why can't gamers have one! It's a week, in mid January dedicated to games, laughing, and pleasing the Gaming Gods.

I've since expanded this one, moved some stuff around, but it's still very true. Gamers aren't all over-weight, over-educated nerds who've never seen a women before. A good portion of us are women! [And yes, we've seen nekkid women and  men! Woohoo!] As perceptions change, as gaming begins to take on more and more forms I think we'll become more and more acceptable. (ie. social or causal gaming becoming so big, and games like Scrabble you play on your phone with your friends).

I also expect gamers to become more acceptable as we age a little more, and our cohort starts taking over more of the governing of the country. The average gamer is in their 30's, with a spouse and kids, a mortgage and probably a cat. We're normal people, who have a hobby based around digital worlds, as opposed to the physical one.

This is my weekend double feature, which I kinda dig doing, by the way. Enjoy your weekend, may it be full, to overflowing, with gaming goodness, and sex... or whatever else it is you do on your weekends.

What Gamers are and are not…
I’ve given some thought to what Gamers are, what we aren't and the stereotypes that surround us. I’ve also noticed that a lot of non-gamers have no idea what, who and how we are. I’d like to take some time to discuss what we are, and are not.

Gamers are people: every day, normal, people:

*We’re not all socially inept single men in their 40’s living in their mom’s basement—we’re all genders, colours, religions and creed, some in our 30’s, some older. The fastest growing gamer population is women, and the average male gamer is in his 30’s, married with at least one child (yes, be afraid, we’re propagating our own race of super-gamers muwahahaha!!)

*We’re not all trying to live vicariously through our characters—truth to tell, all that shooting and blowing things up all the time would put a real crimp on our living, not to mention the puzzles that we’d have to do, just to use the toilet, or the random encounters on the way to work… oh yeah, the traffic would be awful! Can you imagine the time it would take for the skills tables to load at rush hour? Or had shitty the "to hit" rolls would be if you don't have the perk/talent "Morning Person" or "Wakes up Quickly"? So, we just like to do it digitally: it’s much safer that way.

*We also don’t think we’re Super Heroes, super-snipers, war heroes or any thing else; we can’t be resurrected from the dead, command armies of zombies or legions of soldiers. We don’t think we can fly space ships, jump out of air-planes (unless we moonlight as astronauts and paratroopers) or anything else like that. Any one who says differently, especially just before massacring people is mentally ill. 

*We aren't all mentally ill and go on shooting sprees. Gaming doesn't make you ill, however, yes, some mentally ill people do play games. Just like some mentally ill people teach school, play basketball and enjoy the odd murder with a side of cannibalism. Gaming isn't a sign of mental illness, is what I'm trying to explain; yes, some of us have mental illness, but usually we suffer from OCD, depression, anxiety disorders, not violence.

*We’re not obsessed with our on-line persona, nor do we believe for one second that the beautiful, flirtatious female elf, in the battle bikini, on our team is really a woman—no woman would make a "toon" with breasts the size of watermelons; in fact, we know it’s our friend, an attached guy, who makes "toons" like that just to get hit on by newbies.

*We’re not sloppy, dirty or unclean—if you walk into our houses you probably wouldn’t even know we played; everything has a place, man, even the X-Box. Besides, do you have an idea how expensive games are? If we let everything get all dirty, we’d scratch up our entertainment… hello?!

*We’re not all unemployed bums; some of us own our own companies, we go to college/university, we’re soldiers, sailors, marines; we’re researchers, scientists and financial brokers; we’re teachers, doctors, lawyers and everything in between. If we are unemployed it won’t last too long, otherwise the electricity will be cut off, and without lights there are no games.

*We don’t neglect our kids, significant others, jobs, family or other responsibilities for our hobby. The people you see on the news that have starved kids because of a game are ill, extremely sick people, not gamers. Gamers sit down with their kids and play a rousing game of (well, anything) and then eat dinner, like normal people. We know that people come before games, especially the little people that count on us. And if we do ignore or neglect our SO’s… well, an awful lot of women gamers are divorced from wanna-be gamer bois, because we were neglected too much.

