My lovely friend Zeirah and I have turned our weekly blog challenge into a public blog challenge for anyone to participate in. Each week there is a new topic for everyone to write about and share. This week’s topic is “How do you explain gaming/raiding to your non-gamer friends and family?”, and you can read everyone’s thoughts about this on our website here. Z’s post about this topic can be found right here.
This is such an interesting topic for me, especially at the moment with all the personal changes I have going on. One of the questions I have in my head at the moment is whether not to mention all of the extra-curricular stuff I do that’s based around gaming (podcasts, blogging etc) when applying for jobs. Despite gaming being immensely popular in Australia (check out this report) there is still a stigma associated with being a gamer. So when I meet new people and they ask what I do in my spare time or what my hobbies are, I find myself doing a mental scan to judge just how much I reveal.
I feel as though there are multiple layers of explanation when it comes to my gaming habits. How well I know the person, how likely I am to speak with them about this, or how “tolerant” this person is are all factors that determine how much I open up about my gaming experience. Because I game a lot. Like, a lot. If it were sports or even church, people wouldn’t bat an eye, but because it’s computer games, all sorts of assumptions are made and stereotypes drawn upon.
So I have a tiered approach to how I discuss gaming with other people. I should say upfront that I don’t lie about my gaming. I am quite open and honest about it to anyone who asks. What does change, though, is how I talk about my gaming, and how much/how often.
Level 1 – Noob
This level is for multiple categories, and probably has the largest audience. I use this level for meeting people for the first time to give an indicator of what level I’ll talk about gaming with them in the future. It’s also the level that is for people who are critical of gamers. Like I said, I don’t (and won’t) lie about my gaming, and I suppose in some ways I deliberately talk about it (even if just a little bit!) to be defiant of these people. Many work colleagues fall into this category, and a lot of family as well.
At this level, when people ask what I do for fun, or what I did on the weekend, I’ll say “oh you know – the usual hanging out, chores, a few computer games, the usual”. Sometimes people will ask for more information, like what games I like to play. This may bump people into Level 2 and into further conversation.
But there are times when you can see by the way they ask “what games do you play” that they thoroughly approve, and so I’ll just respond with a very casual “oh you know, a bit of this and that. I like games with stories that are fun.” and leave it at that. Most conversations will stop there. Some will progress to level 2. Some, on the other hand, will jump all the way up to level 5. And that’s where the fun is 🙂
Level 2 – Casual
This is for the people who don’t cringe when I say I play computer games. On Mondays they’ll ask “did you play any games over the weekend?” and we can have a casual conversation about how much fun I may have had doing something, or how excited I am about a new expansion or patch. This is where I like most work colleagues to sit, as it’s the level of politeness that I would give to any other person who had an interest that I might not be knowledgeable about, or that I might not care about. It’s recognition that two people have different interests, and that’s ok! We can all still chat together just fine.
Level 3 – Experienced
These are the people I will admit to taking a week off work for a new expansion. They are the people who ask questions about why I like playing games, and what it is that makes me keep going back. I try to find ways of making things related to them. Sport, of course, can be a good analogy, especially when it comes to talking about Blizzcon. (“You watch the Olympics? Same deal, but with computer games!”) It’s also a good way to explain guilds and raiding especially.
But there’s the other side of gaming that I prefer talking about, and that’s the levelling and exploring. And people in this category do ask about it. The best analogy that I’ve been able to come up with is to say that playing WoW is like getting to live your favourite book or movie. You get to create a character just the way you want them to be, then take them on adventures in this wonderfully creative, interesting world. You will battle enemies, you will explore magnificent landscapes – you can even fish or pick flowers! This analogy works really well with a lot of people who are on the creative side, because they can picture it so easily. It’s also a good seller, with a lot of people wanting to try it themselves.
Level 4 – Hardcore
This is reserved for people who actually play games as well. These are your fellow gamers, your bretheren – the people who understand you. They don’t have to play WoW or even a game that I play myself, they just play something as often as I do. These are the people you can openly say “check out this mount I just got!” or “we finished the raid tier last night!” and they’ll not only get it, but they’ll celebrate with you.
I will admit, sometimes I drag people from Level 3 into here because I just get so excited about something, and the poor dears have been kind and asked how things are in game and well… you all know I can talk a lot! So I’ll explain the raid nights and how awesome it has been to kill a mythic boss and get awesome loot to make me stronger, and they’ll smile and nod and cheer, which is great. And then I’ll let them settle back into level 3 and I’ll calm down and stop bombarding them. 😀
I love knowing people in this level. I love being able to talk about gaming with other people and getting their perspective. It can be a lot of fun, and very rewarding.
Level 5 – I have a point to prove
This is a special level, dedicated to people who go out of their way to be dismissive and rude about gaming. I don’t get to this level very often, because for the most part if people don’t care about gaming, they’ll just move on, and that’s great. But sometimes there will be people who will just be plain rude, talking about how gaming is a waste of time and money etc. And I won’t let that lie. I find myself speaking up, and honestly, being a bit of a bitch. I don’t have a lot of patience for intolerance.
A lot of the time it’s as simple as speaking up when someone starts dismissing gamers. I’ve overheard conversations between colleagues about how playing computer games is “stupid and such a waste of time”, and I’ve popped my head up and said “you think I’m stupid?”. Sometimes it changes people’s minds. When people think gamers they tend to (incorrectly) assume they’re all teenage boys or the South Park stereotype. So when I stick my head up and admit to being a gamer, it challenges their perspective.
When people talk about the anti-social nature of gaming, I respond with “I played and talked with more than 30 people on the weekend, by text and voice chat. And that’s just the people I know – there were hundreds of other people playing in the world around me as well. How is that anti-social?” I have a group of friends and community of like-minded people who number in the hundreds, if not thousands. I’ve even had something I worked hard on appear on the front page of the website of a multi-billion dollar company. I talk to people from all walks of life, from all over the world. And best of all, it makes me damn happy.
When people talk about gaming being a waste of money, I like to say “How much do you spend on going out to the pub each weekend again?” Pretty sure I spend a lot less money than you do for a lot more enjoyment.
I also like to challenge the perception that gaming is just hitting things, with facts like “I coordinated 30 people from all around the country/world via voice chat to make them achieve a common goal.”
In the end…
When it comes down to it, we’re all just people in this crazy world, and we all like different things. I would rather be as honest as I can about what I enjoy in the hopes of connecting with another person. We don’t all have to like the same thing, but it’s easy to get along and find a common ground somewhere.