The Penny Arcade Report had an article that caught my eye recently. Well, it’s less of a real article and more of just them reporting on what their readers tell them, but hey, they’re trying. Anyways, the feature, covering the stigma behind being known as a gamer in the workplace, drew my attention because it’s something I can specifically relate to. As you may be able to guess from reading this blog, I really enjoy my video games. If you’ve made your way to this post, I’m guessing you do too. So I’m sure both you and I know well the dirty looks and awkward conversations one can get once it’s known that they know their way around the control. Well, I know from experience that stigma only gets worse in the white color workplace, and I figured I’d take the opportunity to make my own history with the subject known.
My workplace gives me free reign on a lot of things. I’m a male, yet I have the longest hair in the office. I usually show up with earrings in and my shirts unbuttoned enough to show off a fair bit of chest. I generally work with metal music playing on my office computer. I am constantly distracting my coworkers with my incredible good looks. What I’m trying to say here is that my workplace is far from strict about almost any aspect of my behavior. In fact, they’ve occasionally encouraged my dress and actions, in situations where it’s helpful to emphasize my youth and “hipness”, as they put it. One thing they won’t tolerate, however, is me being open about playing video games.
It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, I was 17 years old, and just starting with the organization. Back then, I was really only interested in two things, girls and video games, and in spite of what television would have you believe, talking about women gets boring really quickly. So I mostly chatted with my fellows about video games. Eventually though, I graduated college, most people wrongly assumed I had matured, and I was promoted to a managerial role withing the organization. I quickly learned then to just shut up about video games. Nobody’s ever gone the lengths discussed in the Penny Arcade Report Feature; I was never bullied or given extra work because of my hobby. But it was made very clear to me that I have to keep it to myself. Don’t talk about it at the office, don’t have my name connected with anything online about video games, basically keep my hobby out of sight of any of our clients or anyone involved in our organization.
The need for that is pretty apparent to me. Many times, I’ve had some of our more talkative clients assume that because I’m a professional, that means I don’t have any fun, and regale me with tales of how video games are corrupting our youth and are turning Obama into the antichrist or something like that. I don’t know how many people believe that, but the perception is there, including among the people I need to be catering to. Even among those that don’t think that video games are literally spawned from Hell, gaming is still seen as very unprofessional. At best, it’s seen as just a waste of time, and at worst, video games are still little toys for stupid babies who still need their diapers. And yes, even with those who are not actively against video games, that perception is still rampant.
The only other medium that seems to get this treatment is comics. I can talk about whatever movies I want freely. I’m a very well known fan in the office of fantasy and sci-fi literature, and nobody’s had a problem with that. Yet video games and comics are supposed to be beneath me.
Part of it is that perceptions of video games have not caught up with reality. Video games can handle some very advanced subject matter, can spawn some serious thought, and have been studied more and more over the years. Yet they’re still viewed as immature diversions by the general public. Another part is that our community, well, the most visible of us are not always doing the best things. There are those who think that the people who respond to any criticism of games with rape/death threats truly represent all of us. And I’m sure there are a lot more factors going into this perception, some of which are in our control, many of which aren’t. But the fact remains that’s it’s hard to be an open gamer in general society, and even harder to do so in a supposedly professional workplace.