*We vote; after we’ve taken the time to figure who is running, for what, and what lies they’re spewing now. This fact frightens many people—and it should. Informed gamer-voters are a force to be reckoned with. Remember SOPA? PIPA? Yeah, that was us, too...

*We pay our taxes—all of them, even the stupid ones. In fact, we'll vote to raise the millage, if it means better money for our kids' schools; we'll help pay for libraries, too. Taxes mean a better life for everyone, and we're OK with that.

*We’re intelligent, articulate individuals; we know what we want, and are smart enough to know where to get it.

*We own stocks, bonds, mutual funds and 401 (k) plans. We do know how to plan for the future.

*We serve in wars, literally.

*We don’t all eat too much junk food, or live on Mt. Dew and pizza. For a time, I was a vegetarian; I each fish and poultry now, but no red meat. My Beloved husband has a thing about veggies, but he's getting better. We eat well, and take care of ourselves and not just so we have the stamina for those all night frag-fests that end in a 9am work day.

*As well as not being stereotypically, chronically over-weight, we’re also not super-skinny… we tend to be a little of everything, just like everyone else. We work out, running, biking, Tai Chi (yes, that would be exercise—we just don’t tell anyone, it ruins our image).

*We’re not apologetic any more about our hobby; we’re main-stream now. It’s the people who haven’t heard of games that are out there… isn’t progress grand!?

*We’re activists, for politics and in our communities. We’re also religious at the same rate as everyone else; and no, last time I checked we don’t worship the “Great Console Controller” or the “Lady Mo-Bo” or the “Proc in the Sky”.

*We’re straight, bi-sexual, lesbian, gay and transsexual—even asexual, and no one really cares how you swing, if you swing.

That’s a short list, as you can see, we were just like anyone else…We live, work, love and play, just like non-gamers. Amazing, isn’t it? That the people vilified the most, as promoting violence, as being the reason kids shoot the hells out of each other, we’re just people. [Video games don’t kill people, people kill people.]

This isn't to say this list is exhaustive, and of course you can find the stereotypical WoW player a permanent hunch in his back from being in the basement; you can find gold-farmers in China too, doesn't mean everyone who games buys pretend money. 

Some of us do have social mental illnesses, and games (especially MMO's) are way we can get to know other people, to have a social life without all the scariness that goes with leaving the house and going down to the bar. We have events, and conventions, and yes, we get together for those. We plan "meet ups" and get togethers, pot lucks and weekend LAN parties. We do have physical interactions, too, not just the digital kind.

In fairness, I met my beloved husband because of a game. And my best friend. And so many other close friends of mine. Without City of Heroes I never would have met them, and my life would be so much less than it is now. My gamer friends have translated into good friends outside the game; I have friends in Michigan, and Washington, Oregon and Connecticut, Ohio and Texas, just because of that game, and I couldn't be more thankful for each and every one of them. Those friends are blessings and gifts that gamers give each other. We stand together in good times, and bad. We celebrate weddings, and kids, and even deaths. Yes, we have memorial services online sometimes for people who have died. For us, games are more than entertainment, they're like a window to the "other world", a colourful IM program, our friends are in there!

We counsel each other, give advice, the dating and other-parts-of-life kind. We network, ask questions, get help and "Oh, you know, there's this guy you need to talk to! He knows all about whatever-it-is you need!" We find other interests in common like books, music and movies. Then we go on, and share these things, too! [Yes, it's possible to watch the same movie in four different places, all at the same time, and then get together on an IM or Skype call, or some other medium and all talk about it. We're geeks, we're good like that.]

Because of those friendships, we are able to be ourselves, to grow and open up in a safe place-- and everyone needs a safe place. Some times that safe place is a super hero game; some times it's a medieval landscape, and some times, it's Scrabble with a friend you trust not to make fun of your weird word choices. No matter where it is, you're still interacting, having fun and playing.

Everyone needs to play, kids and adults. So don't let anyone take your play time away, because they don't like it, or think it's bad. Tell them "go fuck yourself" and keep playing!


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